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Through the Arc of the Rain Forest

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  854 ratings  ·  66 reviews
Through the Arc of the Rain Forest is a burlesque of comic-strip adventures and apocalyptic portents that stretches familiar truths to their logical extreme in a future world that is just recognizable enough to be frightening. In the Author's Note," Karen Tei Yamashita writes that her book is like a Brazilian soap opera called a novela: "the novela's story is completely ch ...more
Paperback, 212 pages
Published July 1st 1990 by Coffee House Press (first published 1990)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  854 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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Eileen Ying
wow i wish all literature were like this. through the arc of the rain forest manages to fuse the comic and absurd with the horrifically real. funny that a book about pigeons, magical feathers, radio evangelism, a Japanese expat with a ball spinning six inches from his forehead, and other oddities should contain such sobering insights about the nature of capital(ism).
Sep 29, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
When I started this novel, I probably would have given it four stars. The first fifty pages or so got me hooked pretty solid with the whole 'magic realism' bit. Not very often do I find characters with metaphysical traits having their twisting lives narrated by a ball which is a Japanese man's personal satellite. The magic, as it were, intrigued me, and the almost newspaper-ish style of narration allowed me to objectively follow the events as they unfolded with a ruthless realistic tint.

But not
Apr 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Bizarre, lucid writing. Reminds me of a mix between Murakami, Pynchon (specifically, "Gravity's Rainbow"), and a pit of Heller ("Catch 22"). Very interesting author as well. Born in Oakland of Japanese parents, she traveled to Brazil to study Japanese immigration, lived in Sao Paolo for 9 years, and now teaches at UC Santa Cruz. Yamashita describes the complication of human society, the replacement of natural joys and resources with artificial ones, and (most importantly) EVERYONE'S complicity i ...more
Henry Jordan
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: studied
Wonderfully weird and depressing in exactly my kind of way. It's interesting to study this with Americans because they'll say "Flexible accumulation has a lot of downsides" and my heart will start racing, I'll start to grin, a mild erection will occur and then they say "but there's a lot of good too" and I'll die inside a little instead.
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Through the Arc of the Rain Forest is probably the weirdest book I have ever read.
And I adored every minute of it.

I had to read it for a class presentation, and it took me a while to read while having to do all of my other schoolwork too. For once in my life, I am genuinely excited to do a presentation. This book, these characters, this story lived in my head for weeks. I love them all so much.

Through the Arc of the Rain Forest is a wacky, amazing tale that shows the error of human ways, busines
Mar 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found myself a little unsure about the last third of the book (though I love the ending). This book is so weird, and I'll admit I think part of what I was unsure about maybe was simply due to the context of my reading it during a pandemic.

Either way, this book is great, and I was unsure because I just read "I Hotel," which is an ambitious and fairly recent novel, while this is her first. But it held up, and I look forward to reading the rest.

Highly recommend taking a chance on Yamashita!
Jul 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: for-uni
One of the weirdest things I have ever read. Interesting story with a strange aura to it.
Ed Dougherty
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I’m being honest I had a lot of trouble focusing on this book. But I also really liked it.
Many readers compare this book to a Haruki Murakami or Tom Robbins novel due to the surreal plot, eccentric characters and socio-cultural commentary. Although the story was quite imaginative, the actual writing and language did not contain lyrical depth, and was rather very simple and straight forward, in contrast to the wild plot. We did not go too deep into the character's psyche or emotions, as they were just pawns to explain the greater commentary the author was trying to make. It was a uniq ...more
Another powerful, important book. I wrote a nine-page essay on this novel so I won't try to even go into it here, but it's good and yes.
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
Boy, do I not know how to characterize this. It's quite a fantastical world, but it isn't fantasy. One character has a small permanently orbiting satellite that is his companion. One character has three arms. And these things, while remarkable in the world of the story, are not so remarkable as to be astonishing. They're just a bit odd, I think. I wouldn't quite call this magical realism because it isn't seen as magic in the text of the story.
Anyway, the writing is lovely. flowing and strong. A
Emma Kazal
Mar 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
crazy that this book includes so many of the things on my mind these first 3 months of 2020..... brazil, pilgrimage, globalization, outbreak and pandemic...... this book is a delight until it really really isn't! this was the first text on the syllabus for one of my english classes this semester and i've only just finished it which means that it's carried me through first module and into our new reality in a very poignant way. published in 1990 but definitely speaks to our present moment. recomm ...more
Lauren Sherwin
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An older book that is still relevant today. Gives us a lot to think about, especially our impact on the world around us. I love that author tackles these tough subjects in a science fiction way, makes for an interesting read.
Claire Quinlan
Goes so far as to be pushing my willingness to believe her, a boy with a dangling plastic ball, a man with three arms marries a woman with three breasts. Natural vs. unnatural, precocious worries of destroying the rainforest.
David Truong
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Might be my favorite book I've read in college. Fast paced, entertaining, and unique.
Lea-Christin Lügan
Dec 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
Too many characters for my liking and too queer. I didn’t know what to think of it and was very confused by the end of it.
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strange rambling tale with unforgettably bizarre characters whose surreal, darkly comedic existences weave complex paths to dark disasters. Set in Brazil, full of birds.
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
an absolutely devastating ending for a rather charming read.
Catherine Blanchard
An sparkling, imaginative and bizarre book about the ecological collapse of the Amazon rainforest.
Adrian Alvarez
Jan 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book wasn't really my thing. It's a fast read - like, really fast - and requires what people are starting to call "hyper-reading" to produce any meaning, which is precisely why I just didn't like it. Life moves too fast as it is. I savor stories that convey wisdom that comes from slowing down and diving deep into an idea. Though in fairness, you can't knock a novel for not doing something it is specifically not interested in doing.

