In her satirical, surreal debut novel Through the Arc of the Rainforest, Karen Tei Yamashita asks us to believe in magic. She puts forth five original miracles at the beginning of the story: a lucky man named Kazumasa who happens to have a sentient ball floating around his head; feathers that can heal anything; plastic that can recreate life; pigeons that can tell the future; Gilberto, a paralyzed child who learns to walk again. These miracles are all improbabilities in her consumeristic, globalized world, which stretches with little effort from Brazil to New York City to Japan. In a world of skyscrapers and profit reports, these five miracles are fleeting triumphs of one of the few remaining unclassifiable world forces. And, of course, they are quickly exploited: throughout the novel, we see them follow a neat and terrible plot arc of growth, abuse, and death. The mass movements that at first multiply and popularize the magic end up destroying it, and in this we see the larger goal of Yamashita's capricious universe. The world bursts with people who ache to believe in something new, who will travel across the world to see a miracle or at least listen to it on the radio. And indeed, the global climate seems ripe for magic, and for brief moments magic springs into being and grows. But ultimately, Yamashita's world it can only handle simulacra: organic magic becomes postmodern magic, explosive and manufactured, decaying as fast as it appears.
[...] Trans. Sheila Glaser. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press Cook, David, and Arthur Kroker, The Postmodern Scene. New York City: St. Martin's Press D'haen, Theo L. “Magic Realism and Postmodernism: Decentering Privileged Centers.” Magic Realism: Theory, History, Community. Ed. Faris, Wendy B., and Lois Parkinson Zamora. Durham: Duke University Press 192-208. Debord, Guy. Comments on the Society of the Spectacle. Trans. Malcolm Inrie. London: Verso Fokkema, Douwe. Semantic and Syntactic Organization of [...]
[...] In this we see the ultimate results of Yamashita's deliberate creation, of a world that is prime and ready for magic but can love it only by producing strange reproductions. The postmodern world cannot control its excess in any sense, and despite the ecstasy that floods Through the Arc of the Rainforest, it is a tragedy. What remains after Yamashita's apocalypse is only the memory of spectacle and excess, of headlong trust in televised miracles. At the end, there is no more magic. Works Cited Baker, Stephen. The Fiction of Postmodernity. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. [...]
[...] in common, begin to love the pigeon, thinking of it as child they could never seem to have” (Yamashita 13). The initial pigeon flight occurs when Tania angrily sets their pet free when Batista forgets her birthday. But the pigeon comes home, in the first and most beautiful return flight, and the couple's love seems unexpectedly consecrated. They go everywhere with the pigeon and send it home daily with messages, which the neighborhood children start to anticipate with excitement. Soon the whole neighborhood awaits the return flight of Batista's pigeon with tingling sense of excitement in the they spread across the streets, bringing beggars and samba bands and even vendors of popsicles and cotton candy on the weekends (35). [...]
[...] By putting magic and postmodernism in this lovely and impossible contact, Yamashita gets to pose new questions: what would happen if we used all the trappings of the postmodern age to open ourselves to new possibilities? If magic were real, could we use it without destroying it? She, in her “maximalist pyrotechnics, follows the path that narrative minimalism closes does what fiction does best: imagine worldhood and explore the possibilities of its variousness” (Wilson 226). For the magic is nothing but a possibility for Yamashita, a thought experiment that nonetheless seems somewhat necessary and urgent. [...]
[...] The thought of Mane Pena as an in-demand university lecturer is no more outlandish a conception of celebrity than the current one, which shows the biting accuracy of Yamashita's satire, still quasi-realistic even as it escalates. She takes the feathers to a truly fantastic level only in Part where public spaces are divided into “Smokers” and “Feather Users,” a rare feather sells at auction for $250,000, and secret feather cults begin to stage public suicides (155). Douwe Fokkema calls the device of permutation most subversive one with regard to earlier convention,” and through her mêlée of permutations, Yamashita is indeed able to undermine the objects of her derision as well as the conventions of distance and objectivity in satire (81). [...]
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