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The Submission: A Novel Hardcover – August 16, 2011
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2011: Amy Waldman has performed a rare and dangerous feat in writing an airtight, multi-viewed, highly readable post-9/11 novel. When a Muslim architect wins a blind contest to design a Ground Zero Memorial, a city of eleven million people takes notice. Waldman, a former bureau chief for the New York Times, explores a diversity of viewpoints around this fictional event, bringing in politicians, businessmen, journalists, activists, and normal people whose lives--whether by happenstance, choice, or even due to their country of origin--get caught up in the controversy. Incredibly, she manages to keep all the balls in the air without ever fumbling. The story is moving and keeps the pages turning, but there are also bigger themes at work: of individuals versus groups; about the purpose of art, commerce, government, and journalism in society; of how people respond to grief and terror. The result is honest, compelling, and breathtaking.--Chris Schluep
“The Submission reads as if the author had embraced Tom Wolfe's famous call for a new social realism...and in doing so has come up with a story that has more verisimilitude, more political resonance, and way more heart than Mr. Wolfe's own 1987 bestseller, The Bonfire of the Vanities.” ―Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times Book Review
“Addictively readable...Not unlike The Wire's David Simon...Waldman has an eye for the less sound bite-worthy but crucial ways in which ideology and influence make their imprint on the world.” ―Vogue
“Elegantly written and tightly plotted . . . With the keen and expert eye of an excellent journalist, Waldman provides telling portraits of all the drama's major players, deftly exposing their foibles and their mutual manipulations. And she has a sense of humor: the novel is punctuated with darkly comic details [which] would seem richly satirical were it not for the fact that they so closely reflect reality.” ―Claire Messud, The New York Times Book Review
“Moving . . . Eloquent . . . A coherent, timely and fascinating examination of a grieving America's relationship with itself. Waldman . . . excels at involving the reader in vibrant dialogues in which the level of the debate is high and the consequences significant.” ―Chris Cleave, The Washington Post
“Masterful . . . [A] scathing, dazzlingly crafted indictment of the messes people make when they mistake ideology for morality and bigotry for patriotism . . . Waldman, an ex-New York Times bureau chief, unspools her story with the truth-bound grit of a seasoned journalist and the elegance of a born novelist.” ―Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
“Propulsive and thoughtful . . . [A] smart and sensitive work of fiction.” ―Mark Athitakis, Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)
“Devastating . . . An excellent debut novel . . . The Submission is an exceedingly accomplished novel. The pacing, dialogue, characters and plot are absorbing from the start. Waldman populates her work with a dozen realistic characters.” ―Anne Trubek, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
“A novel whose time has come . . . [Amy Waldman's] debut novel is a sharp work with complex characters and an unflinching skepticism about human motivation. Waldman recognizes the tragedy of 9/11 without indulging in sentimentality . . . Much of the power in Waldman's writing comes from her ability to gradually reveal layer upon layer of her characters' circumstances, creating a continual sense of enlightenment as the story progresses.” ―M.L. Johnson, Associated Press
“[A] gripping, deeply intelligent novel . . . Panoramic in scope but thrillingly light on its feet . . . Waldman does a masterful job of getting into the heads of New Yorkers . . . [A] dazzling tapestry of a grieving city.” ―Kimberly Cutter, Marie Claire
“Waldman, a former South Asia bureau co-chief for the Times, has antennae well tuned to the media circus. Perhaps it's her reporter's skill that makes her so nimble at sketching in characters; she's a penetrating psychologist, especially for a first novelist. She weaves together a half-dozen stories, from the top to the bottom of New York's social strata, and keeps them moving briskly forward; you never want to stop reading.” ―Craig Seligman, Bloomberg News
“In her magnetizing first novel, replete with searing insights and exquisite metaphors, Waldman, formerly a New York Times reporter and co-chief of the South Asia bureau, maps shadowy psychological terrain and a vast social minefield as conflicted men and women confront life-and-death moral quandaries within the glare and din of a media carnival. Waldman brilliantly delineates the legacy of 9/11; the confluence of art, religion, and politics; the plexus between the individual and the group; and the glory of transcendent empathy in The Bonfire of the Vanities for our time.” ―Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
“[An] emotionally and politically rich novel . . . The Submission raises wrenching post-9/11 questions about what it means to be an American . . . [Waldman's] novel transcends ideological politics.” ―Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
“Fascinating . . . Brilliant . . . The genius of Waldman's novel is that it captures the manner in which a member of a group that has become part of an ideological tussle will often come to be stripped of his humanity and viewed as a symbol . . . A searing personal saga.” ―Rayyan Al-Shawaf, New York Press
“[The Submission] accomplishes the rare feat of being prescient after the fact, a counterfactual novel that turns out to be accurate in all the details that matter . . . [Waldman is] as convincing in an apartment full of Bangladeshi immigrants as she is among the martini-quaffing suits in midtown . . . A New Yorker might well read The Submission before bed and wake up the next morning believing it actually happened.” ―Jess Row, New York
“Waldman boldly re-imagines an eerily realistic alternate history of the years after 9/11 . . . [The Submission] refracts with uncanny insight the public ambitions and private pain that have shaped us, showing us ourselves with rueful grace . . . With a reporter's keen eye for how stories spin and are spun, Waldman dramatizes the press's machinations as perhaps only a journalist could.” ―Tess Taylor, Barnes & Noble Review
“[A] provocative and smartly conceived book.” ―Bob Hoover, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“[A] poised and commanding debut novel . . . A remarkably assured portrait of how a populace grows maddened and confused when ideology trumps empathy. A stellar debut. Waldman's book reflects a much-needed understanding of American paranoia in the post-9/11 world.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Amy Waldman's The Submission is a wrenching panoramic novel about the politics of grief in the wake of 9/11. From the aeries of municipal government and social power, to the wolf-pack cynicism of the press, to the everyday lives of the most invisible of illegal immigrants and all the families that were left behind, Waldman captures a wildly diverse city wrestling with itself in the face of a shared trauma like no other in its history.” ―Richard Price, author of Freedomland and Lush Life
