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May 29, 1995

self against a nonmodernresiduality that alist metacommentary. This is something
no longer obtains in postmodernity as he evades to the extent that his signifiers
such-or rather, whose absence defines do not quite float
freely but are distanced
this last),” then Jamesonian postmodern- by a Marxism that amounts to asort of
ity might be defined as a pointof arrival regulative idea,and for Jameson seems to
that can never quite bemet since its ap- consist, at minimum, of the determinate
proach musttrigger a fatal crisis to a sys- relation of economic base to cultural
tem that only apparently takes the form superstructure. Yet his “telling of the fuof “Parmenidean stasis” but canonly be ture, with an imperfect deck,” as a form
sustained through expansion.
of disciplined commentary tends to take
Jameson’s text thrives on melancholy, things as manipulable givens; such an
since to take everythingas already known approach always threatens to reduce itself
is a sourceof intellectual power but only to an essentiallybureaucratic or manageras compensation for a thoroughgoing pes- ial balancing of the ideological books.
simism. And The Seeds of Time is more The more virtuoslc Jameson’s shuffling
a modernist than a postmodernist text, becomes, the greater our itch to replace the
whose aspiratlon toward what Jameson whole deck. Jameson’s resistance to the
calls, with reference to Platonov, “scrip- anti-politics of contemporary critiques of
tural status’’ is hardly disguised by an “foundationalism,” “essentialism” and
ostentatious brandishing ofreferences,
“totalization” is bracing indeed. If only
presumably meant to tweak academic sen- he would riskreifjing his thinking enough
sibilities, to such low-cultural forms as to venture a criticizably global theoryof
science fiction. Jamesonhas commented his own-rather than simply an ingenious
elsewhere on the sense of arbitrariness and method that seems to know everything
dlsposability engendered by poststructur- in advance.
0

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Selena Aside
ANA CASTILLO

T

he news of the murder of 23year-old Selena,the Tejana diva,
resounded like a sonic boom
throughout the Spanish music
world on March 31-from Madrid to
Medellin, Flushing to Albuquerque, East
L.A. to Miami Beach. On the threshold
of crossing over to the mainstream, Selena, Grammy Award-winner and idol,
primarily but notexclusively, ofSpanishspeaking youth,was in the process of recording her first English-language CD
and had just madeher Hollywood debut
in a cameo in the new Marlon Brando
film, Don Juan DeMarco. Although
English was her strongest language, she
had preferred the Tejano-style music of
her home state.
Selena,
platinum-hit
artist,
Texan
through and through, ultimately remained
an exotic enterprlse, testing the waters at
the momentof her untimely death for investors interested inthe potential big-buck
return ofher
Spanish-speaking fans.
(People, sensing the potential, put her on
its cover the following week-but only in

Ana Castdlo’s works include the novel
So
Far From Godand thepoetry collectron
My Father Was a Toltec (both Norton)
and Critical Essays: Massacre of the
Dreamers (New Mexico).

