Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"The Wind Up Bird Chronicles" by Haruki Murakami

The Wind Up Bird  Chronicles by Haruki Murakami (1997, trans. by Jay Rubin, 607 pages)

The Wind Up Bird  Chronicles is my fifth work to read and post on by Haruki Murakami (1949- Kyoto, Japan).     It is one of the "big books" of the post WWII Japanese novel, literally at 607 pages and in terms of the place of esteem it occupies in that body of literature.

There have been a number of recent blog posts on this work.   In The Spring it is the Dawn began a read along some time ago (which I missed out on as I had other items I was reading) which generated a lot of really good posts which cover a lot of the themes of the book.    Given this I will just say a bit about the book and explain what I like about it and make a random observation or two.

The book centers on an unemployed (he quit an OK job because he did not enjoy it) man, Toro, whose cat has disappeared.    He begins a search for his cat and then his wife disappears also.   Toro meets a lot of very interesting characters in his search for his wife and his cat.       He employs a female medium to help him find his cat and his wife.   Her sister was a prostitute at one time and is now a psyche prostitute of sorts.   I noticed in Dance Dance Dance that one of the themes of what I called "Bookish Boys Lit" (as a play on chic lit) is a central character who has no real adult world job (like Toro had and quit).   One of the near defining marks of a bookish boys lit book is the appearance in the story line of  beautiful prostitutes who seemingly fall for the lead male character and provide him with super high quality free sex.   In Dance Dance Dance the adult male lead character also has extensive conversations of a sexual nature with a female under 18, just like Toro does.   I am not making a negative value judgement in seeing this as a bookish boys book.   Here is the genre (I think I made up this category but maybe I read it years ago somewhere) in a nutshell: male character with no adult job who does not like the adult world, beautiful women   who fall for no reason one can see for the lead character, picaresque adventures and secret wisdom gained or revealed.

The book revolves around  the adventures Toro has on his search for his wife and his cat.   A lot of the book is taken up with stories by characters he meets along the way.   I thought the parts of the book that were devoted to the experiences of a now elderly ex soldier about his experiences in the Japanese Army while serving in China were a complete marvel, simply a master piece of narrative exposition.   I for sure felt like I was getting an honest account of the ex-soldiers experiences.   There is a kind of emotional disconnect in the mind of the lead character (hence the preoccupation with prostitutes) but he is deeply moved by the story of the ex soldier

I liked The Wind Up Bird  Chronicles a lot.   In fact I am already 1/2 way through another one of Murakami's books now, Sputnik Sweetheart.  The Wind Up Bird Chronicles  is a good adventure story and keeps us reading with cliff hangers throughout the book.   I do not mean to suggest this a light weight book.   There are some very deep themes in this work.   I am trying to keep my posts shorter and I lot of people have posted on this book in the last year so I will simply say I enjoyed it a lot and hope to read all of his novels in the next year or so.

Mel u


H said...

I didn't find the adventure the protagonist had in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle as amazing as others found it. I've read many of Murakami's books so far, but I think they're too much for me. Like the things that happen are so subtle that they are not detected by me, such as when I read A Wild Sheep Chase, which I thought was awful. I found that his novel Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World was my favourite. The adventure was so unique that I was impressed by it. It was also the first book I read of his. The thoughts that the characters had in Kafka on the Shore were interesting, but it's a book that Murakami said should be read twice to understand fully; I don't know if I have the time for that.

Overall, I find that a lot of the themes in Murakami’s novels are overlapping. The characters go on a surreal journey that they cannot fully describe, but they know that it happened. Many of the characters are nameless while others change their names. I read somewhere that when Murakami was younger, he fell into a well, so I truly think that that experience inspired his writing.

Bethany said...

This was a great post for me to read today! I'm looking for another Murakami to read - and this sounds great! I just finished and reviewed Norwegian Wood today, and you can take a look over at my blog:
Dance Dance Dance sounds very intriguing too!

Astrid (Mrs.B) said...

Mel, I read this years ago, over ten years actually and I can never forgot that scene where a man is skinned alive. I think its one of the most horrifying scenes I've ever read. This was my first Murakami and in my opinion one of his best.

Mel u said...

SH-I agree the themes of Murakami as well as actual events that occur are overlapping

Bethany-I did read your excellent post and will read Norwegian Wood as soon as I finish Sputnik Sweetheart-hopefully I will be reading it my mid-week-when I do I will link back to your post

Mrs B-yes that scene was hard to take and hard to imagine having to have the memory of seeing that in person in the forefront of your mind for the rest of your life

Rebecca Reid said...

Yeah, I'm thinking Murakami's not my type and when you say "a bookish boys lit" I'm a bit more convinced of that lol.

Timothy Hallinan said...

What a great site, and how wonderful to find all these reviews on Murakami, my favorite living writer. I just finished WHAT I THINK ABOUT WHEN I THINK ABOUT RUNNING, and his description of the "flywheel" he has to get turning in order to train for long-distance running (and long-distance writing) is one of the best metaphors for sustained creative endeavor I've ever come across. Waiting impatiantly for IQ84, which is available in Japanese only at this point and seems to be taking forever to cross over into English.

Have you read his book about the Aum Shinrikyo subway Sarin attacks?

Anyway, thanks for this site. It's a knockout.

karlo said...

I've read some Murakami. My favorite is Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle coming on a close second. I didn't like Sputnik Sweetheart at all. I found some of his novels - South of the Border, West of the Sun, Norwegian Wood, A Wild Ship Chase, After the Quake, and Kafka on the Shore - a bit too repetitive although not without their merits. The mix of surreal events, personal introspection, and Japanese social realities is presented in a very soothing manner: entertaining in spite of the melancholy. Thanks for dropping by (mis)readings.