PIGS by Johanna Stoberock reviewed by Full Stop!

Islands provide fertile territory for utopian visions. For Thomas More, Utopia itself was an island, a self-enclosed little atoll just beyond the horizon where the best of all possible worlds could be found. For J.M. Barrie, Neverland was an island, a place where dreams came true and children never grew up. Writing about California – a place, incidentally, named after an island “very close to the Terrestrial Paradise” in Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo’s The Adventures of Esplandián – Jean Baudrillard points out that the state had become, once the emancipatory convulsions of the 60s were over, utopic in a different sort of way. “Whereas the demand for happiness was once something oceanic and emancipatory, here it comes wrapped up in a fetal tranquility,” he writes; a “paradisiac and inward-looking illusion,” California had metamorphosed into, or back into, an island imprisoned in its own temperate beatitude. In the final analysis, the island of utopia – Californian or otherwise – seems always just a few steps away from something much more sinister. “A very slight modification, a change of just a few degrees,” Baudrillard says, would suffice to make paradise seem “like hell.”