wield greater influence over the thinking
of 12-year-olds than their parents or
teachers on any given day.
In a society and age in which human
and natural resources are expendable,
wasted at anunforgivable and irretrievable
rate for the sake of multicorporate interests, we replace our heroes from oneday
to the next for the sole purpose
of satiating an immediate personal and collective
need. Latinos-that notoriously fastestgrowing demographic mass spreading
throughout the country, generally underrepresented at every level of the mainstream-hunger for and devour Latino
celebrities who manage any manner of
success. We adore our boxers and baseball stars, our crooners and actors. Just
as the mainstream does.We are not so sure
of our politicians, thinkers, writers and
visual artists. Just like the mainstream.
Nevertheless, the popular politician,
just like the popular songbird, is brought
up andcarried on the shouldersof his or
her ardent public for the purpose of serving that public’s needs.To the celebrity we
attribute all the characteristics of a deity.
And yes, deities are created by us to serve
our needs and desires, to hold us accountan edition for the Southwest, where it able to ourselves and to one another, perassumed Selena’s mourners would line haps, but mostly-mostly upon these
up for it by the thousands; elsewhere, it all-too-fallible human beings we bestow
featured a different cover.)Without ques- the grace, burden and promise of immortion, Selena was a class-act performer tality. For a time, the public assures the
who endeared herself to Latinos of all celebrity he or she can d o no wrong, say
ages everywhere. Misrepresented by the no wrong. The gods are beyond reproach.
English-speaking media as the “Hispan- They are fulfilling a void, a collective
ic Madonna” (and mocked after death thirst, and todaywe can’t get enough of
by shock jock Howard Stern, who later them. Tomorrow, however, we may blast
apologized in “gringo Spanish”)her ad- them right off the very pedestal we placed
herence to family values brought her them on and think that it IS our right. In
favor from olderlisteners while she daz- a society that has forgotten itsmanners,
zled the hormones of youths with her these throwaway icons are our nobility,
balladeering-luscious red mouthand
chauffeured,celebrated,toasted
and
cumbia-hip gyrations in tight Spandex roasted, honored guests of the President
outfits (which she designed and promot- and guaranteed money-making endorsed through a new chain of boutiques). ers of any product they choose-the WarSelena, gunned down, ironically by the hol declaration of fame accelerated to fifformer president of her fan club, could teen seconds, and then you’re out.
verywell have proved to be a milliondollar-baby worldwide investment.
elena’s end is truly a sad story. It
Selena aside, we live in and are part
bears, because of her youth and perand parcel of a society whose gods and ceived unblemished morality, all the eargoddesses aremade of entertainment and marks of a tragedy. Although I would
athletic material, the objects and some- not like to think of her life as a tragedy
times the victims of wheeling and deal- in the classic sense, that is, inevitably
ing investors negotiating mind-boggling tragic, like the Greek myth of Iphlgenia,
sums. Rappers picked out of New York whose warrior-king father offered her up
subway stations turnedmillionaires over- as a sacrifice to appease the gods, still the
night by savvy promoters. Basketball Di- time may have
come when we would simonysuses endorsing products-from ex- ply have grown bored with Selena. I sugpensive athletic shoesthat teenagers will gest this with respect for the dead but
literally kill for to high-energy drinkswith an eye to the capriciousness of the

