The wind-up bird chronicle

by Haruki Murakami

Paper Book, 1997

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Vintage International, 1998

Description

While searching for his missing wife, Japanese lawyer Toru Okada has strange experiences and meets strange characters. A woman wants phone sex, a man describes wartime torture, he finds himself at the bottom of a well. Part detective story, part philosophical meditation.

Media reviews

By the book's midway point, the novelist-juggler has tossed so many balls into the air that he inevitably misses a few on the way down. Visionary artists aren't always neat: who reads Kafka for his tight construction? In ''The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle'' Murakami has written a bold and generous book, and one that would have lost a great deal by being tidied up.
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Mr. Murakami seems to have tried to write a book with the esthetic heft and vision of, say, Don DeLillo's ''Underworld'' or Salman Rushdie's ''The Moor's Last Sigh,'' he is only intermittently successful. ''Wind-Up Bird'' has some powerful scenes of antic comedy and some shattering scenes of historical power, but such moments do not add up to a satisfying, fully fashioned novel. In trying to depict a fragmented, chaotic and ultimately unknowable world, Mr. Murakami has written a fragmentary and chaotic book.

User reviews

LibraryThing member ChocolateMuse
Fate itself was the doctor's own fatal disease.

Fate looms over this book as a vast, unseen, but ever-present character, neither good nor evil, but simply there; implacable and all-powerful. Fate and destiny are part of what this book is about, but there's far more to it than that. I'm quite sure I've hardly begun to grasp the depth and breadth of ideas and interconnections Murakami has put into this incredible novel.

It's also a book about brutality, war, and different kinds of pain. If I had read that before picking up the book, it may have made me decide not to read it, but believe me, that would have been a big mistake. Yes, there are horrible scenes in this book, and one in particular that I took a while to recover from. But somehow,these scenes seem important, and anything but gratuitous. These things are wrapped up with genuine history - a mixture of things that really did happen, and things that could have happened - which latter are just as important, and after reading Murakami, one somehow feels they are just as real. It's frightening, like an insight into the actual reality of humankind and the evil things people, real people, are capable of doing - even today, now, in this real world.

It's also a book that seems to question reality, until the reader starts to feel that reality is malleable, intangible, and maybe even not all that important. And it's about the nature of life and death, and about how the line between the two might be more blurred than they seem.

Now I'm not saying any of these things the book explores are true, or real, or anything in particular, but reading this book makes things look different, and makes the world itself feel like a different place, at least while reading it. This book is nothing if not an interesting experience.

I would like to add that it is also about characters - people who are vulnerable, human, likeable and complex. And with all the themes and ideas that make this book so amazing, there's no lack of story in it. It's a detective story, a love story, a war story, and a metaphysical journey.

If I wrote a million words on this book, it would still leave too many things unsaid, and I have too many gaps in my own understanding to do it justice. In brief, I recommend it!
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LibraryThing member Miss-Owl
It's been a really long time since a book captivated me so much I grew impatient with real life. With a two-hour train trip coming up, I found myself actually looking forward to it, simply so that I could sit motionlessly and guiltlessly and devour the rest of Murakami's fabulous world. This was definitely one of those books that I was sorry to see end.

What is it about these diffident, slightly hapless, determinedly directionless narrators? Someone like Strethers from James' The Ambassadors, or Fitzgerald's Nick Carraway (The Great Gatsby) really sucks me in. Toru Okada, a thirty-year old unemployed legal assistant, is the opposite of the stereotypical salaryman; his only dilemma is how to fill in the hours stretching endlessly before him each day: should he cook spaghetti bolognaise? read a book? go shopping? Instead, it's his wife, Kumiko, who is the breadwinner, and the obligatory pants-wearer, ringing him up to delegate tasks to him which only rival each other in mundanity: pick up the laundry, buy the toilet paper, find the cat.

Then the mystery begins - and once it begins, it multiplies and folds in upon itself. An anonymous woman rings the house, who insists not only that Toru knows her well - "Ten minutes, please. That's all we need to understand each other" - but that Toru know her very well: "Try picturing me. From my voice. Imagine what I'm like. Where I am. How I'm dressed."

