Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Black Rainbow and All Its Forms

Black Rainbow is a story ‘”about other stories’”(Wendt 72). Similarities to earlier, colossal dystopia novels such as Brave New World and 1984 emerge at the onset and continue, in most obvious ways. For one, Black Rainbow’s narrative, with the nameless protagonist and his revelation of self-discovery forged in the inferno of society, smacks of the same plotlines that wind through the lives of Winston and “the Savage.” Moreover, Auckland, the Tribunal’s crown jewel, proves redolent of Orwell’s and Huxley’s Londons, with the drone-like commoners skirting through the Therapeutic Zones as if on soma highs. In short, Black Rainbow imitates. Sometimes, in apologetic dialogue, it borders on cliché. But that is exactly the point. As an imitation piece, the story aims to evince some truth about every tale and every character, both fictional and living: all the world is grounded in imitation; art and reality are intertwined, inseparable partners that imitate, reflect, and collaborate with one another in a search for truer, more perfect forms.

All throughout New Zealand are these forms. Rainbow’s protagonist spies them in the Tribunal’s uniform metropolis, stacked with look-alike skyscrapers that comprise the President’s Altar of Heaven imitation (Wendt 68). Less prominent buildings, with less lofty predecessors jut up elsewhere; “streets, shops, malls, and apartments [model] on some of the President’s favourite films” (69). These forms, derived from science fiction and cartoon flicks, propagate, ground themselves  in Auckland life. Then, the metropolis breeds more forms, these being people or “civil servants” (69). They are uniform as the city, uniform with the city. Both dressing and comporting alike, the civil servants imitate one another in pursuit of imitating higher ideals: diligence, steadfastness, duty as bade from the President’s mouth.  Farther out, past the city’s termini, nature confirms to this pattern as well. Hills resemble “an early Colin McCahon painting” (65). The protagonist digests this interplay of art and reality; McCahon drew from hills, the protagonist draws from McCahon -- a mirror to nature, a mirror to artifice. The continuity confirms the protagonist’s earlier thoughts. As Black Rainbow is a story about other stories, Auckland is a city about other  cities, Auckland’s inhabitants are characters about other characters and, from above, New Zealand amalgamates in its entirety, fiction and reality assume one form, “’one paddock’” (36).

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