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The Nation.

May 29, 1995

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765

living. Once a god or goddess begins to
act like one, who hasoverstayed that visit
in the limelight, we really don't have
much use for him or her anymore.
The mainstream media and perhaps
"Green plans" are cornprehenslve
most people east of theMississippi may
envlronmental strategles chat
have heard the name Selena forthefirst
represent the most effectwe tool
time when she died and assumed that her
yet
developed to protect and
appeal lay largely "among her own peosustain the global envlronrnent
ple," so to speak. Last year the mass
media did not hesitate fora moment to
In thls book, Huey D. Johnson
feature the sulcide of a young white male
provides the first detailed and
drug-taking rock star because they still
understandableexamination of
presumed that such a figure personifies
the theory, Implemencatlon, and
American youth. Furthermore, the meperformance of green plans as
dia suggested that this presumed repreexemplified in natlons such as
sentative of the American twentynothing
age might send his peers en masse (or at
the Netherlands, Canada, and
least one or two) to follow his example
New Zealand. Plans currently
and endit all. In anycase, those kinds of
under consideratlon in Norway,
speculations sell copy. I'm sorry I can't
Sweden,
Denmark, Austrla, che
mention t h u rock god's name, as I seem
United
Kmgdom,
Germany,
to have forgotten it.
Huey D. Johnson
But Selena,not qulte24 at the time
of
Singapore, and the European
her murder, was part of a generation here
Foreword by David R. Brower
Community are also discussed
and abroadfor which the Hollywood view
of Forrest Gump as American hero is not
representative. Selena's generation comprises indlviduals whose parents have migrated, merged and commingled with the At 600krtorps University of Nebraska Press Lmcoln NE 800-755-1105
enemy. They
are
Jewish/Protestant,
Anglo-Insh, African-American Catholic,
ready-for-the-White-HousePuerto Rican,
cornfed, milk-bred Mexican-Polish Midwestern. They are salsa-dancing Laotian
from East L.A. They are bilingual, bicultural, bisexual-individuals giving the
term multlculturalism kaleidoscopic dimensions. Theirdesire for love and lovemaking is threatened by the omnipresence of AIDS andcrack in theirlives and
in the lives of their unplanned babies.
They speak the samelanguage and rock
to the same beat. What do we know of
them-those of us not of that generation, of their world? Among these tooOur Nation baseball caps come in two strlking styles:
from
preadolescents to young
adultsBasic black with whlte Nation logo.
were Selena's people. The mainstream
l%o-tone (100% unbleached natural cotton) wlth red Natlon logo and brim
media-radlo, television, major newsBoth stylescome m one size with an adlustable
strap. Each baseballcap 1s only %11.95*.
papers-are just plain mistaken to asor go cap-crazy and buy three or more for $9.95+ each.
sume that the
race, gender and class pol"
"
"
"
"
"
"
"
"
"
1
itics that ruled In the past hold any water
Quanlrty
Mrnounl
at all for our youth today.
Black wrfh Whrte
It is an unwritten law of society that
the children we have brought into the
- White wrth Red
world rebel, shake up the very foundation
Check enclosed for $TOTAL
their parents established in response to
Name:
the needs that undoubtedly rose from all
Address the good andall the bad
that they inherSfafe
city
ZIP
lted from the preceding generation. On
Marl check or moneyorder m U S currency IO Nafron Caps, 72 FrJth Avenue,
and on it has gone and goes. With the exNew York, N Y 1001. *New York resrdenfsadd sales tax. Forergn orders add 33 %
",
ception, of course, that there is a differL""I"""""""~~
ence here, a brg one,as massive andas