Toru has scarcely any time to work this one out before Kumiko sends him in pursuit of their missing cat, Notoru Wataya, a feline saddled with the appallingly weighty name of Kumiko's brother-in-law, a Machiavellian politician rising through the ranks. To find the cat, Toru leaps into the blocked-off alley behind their house, where he meets the mercurial May Kasahara, an enigmatic sixteen-year old with a pronounced limp and a two-inch scar on her cheek. May cheerfully assumes command over the somewhat apathetic Toru, dubbing him "Mr Wind-up Bird", after the particular bird-call he hears echo in the neighbourhood, a call which sounds like the springs of the world are being wound up: "Every day it would come to the stand of trees in our neighbourhood and wind the spring of our quiet little world."

Springs in a mechanical sense - for much of the novel concerns the idea of life and fate; life as a great machine, which some hidden higher power is preparing - but for what? But springs also work in the geographical sense, for the flow of water is integral to the plot of the book, drawing together the dry well Toru finds in an abandoned house backing on to the blocked-off alleyway; the warnings of their mystical family friend, Mr Honda; the religious austerities of clairvoyant Malta Kano whom Kumiko employs to find their cat. And then Kumiko herself goes missing.

Toru's search for Kumiko will take him deep into the historical depths of Manchukuo, the ill-fated Japanese settlement at the heart of Mainland China; into a dreamlike world where the women in his life endlessly segue into another; into utter darkness at the bottom of a dried-up well; and ultimately, most irrevocably, into the mysterious, pitch-black Room 208. Through all of this reverberates the call of the wind-up bird.

Murakami traverses a dazzling array of landscapes in his sprawling novel. His world is rich and resonant with the stories of many characters - and I haven't even managed to yet find a place for Cinnamon and Nutmeg Asakasa, whose spiritual powers will be of huge influence on Toru. Here the reader will find, labyrinthine and Pynchon-like, a troubling range of echoes and references gathering momentum into an increasingly claustrophobic world. In the end, the mysteries can only be solved by coming to grips with the obscure figure of Noboru Wataya (the man, not the cat) and the ineluctable pull towards Room 208 where Toru keeps returning in trance: here he will confront an unknown assailant in a confrontation that will enmesh them all.

Transformation is at the heart of what I admire most about Murakami - from the quiet, almost innocuous way he is able to take his protagonist from cooking spaghetti and ironing shirts to the brutalities of the Sino-Russian border in WWII and the metaphysical depths of the dried-up well. He is entirely equal both to the expression of the mundane to the expression of the ineffable. Here is Toru trying to rationalise his antagonism towards his brother-in-law Noboru Wataya:

It was like a persistent low-grade fever. I never had a television in the house, but by some uncanny coincidence, whenever I glanced at a TV somewhere, he would be on it, making some pronouncement. If I flipped through the pages of a magazine in a doctor's waiting room, there would be a picture of Noboru Wataya, with an article he had written. I felt as if Noboru Wataya were lying in wait for me just around every corner in the known world.
OK, let's face it. I hated the guy.

Now here's Toru, sitting in self-imposed exile at the bottom of the well:

It felt extremely strange not to be able to see my own body with my own eyes, though I knew it must be there. Staying very still in the darkness, I became less and less convinced of the fact that I actually existed. To cope with that, I woould clear my throat now and then, or run my hand over my face. That way, my ears could check on the existnece of my voice, my hand could check on the existence of my face, and my face could check on the existence of my hand.
Despite these efforts, my body began to lose its density and weight, the sand gradually being washed away by flowing water. I felt as if a fierce and wordless tug-of-war were going on inside me, a contest in which my mind was slowly dragging my body into its own territory. The darkness was disrupting the proper balance between the two. The thought struck me that my own body was a mere provisional husk that had been prepared for my mind by a rearrangement of the signs known as chromosomes. If the signs were rearraned yet again, I would find myself inside a wholly different body than before. "Prostitute of the mind"...

And, for powerful writing, don't even get me started on Boris and his Mongolian. I think I'll remember that scene for life.

