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Through the Arc of the Rain Forest Paperback – July 1, 1990

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This satiric morality play about the destruction of the Amazon rain forest unfolds with a diversity and fecundity equal to its setting. First-novelist Yamashita blends the matter-of-fact surrealism of Garcia Marquez, bizarre science fiction twists a la Stanislaw Lem, and a gift for satirizing bureaucracy that recalls Heller of Catch 22 --all in a Chaucerian framework. But in the end it is the author's unique voice that emerges. A Japanese-American who has lived in Los Angeles and Brazil, Yamashita seems to have thrown into the pot everything she knows and most that she can imagine--all to good effect. The cast includes: the unusual narrator, a small ball that whirls near the forehead of a Japanese living in Brazil; American Jonathan B. Tweep, a three-armed businessman who develops the Theory of Trialectics; Mane Pena, who makes his fortune through "Featherology," the art of healing with feathers; and a couple whose pigeon-raising hobby turns into a national obsession and big business. The seemingly disparate plot lines converge explosively in the rain forest on the Matacao, a mysterious shiny plateau that at first offers wealth and miracles, and eventually death and disaster.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This expansive and ambitious novel attempts, fairly successfully, to weave an immediate concern for the environment with an incredible and complicated story. The setting is the Brazilian jungle, and the cast of characters could people a circus: a middle-aged Japanese man with a golf ball-sized sphere buzzing in front of his forehead, a three-armed executive from New York, an old man who founds the "science" of featherology, and a boy who is believed to be an angel--to name just a few. These characters converge, each with a separate mission, on the unique "natural" phenomenon known as the Matacao, a huge flat plastic plain in the middle of the jungle. Boundless greed and the unthinking destruction of our environment are as much a part of the story as the delicate relations among the characters. Although the clever parodies of modern society (from yuppies to New Age spiritualism to animal rights groups) are a bit heavy-handed, and at times the plot bogs down in its own intricacies, this is ultimately enjoyable reading.
- Jessica Grim, Univ. of California at Berkeley Lib.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press; 3rd edition (July 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 091827382X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0918273826
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #334,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Heralded as a "big talent" by the Los Angeles Times, extolled by the New York Times for her "mordant wit," and praised by Newsday for "wrestl[ing] with profound philosophical and social issues" while delivering an "immensely entertaining story," Karen Tei Yamashita is one of the foremost writers of her generation. I Hotel, which took over a decade to write and research, is her magnum opus.

The author of four previous novels, Yamashita is the recipient of an American Book Award and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Award. A California native who has also lived in Brazil and Japan, she teaches at the University of California-Santa Cruz, where she received the Chancellor's Award for Diversity in 2009.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
I have heard Brazilian children say that whatever passes through the arc of the rainbow becomes its opposite. But what is the opposite of a bird? Or for that matter, a human being? And what then, in the great rainforest, where, in its season, the rain never ceases and the rainbows are myriad?

This epigraph precedes Karen Yamashita's novel, "Through the Arc of the Rain Forest." Yamashita's novel focuses on the journey of Kasumasa Ishimaru as narrated by a ball revolving several inches from Kasumasa's head. The examinination of this piece, however, will revolve (literally and figuratively) on the motif of a rainbow through different parts of the novel, including the epigraph. Yamashita uses rainbows and arcs as symbols relating to consistent negative and positive patterns, imagery, and meanings within the novel.
The first introduction of the rainbow as a symbol occurs when Kasumasa encounters American J.B. Tweep, who is employed within a company Kasumasa holds controlling stock. J.B. chides Kasumasa into searching for more Matacao, which is the material that will create economic profit for Kasumasa's conglomerate. Within their search, J.B. Tweep hides protagonist Kasumaza Ishimaru from his competition. Tweep's undercover agents had been described as hiding themselves "at the arc of every rainbow" (149). The rainbow in this sense takes the meaning of a vast, unending space. The percieved sense of unrest, searching, and mystery contrasts the allusion of a peaceful rainbow. The arc represents an unexplainable plain which can be pilifered for special interest. In this instance, the rainbow does not take the shape of a beautious vision, but rather a vision of greed and deception.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sophie on June 3, 2011
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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 necessarily an Asian-American book. I have heard however her say in interviews that she completely identifies herself as an Asian-American author - I wonder if that is pointing to the new globalism/cosmopolitan trend we're seeing nowadays.

It's a fun read regardless of your political or racial proclivities so I would pick it up if you're a fan of Robbins, Pynchon, maybe even David Foster Wallace (lite) and others. It explores interesting ideas in science, religion, and throws in some corporate irresponsibility for good measure. Overall a very memorable book and one of my new favorites.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By KenDay on April 4, 2014
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This novel is a hoot. Yamashita's free-wheeling black comedy satirizes most aspects of post-modern life: media, fads, environment, corporations, televangelists. It's all there in this "Russian novel on crack."
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By J D C on May 2, 2015
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A junk drawer of whimsy, corny jokes, and oddly placed didactism.
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