Green Plans
Greenprint for
Sustainability

Stand Out in the Crowd

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The Nation.

766

1995

May 29,

Samurai Slackers

formidable as the terrorizing tracks
said
to be left by Bigfoot: This generation will
not be led exclusively bywhites and andrugs, shocked the establishment by winswerable, if to anyone, only occasionally TERRA BROCKMAN
ning the Akutagawa Prize, the country’s
to blacks; and amongits most articulate COIN LOCKER BABIES. By RYUMUhlghest
literary award.In thetwo decades
voices will be women.
rakaml. Kodansha. 393 pp. $23.
since,
he
has remained a provocative and
Selena was no fatal cynic ofthe X genprolific
presence
in the Japaneseliterary
eration we have beentold about, distrustophocles’ Greece had its moun- and media worlds, publishing over thirty
ful of her parents and authority, foultaintops; urban America has
its works, hosting a late-night TV talk show,
mouthed, abusive to her body and soul
dumpsters; contemporary Japan establishing his ownrecording label and
through drugsand disgust with life, conhas its coinlockers. Every socivinced that somehow society had cheated ety, it seems, has its own site of infanti- writing and directing a number offilms,
her of her due. Now, as I see it, as the cide. In Japan,so rigidly structured that including TokyoDecadence (1991). Yet he
mother ofa Latino pre-teen, I am all too even one’s garbage is closely monitored, remains virtually unknown inthe United
aware of how the entertainment industry train station baggage lockers have be- States save for a small cult following and
has recently drenched the public not only come convenient and anonymous spots a few academics.
with an ongoing paradeof movies, tele- to dump unwanted newborns.
vision programs, mus~cvideos and CDs
In Coin Locker Babies, Ryu Murathat dog women and anesthetize usto vio- kami (no relation, by blood or style, to
lence, but also-the current fetish-gloHaruki Murakami, author of A Wild
rify buffoonery. In view of this, perhaps Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance, Dance)
Selena was not a household word yetbe- takes a few-colurnn-inch story that apcause of her clean-cut, married image. pears all too often in Japanese newsFor an instant, however, the time it
papers and expands it into a 400-page
takes to witness a meteorite streak across
novel. Kiku and Hashi,its protagonists,
the sky-if you’re lucky, if you havethe
are
abandonedby their mothers at birth:
presence of mind to look up at that inThe
woman pushed on the
baby’s stomstant-a talented and vibrant, ambitious
Born in 1952 in the western port clty
ach and sucked ~tspenis into her mouth,
and hard-working young performer enof Sasebo, the site of a large US.military
it was thlnnerthan the American menchanted her public and gave us the gifts
base, Murakami was greatly influenced in
thols
she smoked and a blt slimy, like
of her many talents. But perhaps her
his
formative yearsby theculture of
raw fish. She was testing to see if the
greatest gift was the hope her example
American G.1.snext door-jazz and rock
baby would cry, but the little arms and
gave to thousands of young people who
muslc, casual sexual liaisons, illicit drugs.
legs were still, so she peeled away the
adored her and emulated her style. UnIt 1s thls world and its pervasive sense of
plastic wrapping over its face. Shelmed
like the male rock star who, having killed
a cardboard box with towels, laid the
alienation from bourgeois values that inhimself, gave his fans a taste of ultimate
baby inside, and taped the box shut.
form thetwo novelstranslated into Engfatalism, Selena’s life,not death,offered
lish before Coin Locker Babres: Almost
From
the
first
sentences
of
this
apocJOY to so many who admiredher-from
Transparent Blue and 69, which follows
field workers to the urban unemployed, alyptic picaresque, the reader enters a
the
disaffected youth of a provincial high
poor brown and countless others who claustrophobic, nightmarish realm-and
school through the Japanese counterin
that
realm
glimpses
the
underside
of
elsewise may have givenover to despair.
culture of 1969.
Because of her example and because of present-day Japan. Along with KenzaMurakami can come across as merely
buro
Oe,
Shusaku
Endo
and
Yuko
Tsushithe ground she broke, although exotia
chronicler
of sex, drugs and rock and
ma,
Murakami
is
one
of
a
handful
of
cized, relegated to subculture status, perroll
in
his
books,
or as a dilettante sipping
contemporary
Japanese
writers
who
inceived as foreign in the country of her
whiskey
and
chatting
with attractive womsist
on
confronting
and
provoking
readers,
birth yet sticking stubbornlyto the lanen
on
his
talk
show,
Ryu’s Bar. But unforcing
them
to
pay
attentlon
to
the
psyguage of her heart, I am certain that the
derneath
much
of
his
flction is a serious
chic
turbulence
roiling
just
under
the
placvoid she has leftwill be filled with a new
intellectual
exploration
of the nearly inid
surface
of
the
workaday
lives
of
modSelena. And we will welcome her.We will
ern Japanese. This surface ruptured re- visible byways of Japanese society. Thls
need her. As all past great civilizationsGreek and Maya alike-adored their self- cently, transforming the calm, efficient, serious side also comes across in some of
styled gods andgoddesses, their nobility clockwork world of the Tokyo subway his nonfiction. In E K Cafe (1989), a col(gods and nobility often being one and system into aghastly, surreal one uncan- lection of interviews with writers, scienthe same), we willadore our new Selena, nily similar to thatcreated by Murakami tists and artists thathe compiled with the
composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (who did
as much or even more than the one that in Coin Locker Babres.
Murakami has been a household name scores for Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawjust passed.
in Japansince 1976, when his first novel, m c e and The Last Empetwr),we encounWe won’t, onehopes,dethronethe
Almost
Z?ansparent Blue, a graphic por- ter a writer intrigued by the behavior of
next one so quickly, so rudely, picking
off and disposing of our heroes, our all- trait of Japan’s demimonde of sex and the human animal, an animal that can
even abandon its young.
too-human deities, like lint off our coat
sleeves. Nexttime, perhaps we won’t feel TerraBrockman, a writer and editor livn Corn Locker Babres (srigmally pubour craving for our very own homemade ing in New York Cifu,writes about Japan
lished in 1980), Murakami examines
goddess’s immortality so urgently that for a number of publrcations and is cur0 rently at work on a book about Errtrea. Japan’s post-postwar generations-the
we love her to death.

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has been characterized
as dobutsu-teki, or
hnimal-like.’

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