Monday, February 21, 2011

Week 7: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami

This is the second Murakami book that I have read, and the second of his books that I have fallen in love with. I can’t exactly pin down what it is about Murakami that I adore so fervently. His writing style is not particularly artful or impressive, and is plagued by clumsy translation into English (shorts are called “short pants”, for example). But in spite of that, I am completely transfixed by his stories. He is a great storyteller and I found myself unable to stop reading at times. On one evening I read over 250 pages in what seemed like the blink of an eye. It takes more than a great story for a book to be so compelling. I think what really makes Murakami’s work special is the ability to perfectly conjure up a dream state. This book’s story is woven with a thick fiber of dreams. Sometimes, the dreams are more than that, and fall under the category of an alternate reality, one that is indiscernible at first but quickly reveals itself to be a different place altogether than our realm. Murakami’s ability to craft these environments is masterful. He taps into the collective experience of dreaming so deftly that the reader perceives the subtly skewed façade and this creates a sort of dream empathy. The plot of this book revolves around Toru Okada, a young man who has lost his job, his cat, and subsequently, his wife, who leaves him. As Toru searches for his wife to get her back, things get weirder and weirder. Simultaneously, he struggles to learn how to live with his new, unwanted reality. In many respects, this book is about loss – how loss shapes a person and creates a new destiny for the people that it touches. There are many unanswered questions in this story, which I feel makes it that much more moving. I cried at times while reading it, and I felt a deep affection for Toru. It’s also funny and suspenseful, and filled with unusual characters that confuse and delight the reader. Not to mention, it made me want to go to Japan really, really bad. I loved this book, and I'm so happy that I picked it up.


  1. Murakami is one of my favorites - Norwegian Wood and Sputnik Sweetheart are also great. He reminds me a bit of David Lynch in the way he plays w/ dream logic. Found the war scenes particularly difficult in this book.

  2. I can definitely see the David Lynch comparison now that you mention it! Glad to hear the your other recommendations. I will be sure to check them out, too! And you're right about the war scenes. I'm a person who usually likes gross stuff, but that skinning scene was almost impossible to read.