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The Submission

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Snarkily, her main detractor, Ariana (a prominent, gray-clad society artist), responds: "I'm sorry but a memorial isn't a graveyard." Ariana supports an alternate memorial called "The Void." It is "visceral, angry, dark, raw, because there was no joy on that day… it's created destruction, which robs the real destruction of its power, dialectically speaking." Ariana's studied tone makes grief almost procedural. Claire, for whom healing is deeply personal, is having none of it.

What do public memorials represent in the face of a multitude of private losses? Claire's debate with Ariana frames the book, but also provides a foil to it, because after the committee votes to choose the verdant garden, the committee opens the envelope that has held the name of its until-then-anonymous architect. That name: Mohammed Kahn. The chaos that ensues from the announcement of Kahn's name and from the committee's selection is far from academic. Although the stunned committee adjourns "to think," an ensuing press leak (to the New York Post, no less) and the high-level public frenzy around the decision occupy the rest of the book.

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