One word of warning, though. If you're looking for a story that makes sense, this isn't it. A lot of riddles are solved along the way but, if the postmodernists will allow my borrowing of the phrase, all we end up with is a chain of signifiers attached to nothing but themselves. But dissatisfied? Hardly. Dive into this book, be pulled into the mystery of all these missing things and finally resurface with a rich meditation on the enigma of identity and the notion of the true self, of historical inevitability and the possibililty of personal transformation.

And listen to the winding of the springs.
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LibraryThing member RebeccaAnn
I'm going to put a disclaimer right at the top of this review: I don't think I comprehended half of what was in this book. Everything from here on out is based on what I know (or what I think I know).

This book was amazing. What begins as a silly mystery to find a pet cat evolves into a tale of love, devotion, betrayal, hurt, comfort, life, death, desperation, hope, good and evil. It took me a good five months to work my way completely through this book because at so many points, I would have to stop and reread a section again. Normally, this would piss me off but for Murakimi, I didn't mind. I loved going back and making new connections or witnessing new themes. With the introduction of each new character, a new layer of mystery shrouds the story but at the same time, a veil is lifted and answers are discovered.

Murakami's prose is brilliant as well. He somehow manages to stay oddly distant from his characters yet also incredibly intimate. For example, the reader only knows May Kasahara through Toru. They interact a lot in the beginning of the book and then we are privy to her letters near the end. Even though we don't know much about her, a sense of loneliness and a strong desire for friendship just radiates off of her and I felt like I connected with more than any other character in the book. I don't know much about her, but I finished the book considering her a friend.

I don't know what really happened in the book. Murakami twists reality and makes everything a dream. Through Toru we experience fantastic and horrifying things that may or may not have happened. Some things made sense, like Kumiko's adultery. Other things, like psychic prostitution, did not. I can't tell if the book is magical realism or if we're also experiencing Toru's imagination along with the actual events of the story. All I know is I loved this book and I have every intention of making this one a regular reread and devouring as much Murakami as I can get my hands on.
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LibraryThing member joyharmon
I fell in love with Murakami's writing after I read this book. I had never read anything to compare to it. What would you do if your life suddenly stopped and strange things started happening?

I would later learn that all of his work involves a strange events happening to an ordinary man. There is usually a mysterious woman and other symbols that hint at what is happening to the psyche of the main character. But the real story is about an inner journey that we need to take but usually avoid until something strange forces us to deal with it.… (more)
LibraryThing member Dalan
If you like your surrealism in the old style, ponderous and meandering, this book is for you. Working in the tradition of the sixties’ European Nouveau Roman and art-house cinema, Murakami doesn’t have to worry too much about his characters, though the protagonist’s ordinariness is engaging and convincing enough before being intruded upon by various increasingly predictable oddities of time, space and consciousness. Is it a dream? Is there a supersensible reality? Is it the auteur playing wink and a nod with his savvy fan base? Who cares. Stay down the well Mr. Wind Up Bird.

