Shave for them

Christian Lorentzen

  • The Submission by Amy Waldman
    Heinemann, 299 pp, £12.99, September 2011, ISBN 978 0 434 01932 8

Amy Waldman proceeds from a simple counterfactual premise: what if the memorial for the attacks of 11 September 2001 set off something like the 1981 controversy over the Vietnam Veterans Memorial? The now famous design for the angled black granite walls, carved with the names of the 58,000 US war dead and cut into the ground on the Mall in Washington DC, was selected through a blind competition. Its abstraction offended those hoping for a properly heroic tribute, but more troubling to some was the identity of the designer, Maya Lin, a 21-year-old Yale undergraduate born in Ohio to Chinese immigrants. It was hard for many Americans not to confuse a person of Asian descent with the enemy. Ross Perot called Lin an ‘egg roll’. She was compelled to defend her design before Congress. A Frederick Hart statue of three soldiers was erected next to her memorial to appease the literal-minded.

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