Just like I get annoyed with academic writers who unnecessar
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was given this book as a gift because someone told me they though that I'd like it.

It was probably the fact that the author was Japanese and there were surrealistic elements. Like another, I really liked the beginning and was less sold on the middle.

However...I kept with it and over all did enjoy the book. A decade or so later, I must say that I never forgot the book -- thought about it regularly as a matter of a fact -- and it proved eerily psychic (as well as insightful) regarding elements i
Jul 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
re-read this sci-fi/satire/ethnic lit blend over the summer (3 years after having TA-ed for an asian diasporas course, in which this was taught), and finally fell in love. a perfect example of how, on closer re-readings, you can appreciate and love something in a way you couldn't the first brief time around.

yamashita's imagination is staggering, her humor exploding with social critique, and her ideas about diaspora/nation/environmental destruction/modernity so fresh, so relevant to an age deali
Oct 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A very enjoyable read. This book reminds me of those strange and meandering novels (like Tom Robbins) except with an environmental bent, but not with the heavy-laden activist tone of early Carl Hiaasen. It is a great book with several interweaving plots and quite a bit of magical realism. Some parts of it are laugh out loud funny.

Yamashita is an interesting writer; while one of the protagonists is Japanese (and this takes place in the Japanese expatriate community in Brazil), this is not necess
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: college-reads
This was another one of those books that I was required to read for my Contemporary American Fiction class, a book that I probably would never read of my own accord. That said, it is an absolutely wonderful read. "Through the Arc of the Rainforest" follows the lives of multiple people across the world who, through seemingly random events, have their lives cross one another. While the novel follows the theme of the "small world" that modern (1990s) society has created, it also questions the price ...more
Jul 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A political satire of sorts, the novel is set in Brazil and follows a cast of characters in their quest for fame and fortune at the cost of the environment. There are aspects of magical realism throughout - including a Japanese man with a sphere orbiting in front of his face, carrier pigeons who traverse continents, and a three-armed man who falls in love with a three-breasted woman. I enjoyed learning about the characters and following their individual stories, which all came crashing together ...more
Mar 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
A wonderfully bizzare, unconventional covergence of colorful, freakish characters, all tied by together by a rainforest. I laughed out loud, and the characters have stuck in my head. I think the style is called magic realism, which I really take to. It ties together ideas around nature and humans, plain fun human nature, spirituality, exploitation & commercialization, and miracles. Quite a mix.

I read it for an Asian American Lit Class, but it only seemed marginally related to subject matter.
Feb 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pretty awesome so far...trucks in some standard south america magical realism techniques (narrator is a permanent floating ball in front of a character's head) but with some twists of pure absurdism (narrator is a permanent floating ball in front of a character's head) and contemporary concerns about cultural hybridity (above character is among the community of Japanese immigrants to Brazil community) and environmental devastation (titular rainforest was clearcut and becomes a location of magic ...more
Jul 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a slow read, but it wasn't a bad read. It wasn't unpleasant or badly written or uninteresting. It just took a while to digest and to really keep the stories when you rewatch Arrested Development and see how there is so much that's connected and foreshadowed. Anyways, this book is "satiric morality play about the destruction of the Amazon rain forest" and has some crazy characters, like an American business man with three arms who marries a French ornithologist with three ...more
Good, compelling, speculative magical realism. Kept my college students' attention, and though they needed a bit of coaching through the really post-modern parts, they loved the end. The satire was biting and brilliant and, given the state of the world today, particularly prescient. Clever and fun and a great break from the heavy and depressing post-human stuff we've been reading lately while still doing some pretty serious work.
The book is just ok. It's full of great and believable imagination--just enough to keep you both thinking and entertained--but it can really drag on at points. Plus, the ending is too much of an abrupt stop. I'm not sure I'd recommend this book unless you're really into realistic stories tinged with the supernatural, environmental lit, or Yamashita.
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Born January 8, 1951 in Oakland, California, Karen Tei Yamashita is a Japanese American writer and Associate Professor of Literature at University of California, Santa Cruz, where she teaches creative writing and Asian American literature. Her works, several of which contain elements of magic realism, include novels I Hotel (2010), Circle K Cycles (2001), Tropic of Orange (1997), Brazil-Maru (1992 ...more

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