This saggy novel carries a number of imaginations of episodes from the Japanese occupation of Manchuria in the 30’s and 40’s. These are terrific reading mostly. Two such chapters appeared as excerpts in the New Yorker magazine. Find the back copies rather than read the tome is this reader’s advice –and [Nomohan: Japan Against Russia, 1939], by [Alvin D. Coox], cited by Murakami as a source, might well be of real interest.
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LibraryThing member Eyejaybee
For a long time this tale of Toru Okada, his missing cat, his missing wife, his evil brother-in-law and the various people whom Okada encounters is fascinating and intriguing. You keep wanting to know why things have happened - why did Kumiko leave Toru? What is the secret power that Okada's brother-in-law seems to have? Why does May, Okada's teenage neighbour keep appearing? All this and a haunted house, the "wind-up bird", and two mystical Kano sisters! Where is it all going?
The trouble is, the answer to that question is "nowhere really!". There are just too many loose ends.. Kumiko eventually explains why she left, but later partially denies it, and she never physically reappears. We never get to discover why Noburu Wataya has mysterious powers. We just about accept Malta Kano, but is her sister Creta real? Or is she a sort of fantasy conflation of Kumiko and Malta Kano?
The visit of Lieutenant Mamiya, with the empty box, and his subsequent letters seem to have nothing to do with the rest of the story (though in themselves they provide some of the most readable sections of the book). I was expecting some further revelations regarding Mr Honda, but was disappointed.
Toru is one of those ordinary people to whom extraordinary things happen-like Voltaire's Candide, or Waugh's Paul Pennyfeather in Decline and Fall. He's quite likeable in a way, though some of his behaviour is puzzling. His cultural interests seem to be entirely western - music especially, but food as well. In fact, that is a feature of the book as a whole. If you read a British or American novel in which the main characters were interested only in oriental culture, you'd think it a bit strange, wouldn't you? Perhaps even rather pretentious.
Dreams. Almost every novel I read nowadays has dreams in it. Enough already.
The incident relating to the killing of the zoo animals is well-written and engaging, but (like Lt Mamiya's reminiscences) seems to belong to another novel. We westerners know little of the war in the Far East (except for the bits involving the UK and the USA), so the unspeakable brutality and mercilessness of the Russians and Japanese is harrowing. Perhaps Murakami should use his undoubted talents to tell a story set entirely in this context.
As for May, she's like the sort of precocious teenage girl who featured in certain French films of the 1960s. The word which was used to describe such females was "kookie". May is charming and likeable, but why do we see all her letters when Toru (apparently) doesn't? After all, we know that he receives Lt Mamiya's letters, because he comments on the old-fashioned handwriting.
The book is a sort of confidence trick - the reader is drawn in by a series of mysterious events, and we keep reading in order to find out the hows and the whys...... and that's it. It's all about the creation of wonder and suspense, but the author can't come up with a satisfactory way of resolving the conundrums he has presented us with.
I think that the book would have benefited from rigorous editing.
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LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
Toru Okada and his wife Kumiko lose their cat which is named after Kumiko’s brother Norobu Wataya, a rising economist, political pundit, and, latterly, a politician. Later Toru loses Kumiko as well. Toru quits his job and spends increasing amounts of time at the bottom of a dry well, presumably hoping to lose himself also. It almost takes. But fate, it seems, has other things in store for Toru Okada, whom his young neighbour, May Kasahara, dubs Mr. Wind-up Bird. Fate has apparently been acting on lots of people over the past fifty or sixty years, all leading to Toru’s attempts to find his cat and his wife, Kumiko. Eventually the cat comes back. And so does Kumiko.

On the surface it isn’t a compelling tale, but Murakami adds moments of spice in the form of gratuitous extreme violence and gratuitous sex, be it physical or mental (in a Murakami novel dream sex is as good as real sex). There are also a number of exceedingly dubious forays into the nature of the self, quasi-mystical communication and healing, and fashion. And of course, in keeping with Murakami’s other writing, you will encounter many references to western classical music, jazz, and pop, lots of product placement for western consumers, and, in just over 600 pages, almost no references to anything that originates in Japan.

The writing here is very flat, almost atonal. The protagonist, Toru Okada, is a near blank slate. The women characters are almost entirely reduced to their sexuality (so much so that when they cease to have sex either mentally or physically with the protagonist, they disappear from the novel altogether). On the plus side, I suppose you could say that it is a quick read. On the other hand, I feel like in a few days I won’t remember anything that happened. Not recommended.
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LibraryThing member Bookmarque
Sometimes I take a gamble with my reading and go off the reservation. Sometimes it’s great (The Human Stain) sometimes it’s not and this is a NOT. The Wind Up Bird Chronicle is the worst book I’ve read all year. Let this be a lesson to me; I am literal and DO NOT appreciate fantastical stories so separated from reality. Next time I try out something so far off my mark I will remember the torture of this stupid book. No, I am not unimaginative, but neither do I live in a fantasy world which clearly, you need to have some familiarity with before you can enjoy this as an adult. I am ashamed to have fallen for it. Pretentious is too kind a word.

Such a nonsensical and non-cohesive plot; as if the author had a bunch of ideas and no clue how to put them together. Oh wait, I’ll try forced allegory and wrangle every last literary theme on earth into one book. Yeah. That’ll work. I’m a Certified Genius. Ugh. At least he realized that the violent and degrading war story couldn't be presented as a whole without making the reader suicidal. Still, the rest of the story is inane.

