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Circle K Cycles (Karen Tei Yamashita)

August 18, 2010

I picked up Circle K Cycles looking forward to Yamashita’s trademark pastiche of characters and genres…and while I found a pastiche, it wasn’t like her earlier novels. Circle K Cycles is a mixture of fiction and nonfiction, of short story and editorial, of pictures and newspaper clippings and advertisements — all of it working together to shed light on the relationship between Japan and Brazil…and all the people caught up in that relationship. So I was disappointed not to find another work of funky magical realism.

However, I did enjoy the read…somewhat. I’ve never been much of a fan of short stories — I like to get involved with the books I’m reading, to really feel the characters out and become enmeshed in the story. Since Circle K Cycles is so fragmented, I found myself skimming the surface unable to connect with anyone or anything. Near the end, when Yamashita spent more time with her characters, I got more into it. But until then, I was really struggling to find anything I could connect with, and found that I ended up wondering how much longer it would be. With Yamashita’s other works, I am always sad to see the end come because I enjoy them so much that it’s hard to part with the characters; with this work, I was glad to be able to put it down and move on to the next book. So while I enjoyed parts of it, I didn’t really enjoy the whole and that was a great disappointment. Hopefully her newest work, I Hotel, will be more compelling. To be fair, I will say that this text was enlightening, and I feel I have a greater understanding of the nature of being Japanese in Brazil, and of what it means to be a Brazilian-born Japanese person and migrate “back” to Japan.

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