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Through the Arc of the Rain Forest

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  726 ratings  ·  58 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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3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  726 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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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
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
Eileen Ying
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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).
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.
Jun 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 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.
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.
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.
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
an absolutely devastating ending for a rather charming read.
Adrian Astur 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
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
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.
May 09, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club, fantasy
This book was pretty bizarre. Lots of interesting characters and I liked the way they all ended up involved in each others lives, but the ending was pretty unsatisfying and left me blinking and wondering what exactly had happened. The ball's existence and reincarnation are never explained, and since the ball was the narrator I found that a little irksome.
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.
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story was engaging and thoughtful. The novel was both entertaining and thought provoking; the issue of earth preservation and the problem of big business was a huge part of the story, but the character development and story arc was also interesting. The magical aspect of the novel kept things light and entertaining when talking about such a serious and real problem.
Mar 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Charming narration, playful prose, just the right blend of disturbing and optimistically redeeming to make a moving and culturally relevant statement about modern society's treatment of the planet -- and each other. Fun, fast read
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another novel filled with symbolism. Requires in depth thought and I'm sure every person takes something different away from this beautiful novel that encompasses many different areas of life including friendship, love, and exploitation of each other and our Earth.
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This magical-realism is strangely and strikingly relevant to today's environmentalism concerns. The allegory tropes in this tele-novella create a rich and meaningful look into our actual reality. A must read!
Courtney Hlebo
Aug 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'm usually not a fan of books with a "mission," as was the case here with it's critique of human waste and its effect on the environment and humanity. Yet, the magical realism kept me reading and even made me enjoy the political message of the book couched in fantasy.
Oct 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grad-reading
In the tradition of magic realism, this book takes the reader to Brazil, Japan and the U.S. I understand that the author used her form for a global statement, but I think its great geographical span came at the expense of intimacy with the characters. Most of them became one-dimensional.
Nov 11, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting! In tone and theme, reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle." Amusing at times, and dark at others. An intriguing and thought provoking satire.
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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