Here are my notes as I dragged myself through this story. Yes, I had a martyr complex and actually got through the whole unbelievably idiotic thing.

Why refer to the cat as IT all the time...clearly it's a male. Weird.

The radio or boombox type thing the girl has, translated as a music machine. Later she has a radio. Odd.

Why are all the female characters intensely annoying?

All these visceral gyrations from Creta are unbearably awful. Who writes this crap? It's supposed to be shocking, exposing and hedonistic, but it's just stupid. I skipped over most of it.

The Japanese habit of calling people by first and last names is at first charming, then, after a while, grates on my nerves something awful.

I know it's supposed to be all mystical and allegorical, but it just smacks of adolescent obsessions over wet dreams.

Mai writes a letter to T complaining that no one likes her and is mystified as to why. Because you're annoying, that's why.

The narrator does some distinctive voices for this, but the one for the brother in-law's minion is the love child of Gilbert Godfrey and Peter Lorre. Ugh.

I’d have given it ½ a star, but it wasn’t badly written, just a horribly juvenile and incoherent story strung together to be as “shocking” as possible. Like a little boy scribbling swear words on the living room wall so as to get his parents to pay attention to him. Pathetic.
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LibraryThing member KLmesoftly
I didn't like this one as much as I wanted to, but Murakami is always very hit or miss for me. I like his books best when the cast of characters is limited, so I enjoyed the earlier sections more than the later ones. I'll have to think about this one longer, I'm still not entirely sure what he was going for thematically and I thought the surreal elements were better integrated in other books of his, like Kafka and Hard-Boiled Wonderland, both of which I preferred.

Of course it was well written and interesting to read though, which is always a given with Murakami!
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LibraryThing member mbmackay
Gifted storytelling skills but spoiled a little by mystical sub-plot.
Read in Samoa June 2002
LibraryThing member GingerbreadMan
It feels a little bit like I'm the last person on earth discovering Murakami, but I'm really glad I finally have. I tend to like books that do what this one does; first establishing a normality, a sense of realism, then takes you by the hand and leads you into something completely different. Something odd and twisted and mysterious. Before you even know it, what started out as a lost cat, a dry well and a mobid neighbour girl, has turned into an epic battle between good and evil set in a Lynchean dreamscape of a hotel. With some stories from the Manchurian war thrown in for good measure. It's polyphonic, rich and winding.

What's special about this book though, is that Murakami keeps a very crisp and clear voice throughout. Even as the events in Toru Okada's life keep getting weirder and weirder, as the symbolic invades the mundane, the prose still stays available, accessable and exact. I'm surely not the only one thinking of Kafka's dry style as a comparison, but Murakami is much more emphatic and gentle. The mystery never becomes really nightmarish, there's more puzzlement than angst and the book leaves you with a good mix of questions and answers. It's one of those books that really bares thinking about afterwards, without making you feel shut out and stupid.

This was 740 pages well spent, and definitely not my last Murakami novel.
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LibraryThing member DanielClausen
I’ve been putting off reading this book for awhile. Usually, any book that is over 300 pages puts me off. I had a bad experience reading Stephen King’s “IT” when I was a high school student. The experience made me extremely suspicious of books that start well and go on for a long time. [As a writer, my suspicion is that the author started writing the book without any clear sense where they were going…thus, they tend to wander without any satisfying conclusion.]

The book is strange -- even by Haruki Murakami standards.

For me, the elements that make Murakami’s stories work are the main characters -- the not-so-odd, kind of normal, but the end odd, slightly aloof characters that occupy the stable center of a bizarre world. They make his books oh-so plausible.

I like what one reviewer said on Goodreads about Murkami, “Basically, he’s awesome.”

Basically? Basically yes. So what else is there to write?

I read the first chapter of the book as a short story in “The Elephant Vanishes” and it works really well as a short story -- a bizarre adventure into the back alley of a neighborhood that has deep, dark secrets. If you don’t want to tackle the 600 page beast, at the very least read the short story.

