A noir told through bodies, Michael Mejia’s TOKYO is a song — a labyrinth — an obfuscation that leaves the reader ravenous for more gleaming riddles — oh! — enticing enigma.
A novel in three parts, linked by a single narrative of disaster, loss, and longing, TOKYO is an incisive, shape-shifting tour de force, a genre-bending mix of lyric prose, science fiction, horror, and visual collage exploring the erotic undercurrents of American perceptions of Japanese culture and identity.
By turns noir, surreal, and clinical in its language and style, TOKYO employs metaphors of consumption, disease, theater, gender fluidity, monstrousness, and ecological disaster in intertwined accounts touching on matters of cultural appropriation, fiction’s powerful capacity to produce immersive realities, and the culturally corrupting late capitalist excesses that entangle both the United States and Japan.
The novel opens with a fantastic, slyly comic report written by a Japanese executive, describing the anomalous bluefin tuna his company purchased at Tokyo’s iconic fish market, as well as the dissolution of the executive’s marriage to his Japanese-American, or Sansei, wife. But when an American writer — whose own Sansei wife was previously married to a Japanese executive — begins investigating the report’s author and his claims, assisted by a mysterious Japanese correspondent the American suspects may once have been his wife’s lover, identities begin to scramble until it’s uncertain who is imagining who, and who is and isn’t Japanese. Meanwhile, a secret plot to establish pure Japaneseness through the global distribution of genetically engineered bluefin tuna seems to be rushing toward its conclusion like a great wave.
TOKYO is rewarding and responsible in that its form is all about process and awareness — of readership, authorship and culture. If you’re up for a book that upends what a story usually looks like, find Michael Mejia’s TOKYO.
In TOKYO the boundaries between the realistic and the fantastical flex, blur, and eventually disappear altogether. Beautifully propelling us through a series of styles and voices, moving from words to photographs to paintings and back again, this is a novel that first draws us in, then reveals itself as a novel, then becomes an embodied interrogation of art and originality. A highly original and provocative work.
Visually arresting and gorgeously terrifying, Michael Mejia’s passionate immersion in a TOKYO of the imagination delivers an electrifying rush of sizzling sensations, a proliferation of ethical provocations, and the erotic thrill of intimate betrayal.
Michael Mejia’s beautiful book Forgetfulness, like the music of Webern, Berg, and Schoenberg it describes, is at once rhapsodic and brilliantly patterned; intoxicating and starkly lucid; avant-garde and deeply lyrical; cleverly calculated and fiercely loving.
The first part of Forgetfulness is a fictional monograph on the life of the Austrian modernist composer Anton von Webern (1883-1945).The collage-work monograph unfolds in a Webernian sequence of events and silences combining quotes from Webern, his friends and associates, and various historical and literary figures with short scenes, monologues, dialogues, newspaper articles, and theater and film scripts. The result is a lyrical panorama of early twentieth century Vienna.
The second part of the book takes place in Vienna on May 1st, 1986, shortly before the election of Kurt Waldheim as President of the Austrian Republic and shortly after the Chernobyl disaster. The three simultaneous, intertwining monologues of an archivist, a retired opera singer, and the author of the monograph, revisit the themes and events of the first part, commenting on postwar conceptions, analyses, and revisions of the period during which Webern lived, while continuously haunted by the specters of Waldheim and Chernobyl, the persistence of crimes that are immanent, unpaid for, or only dimly, disingenuously recalled.
Like archeological discoveries that recast the present, Michael Mejia’s astonishing novel Forgetfulness reconstructs what art does best. Imagine music — and fiction — as a portrait of how the world works, instead of as entertainment or any of its other uses, and you’ll get an intimation of his achievement.