In Short: Toru Okada, a thirty-something unemployed guy, leads a fairly mundane life until his and his wife’s cat goes missing and his whole world is turned upside down.
Why I Read It: After I read and loved Kafka on the Shore a few years ago I started seeking out other works by Murakami. This one sat unread on my shelf until Ti from Book Chatter offered up a #Winditup2013 readalong over the past six weeks.
Thoughts in General: It’s absolutely impossible to succinctly talk about what goes on in a Murakami novel (at least the two that I’ve experienced), but what happens in the book isn’t what is important. You’ve heard the thought that the journey is often more important than the destination, and for The Wind-up Bird Chronicle this is absolutely true. Murakami weaves together several threads throughout several decades and even throughout several dimensions of reality, and as a result Murakami creates a world that operates by its own rules. I’ve heard people describe reading Murakami as “dream-like” and I agree–much of the book takes place during the everyday happenings but all of a sudden the events will fluidly slip into a reality that is questionable but somehow acceptable.
I don’t want to go into much more detail but The Wind-up Bird is intriguing, interesting, thought-provoking, fast paced, mysterious, complicated, multilayered, open to interpretation, and touching. It has been a long time since I’ve been so pulled into a book and read it at every chance I can find. The chapters are short and there were enough cliffhangers for me to read just one more chapter–just one more chapter. If you’re wondering about why I didn’t rank this one higher than a 4/5: I did feel that Wind-up could have been a good 100 pages shorter, especially near the end of the book. At times it felt as though Murakami was reaching and stretching for a conclusion to his own story.
Some bits from the book:
“It was a narrow world, a world that was standing still. But the narrower it became, the more it betook of stillness, the more this world that enveloped me seemed to overflow with thing and people that could only be called strange…and everytime the wind-up bird came to my yard to wind its spring, the world descended more deeply into chaos” (125).
“OK, then, enough of this thinking about the mind. That’s why I’m here. To think about reality. The best way to think about reality, I had decided, was to get as far away from it as possible–aplace like the bottom of a well, for example” (231).
“I feel as if my every move is being controlled by some incredibly long arm that’s reaching out from somewhere far away, and that my life has been nothing more than a convenient passageway for all these things moving through it” (503).
Bottom [Several] Line[s]: Perhaps it won’t surprise you that I recommend The Wind-up Bird Chronicle with reservations. Murakami’s writing isn’t straight-forward and I’d venture to call him a Post-Modern style writer. While the writing itself is not difficult and the pacing of the book is quite fast and easy to digest, the larger pictures and themes can be very difficult to sort out. Wind-up Bird is one that will leave you thinking about the book for days and I’m not sure that one can fully come to any conclusions about the plot without conjecture or speculation. I love this type of open-ended writing because I don’t need closure when it comes to books but I can see how it could leave readers wanting or feeling unsettled. I do recommend The Wind-up Bird Chronicle but I know it is not everyone’s cup of tea. As a small disclaimer, there is a fair amount of sexual content and a small amount of graphic violence.
Have you gotten lost in the mind of Murakami? If not, do I have you interested or running in the opposite direction?