The book was a revelation -- perhaps because it’s surrealism seems so realistic. Is it possible that something surrealistic can be so very realistic? It’s not so much that Murakami is able to make the surrealistic realistic, but rather that he exposes the lunacy of what we take as the normal and everyday.

The scenes depicting the brutality of the second World War struck an especially intense cord with me. In some ways, the intense violence of the war and the comfortable world of 1990s Japan couldn’t be further apart -- but they are connected by the absurdities that proliferate in both.

In many ways -- ways I cannot even begin to put into words -- these absurdities are the most accurate descriptions of evil I have come across.

Again, back to the main character -- he is the perfect main character, strange but practical and level-headed, he is open to the bizarre but also wants to make things concrete. He is me! Or at least, I think he is me.

Does it all tie together in the end? Of course it does. The book kind of ends in Nagasaki. And the author speaking through the main character asks, “Why Nagasaki?”

Indeed, why Nagasaki? Because I’m from Nagasaki, Mr. Wind Up Bird. It’s all connected in the end. Even this review.
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LibraryThing member Gwendydd
I generally like magical realism, postmodernism, books with many story threads, and non-traditional story structure, so this book should have been right up my alley, but I I found this to be a very frustrating read. There were times when I couldn't put it down because I was so intrigued by the mysterious events, and other times when I had to force myself to pick it up because I was afraid the many different threads of the story would never come together. The pacing of the book is very uneven: sometimes the main character's tedious life is described in equally tedious detail, sometimes many active months pass in a few sentences, and sometimes major characters just drop out for no apparent reason. I found the main character to be very frustrating: he could be very introspective, but also very shallow - he might muse about his relationship with his wife for pages, but his emotions never felt very real, and I never seemed to explore them very deeply.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of all was that there are lots of different threads to the story. I was afraid all the way through that they would never be tied together at the end, and my fears were well-founded: many threads are left hanging or unsatisfactorily tied together. What makes this even more aggravating is that there are long scenes where the main character sits around thinking about the many threads of the story and the connections between them (again in his shallow way) - so on one hand, Murakami is beating his reader over the head with some of the connections, but then at the end, lots of things are left unconnected.

That's not to say that I didn't enjoy parts of the book. It's certainly intriguing, and some of the scenes were really wonderful, but for the most part I found the main character to be aggravating and the story to be unevenly paced and disconnected.
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LibraryThing member Cecrow
A man living in the Tokyo suburbs is cooking spaghetti when he receives a strange phone call. It is the first of a whole series of odd events and mysterious encounters that upset his placid, easygoing life by revealing cracks that he hadn't perceived, some of which suggest linkages or lessons from others' lives that will help steer his own. Toru Okada, the hero of this novel, reminded me of John Singer from "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" for everyone's eagerness to tell him their life's story with almost no prompting. Unaccustomed to interaction with others, his reponses are usually muted and agreeable; not knowing how to respond is what makes him an ideal listener. He begins this way as a mostly passive character, but plays an increasingly greater role in directing his next steps. He's a fascinating first-person narrator for how ably he responds to oddities and threats, contradiction and mystery.

The story speaks to a divergence in realities between a real-world normality and an other-world dream state. It is an experience that this novel expresses well in the manner of its own telling, in its effect on the reader. Another theme is the unpredictability of events, a challenge to the cause-and-effect relationship between what occurs in our daily lives, as well as in the broader world around us. Many of the characters feel lost and helpless upon sensing this as a truth. I wonder whether these are frequently recurring themes in Japanese literature? I'll be reading more Murakami and perhaps others to find out.
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LibraryThing member MLBowers
Ummm...wow. There are over 3000 reviews, so I doubt that I will be adding anything groundbreaking to what has been already said. I really liked the book and I can't easily explain why. It is fascinating, frustrating, arbitrary, meticulous, funny, horrifying, stomach-turning, hypnotic, and many more!

Ultimately though, it was COMPELLING. Despite whatever crazy, seemingly random tangent he took me on, I was riveted. I found each of the characters fascinating and wanted (and still want) to know more about them and their stories.