“Waldman fluidly blends her reporter's skill . . . at rapid-fire storytelling with a novelist's gift for nuanced characterization. She dares readers to confront their own complicated prejudices steeped in faith, culture, and class. This is an insightful, courageous, heartbreaking work that should be read, discussed, then read again.” ―Sally Bissell, Library Journal (starred review)
“Amy Waldman writes like a possessed angel. She also has the emotional smarts to write a story about Islam in America that fearlessly lasers through all our hallucinatory politics with elegant concision. This is no dull and worthy saga; it's a literary breakthrough that reads fast and breaks your heart.” ―Lorraine Adams, author of Harbor and The Room and the Chair
“Frighteningly plausible and tightly wound . . . Waldman addresses with a refreshing frankness thorny moral questions and ethical ironies without resorting to breathless hyperbole.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A gorgeously written novel of ideas...The Submission is sure to generate a lot of discussion in book clubs across the land.” ―NPR's Fresh Air
- Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (August 16, 2011)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0374271569
- ISBN-13 : 978-0374271565
- Item Weight : 1.17 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.35 x 1.11 x 9.28 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #785,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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In the process of doing this, Ms. Waldman also describes two competing designs that I found compelling. Did she really think themselves up herself or work with a professional architect to fill in the details? For the reader, it doesn't matter. Ultimately, details of the content of one of those designs drive the whole novel. The book would not get off the ground if she had not begun with a design that was worthy of the reader's attention and simultaneously could support a broad range of plausible views about it. Without these conflicting views, we would not have a novel.
Now my principal reservations. First and foremost, the characters do not feel genuinely alive to me. I see them in motion. I understand (I hope!) the subtlety of their views and how those views drive their actions. And with only a couple of exceptions, I find their motivations, their actions, and the responses to them by others plausible. But I never feel like they are fully present as independent actors. Rather, they feel like foils who appear mainly to deliver the panoply of perspectives that make the novel so compelling as a scenario.
Second, I repeatedly feel like the author is telling me what is happening and why rather than showing me the action and letting me develop my own inner version of the story. I think this concern is related to my first. It is hard to get inside a character when you are repeatedly told what's inside rather being shown.
So. Not serious literature. But clearly written. And it provides a depth of insight on a public policy topic that continues to be near the center of American political discourse. I hope it motivates many vigorous discussions. And maybe even elevates our civic culture a bit in the process. Thank you, Ms. Waldman, for a book well worth reading and sharing with friends.
The novel looks at the reaction to this event from many different perspectives -- those of politicos, those of relatives of the 9/11 victims, those of American Muslims of several different stripes, and those of the architect himself. Some of the motivations are a little vague, and some of the characters a little flat, but the author has rejected the temptation (with her major characters, at least) to provide characterization in lieu of characters. Some reviewers have noted that it is hard to like any of the characters very much, but I did get more and more interested in them as the novel proceeded -- particularly in the character of the architect.
Some of the difficulty in liking the characters may be because this is in large part a novel of ideas, rather than a novel of characters pure and simple. The characters aren't simple, and the issues are still very much alive. In a recent exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York on New York Activism, the last section was devoted to post 9/11 anti-Muslim and pro-Muslim activism. It is only too clear that the issue has not yet been resolved.
The book has a lot of good insights and thoughts about America's poor treatment of that culture after the attack, our arrogance afterward. "The attack made everyone afraid of appearing unpatriotic, of questioning government, leaders. Fear has justified war, torture, secrecy, all kinds of violations of rights and liberties." And America is still paying that price.
However, the book itself failed to deliver anything but annoyance. The characters, even the ones you should've been rooting for, were all so unlikeable! And those are the ones you remembered. The character development was just awful in general, which made the book no fun to read. I do not recommend.
Top reviews from other countries
On closer reflection I think the key problem for me was that I didn’t “buy in” to the dilemma. I feel that the novel was supposed to challenge the reader by dividing loyalties but my view was pretty clear from the start so while I appreciated the exploration of the different perspectives, I didn’t find that these had any particular impact on how I saw things.
While on the face of it this was a novel about fear and relationships after the September 11th attacks, there also seemed to be a strong undercurrent of criticism of the press and the way it can manipulate and distort public opinion. While this was strongly expressed I don’t think it presented anything new.
All of this said, what keeps the novel interesting is the wish to find out what the eventual outcome is – whether a memorial is ever built and if so, what design is chosen. This kept me reading and there are some unexpected twists. Overall though, I had hoped for more from this novel.
There is a danger in topical books like this that the characters become just a vehicle for various sides of the debate; however, Waldman's excellent writing, sharp descriptions, and (for the most part) well-rounded characters made this a very enjoyable book.
I think one has to be in the right mood to read "The Submission" as sometimes all the arguments regarding religion, nationality, and allegiance, can be wearying to read or (as intended) provoke anger at the seemingly intractable factions within the USA. At other times, however, Waldman makes you sympathize unexpectedly with various unsympathetic characters, and causes you to feel frustrated at those who you know are in the right. I closed the book feeling stimulated, provoked, and rather sad.
All i'd say is buy it now and book two days off work! you will not regret it.I'd lend you mine but showering and reading don't mix ¬!