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September 26, 2004

{     The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami     }    

A missing cat, a dissolved marriage, mysterious telephone calls, the Japanese occupation of Manchuria during World War II, a vivid blue/purple blotch, and some unexplained form of psychic healing are just the beginning. A surreal, dreamlike adventure or a metaphysical mystery novel _The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle_ gently pulls the reader into a world that's a notch to the left of reality as we think of it. When Toru Okada's cat goes missing one summer evening he never believed it would be the beginning of a very strange year. Named after his arch-nemesis, ambitious brother-in-law Noboru Wataya, the cat simply vanished one night. Looking for the cat he encounters a deserted house with a sordid past, a dried-up well, and a philosophical 16-year old girl. Soon afterward his wife Kumiko leaves him with as little explanation as the cat. Solving these mysteries takes Mr. Okada through a strange journey, despite being almost a complete shut-in. Murakami writes with a wordiness not commonly associated with Japanese authors who tend to bend towards the stoic. His sentences are descriptive yet leave just enough unsaid to make the bizarre events and characters wholly believable. The entire novel is suffused with a dreamy logic. The same sort of logic that makes REM-induced escapades seem completely reasonable until a rational waking brain starts to pick them apart. Though not science fiction, Murakami shares the style of great science fiction authors in purposefully _not_ describing the most bizarre moments in overmuch detail. We can believe that the psychics and clairvoyants in the book have these powers without complaint, because Murakami never bothers to explain to us just how these things work. We get to fill that part in. I could comment on the themes of alienation and modern living, loneliness and loss, the past intruding on the present. I could, but I was always more of a reader than a composition writer. I can half-sense these great and meaningful themes and imagery beneath the surface, but all I really care about is a good read. _The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle_ is a good read. As Stan Lee might say, "Nuff said!"

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"...alienation and modern living, loneliness and loss..."
I'm glad you've got something nice and cheery in your lap, getting you over the rough spots you've encountered recently.
I've been thinking that you should take up Bushido lately- you already rock a certain "quiet nobility" and the Code might give you the structure you've been craving.

Posted by: Adam at September 27, 2004 4:19 PM

Interesting that you should mention this, as I've just started rereading the book myself...two points of interest:

One, you should check out Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World if you haven't already- it has a similar dreamlike, woozy feel, though it's much more concise and explicable (and is transplanted to a sort-of science fiction setting).

And two, his latest novel (Oedipus on the Shore) is finally being released in English translation in January. I for one can't wait...

Posted by: Ryan at September 27, 2004 6:09 PM

I did, in fact, pick up _Hard Boiled Detective and the End of the World_ this past Saturday. It's on my heaping pile of books to read. I may start it once I finish DeLillo's _Underworld_ (which is a weighty tome in and of itself). That reading bug bit me hard and fast. This sort of thing happens to me from time to time.

Posted by: benjamin at September 28, 2004 1:27 AM
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