I have my theories about what was really happening, but I am not sure that there is a true answer here. In any case, I enjoyed it and it will stay with me.
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LibraryThing member parvita
My first book of Haruki Murakami. It is interesting, but at the same time, complicated. So many (weird) characters, which I failed to see what is the purpose of all those characters. I had to read it slowly, but when I finished the book, I failed to understand what was the purpose of the book. Wouldn't mind reading his other books though.… (more)
LibraryThing member jphamilton
Haruki Murakami always delivers, or as the Chicago Tribune puts it "Murakami is a genius."The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles is one of the finest novels that I've read in years. I'm always eager to enter that foreign-yet-comfortable, simple-but-complex world that Murakami creates. This story begins when a man realizes that his wife's cat is missing. Soon, he realizes that it isn't just the cat that is missing ... now it is his wife ... and finally it's almost everything familiar in his life. Or could it be that he's simply looking at the familiar from new perspectives, thanks to a very neighborly sixteen-year-old girl, an aging war veteran, and a prostitute? Like the author's previous book, A Wild Sheep Chase, this novel is somewhat of a detective story, but what our main character is searching for seems to be constantly changing. This book is a fine find.… (more)
LibraryThing member TheLaughingSam
The one thing that I fear in writing this is that I KNOW whatever I write can never do this masterpiece justice. However, before I start I should state that anyone who likes their books to be very 'on the surface' (i.e. requires little analysis or thinking) or to have a very 'neat ending' should pray they never pick this up, as it would be their worst nightmare.

One of Murakami's earlier works, it strays from his Short story tradition of having nameless narrators, and embarks on the characterisation of this one: Toru Okada. Not giving too much away, but he is the perfect symbol for pacifism. The story, in the simplest, bleakest, perhaps most ignorant way, is his right of passage through life in an attempt to uncover the reasons for his wife’s sudden decision to up and go. Of course, there is MUCH more too it than that.

Along the way we meet the lady on the telephone, demanding just '10 minutes' of Toru's time, in order for them to understand each other. May Kasahara, the young teen left home alone, developing a rather bleak outlook on life, and Noboru Wataya, the brother in law our gentle and passive protagonist hates intensely, yet cannot remove him from his life.

Simply summaries aside, this book is everything a good novel should be. It should leave a lasting impression, and forever change your view and outlook on things. Some characters' plight becomes yours, and there are aspects and images that cannot be removed, and forever leave you thinking. This book deserves to be read, and then re-read. Simply put, this book is literary perfection.
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LibraryThing member sirfurboy
People speak highly of Murakami, and to some extent I see why. He clearly loves writing, and his style is fluid and fun. The protagonist gets interrupted by a strange phone call, which has you immediately wondering what is going on, and at the same time he is more worried about his spaghetti being slightly too soft! I can't do that justice - you have to read it to see how well that works.

But there are problems with this novel. The main one is that it seems to me that Murakami wrote it to a Japanese audience. In this book and also in "Kafka on the Shore" the author is speaking clearly about a Japanese failure to grapple with its own history of the second world war. And because this is a Japanese writer talking to a Japanese audience, one feels a little like an interloper when listening in!

The tales from the war are the best narrative in the book - and the only narrative that reaches a satisfactory conclusion. This is my second Murakami novel, and the second one where the author has created more threads than are found in Toru's spaghetti - and then unceremoniously dumps them all, leaving them unresolved.

It reminds me of conceptual art, where the concept comes not from the artist but the viewer. It is like the author is saying "over to you now. Bring what concepts you like into this book". Although it also comes over as "arghh, I am bored now. Time to stop writing"

This author is very popular right now amongst a 20-something literate readership. The wisdom of crowds suggests there is something here and you should read this work. But I never like the wisdom of crowds, and if there is something special in Murakami's work, I still haven't found it, so my recommendation is to leave this book alone (unless you want to be a trendy 20-something, in which case take it to a coffee shop where people can see you reading it).
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LibraryThing member Jannes
Every time I read Murakami it shakes me up. Not always in the same way, but I don't think I've ever put down a book of his unaffected.

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle isn't an easy or straightforward book -At times you have almost no idea what's going on, or where things are going. Even so, it's an extremely compelling read, like a puzzle that needs solving it drives you on, trying to make the pieces match. When you're done (or when I was, at least) You're left with the feeling that everything you've read actually do match up - you're jut not sure as to how. Almost everything seems laden with symbolism: baseball bats, cats, the act of smoking or eating, every piece of music... it's a trip into the personal mythological world of the author, but with no map provided.… (more)
LibraryThing member NancyStebbins
I listened to this on audio, and the writing flowed well. Descriptions were vivid (I'll admit, I skipped ahead on the torture part). The story, for me, felt fragmented and a little unbalanced--odd event after odd event, with no clear thread running through. There were areas I wished to know more about (the brother-in-law's weird and evil powers) and parts I didn't understand the significance of (what was up with the cat's tail? Why did the man need to be beaten up with the bat?)

I would like to read (or listen to) more by this author. There must be a reason people love his books, so perhaps I've judged unfairly.
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LibraryThing member fredfreddson
Murakami is a jazz lover, and this book follows a jazz pattern. It begins with a relatively simple, familiar theme, which is extended through a set of increasingly radical permutations until it breaks through to another seemingly metaphysical dimension of insight and exaltation, which appears to spring from, but have not direct connection to, the apparently banal tune that started things off.

At the beginning of the book I must admit that I found the colour-by-numbers exposition gratingly simplistic, but as the deeper strcuture of the novel becomes apparent, this irritation turned into appreciation at the subtlety of Murakami's art. More than many of his contemporaries, Murakami knows how to turn the dross of the everyday into something strange and beautiful. In this book, he not only manages to dazzle with his postmodern pop culture bags of tricks; rather, he delivers a work that reaches through the wall of silence to examine the dark and seedy side of modern Japan.
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LibraryThing member thebookmagpie
Oh thank god it's finally over. What a frustrating book.
LibraryThing member PghDragonMan
Wind-up Bird Chronicle has been described as Murakami’s magnus opus. I am certainly not going to dispute that. My problem is, once you establish the criteria for rating a book as a five star read, what do you do when you find a book that goes beyond that? Are you forced to lower all your previously rated books so this one is clearly the best book you’ve ever read? Or do you in fact adopt a six star rating system, with Wind-up Bird Chronicle at the apex, even though such a system flies in the face of convention? Or have you become so ensnared with the experience of this work you are willing to accept a new reality where perfection is redefined? If you find yourself considering these things and re-evaluating how you look at a book, you will appreciate how this book may have you reconsidering how you regard your daily life.

While it is a polar opposite in style from Kris Saknussemm’s Zanesville, many similarities come to mind, mostly because both books deal with perceptions of the world and altered reality. Saknussemm’s work focuses on chemically altered perceptions and Murakami’s focuses on either mistaken perceptions or perception altered through purely mental manipulation. Murakami’s treatment of reality is taken from a variety of disparate sources and is reminiscent of a strange blend of Herman Hesse, New Age Philosophy, Aldus Huxley and Firesign Theatre.

If you’ve read Murakami before, many of his common themes are here: alternate realities coexisting on the same plane, the power of dreams, musical themes and ordinary people behaving in an exceptional manner. In this particular work, while the individual parts are exceptional in their own right, together, they are greater than the sum of the parts, greater even than the product of the individual parts.

If you enjoy pushing the boundaries of literary reality, this work will be a feast for you. This work has all the markings of a true literary classic in the making. It is too soon to see if Murakami has the staying power to be regarded in the same light as Hesse or Huxley, but I believe that 30, 40 or even 50 years from now, his books will still be discussed and Wind-up Bird Chronicle will be regarded as his masterpiece.
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LibraryThing member lola_leviathan
There is already a pattern to my starring--5 stars go to big, meaty, fully-realized realistic and/or magical-realist novels that deal with big issues like the relationship of the individual to history and the meaning of life in imaginative, idiosyncratic ways that resonate deeply inside of me. See also: The God of Small Things, Song of Solomon, the works of George Eliot.… (more)

Language

Original language

Japanese

Barcode

4914
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