“The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” by Haruki Murakami
(First publication: 1994 / This edition: Vintage Books, Penguin Random House 2003)
Taken with my mocha at Casa Lapin x Ploenchit
Everybody in the whole damned world is so damned serious. (pg.65)
Like I said in my post on “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki”, I didn’t think I’d read another Murakami after the predictable and mundane experience of reading “Norwegian Wood”. I really felt so indifferent towards Murakami (and in the literature world, that equals to not wanting to “waste anymore time” with that author).
And when I got “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki” as a gift, I didn’t want to read it either—just kept it at the bottom of my shelf.
The person that made me doubt my opinion of Murakami was Patti Smith in her memoir, “M Train”. She mentioned that “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” is one of her favorites and how it inspired her and gave her this strong sense of curiosity and exploration when she visited Tokyo. Of course I was intrigued when I read her book back in November 2015—but still wasn’t convinced enough to pick up this book right away. From her description, I figured it would be something that’s got one leg over the fence of reality and one on the side of a dream world.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s quite a long book, but I felt like I was just flying through it because it’s enjoyable and absorbing—always hard to put down; I had to force myself to keep awake a few nights while I was reading.
The story does play along the thin line between reality and dreams. Brief plot summary: a man’s wife suddenly leaves him, with no explanation. He then tries to find her and meets many interesting, quirky people along the way: a stubborn and slightly crazy teenage girl, a psychic, a confused prostitute, an ex-soldier that has escaped life many times and seem to can’t die, a mute fashionable man, an arrogant politician who may or may have not raped his sister(s), and etc. You kind of follow this guy’s adventures and wanderings through Tokyo, trying to solve the main issue (of why his wife left him and where did she go) and all the other sidetrack issues he meets along the way.
(Above: Coffee break at Bar Storia del Caffe—great coffee.)
Did I enjoy the story? Yes. Did I like it? Yes. Did I love it?
Did it frustrate me?
Because… honestly, I’m still unsure about what exactly happened. There were parts where I read and was just like, “….okay. This is not making any sense at all, but… aite.”
I guess it’s the whole reality/dream concept—and you’re just never really sure what’s real and what’s actually in a dream. But then this one, it’s as if whatever happens in the dream happens in real life too.
Or something like that.
And it left a lot of unanswered questions—or you just kind of wonder, “Okay, this seems to add more ‘depth’ to the story, but… was that really necessary? Is it just window-dressing? What is the point of this? Why are you (the character) here? The story would’ve been fine without this bit, no?”
I really don’t like reading books where it seems to be dropping clues everywhere, hinting every step of the way, and you just get so fed up—you’re bored of trying to guess and it gets old. (*ahem*, Margaret Atwood)
And I really didn’t like the main character—Toru Okada, a.k.a. Mr. Wind-Up Bird. Throughout the whole story, he was:
- didn’t seem to want any jobs
- wasn’t trying to find work
- just sitting around at random places for large chunks of the day (for over a week, he’d just sit on a bench from morning til evening looking at people)
- spending a lot of time looking and waiting around for a usually-bikini-clad ridiculously-hippie-minded teenage girl
- sitting at a bottom of a well, “just for the hell of it”
- spending time doing sketchy things that I’m not even sure what he was doing—but it seemed like a form of prostitution?
- so desperate to get his wife back after she bluntly told him that she doesn’t want to see him ever again and that she would be much happier without him and that she was never really happy/satisfied with him. (If I were him, I’d let go.)
Those are just a few things I disliked about him. And he’s the main character, so I was just hating on this guy for like 600+ pages.
Also, just like in “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki” and “Norwegian Wood”, there are similar elements—which I’m now assuming I will find in any other Murakami books I read: depression, “lost” girls, dreams about blowjobs, wet dreams, “unexpected” fornication with friends that are girls, suicides, confusion between reality and dreams, the past messing up with the present. This is my third Murakami—and all of this is getting a bit old and too predictable.
Anyway, so… Would I recommend this book?
Although I have a lot of my reasons to bash it, I did truly enjoy it. I like this one the most out of the Murakami’s I’ve read so far. And I’m pretty sure I will read it again some time and I look forward to that.
If you’ve never read a Murakami, this one would be a good first. If you’ve read other Murakami’s before, then do read this one—it’ll be everything predictable, but it’ll be fun. 😉
Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:
Is it possible, in the final analysis, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another?
We can invest enormous time and energy in serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close can we come to that person’s essence? We convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone? (pg. 24)
Curiosity can bring guts out of hiding at times, maybe even get them going. But curiosity evaporates. Guts have to go for the long haul. Curiosity’s like an amusing friend you can’t really trust. It turns you on and then it leaves you to make it on your own — with whatever guts you can muster. (pg.65)
If I’m pessimistic, then the adults in this world who are not pessimistic are a bunch of idiots. (pg.113)
If somebody hits me, I hit back. Make sure you keep that in mind. (pg.203)
I happened to lose my life at one particular moment of time, and I have gone on living these forty years or more with my life lost. As a person who finds himself in such a position, I have come to think that life is a far more limited thing than those in the midst of its maelstrom realize. The lights shines into the act of life for only the briefest moment—perhaps only a matter of seconds. Once it is gone and one has failed to grasp its offered revelation, there is no second chance. One may have to live the rest of one’s life in hopeless depths of loneliness and remorse. In that twilight world, one can no longer look forward to anything. All that such a person holds in his hands is the withered corpse of what should have been. (pg.209)
I’m sorry, though. I know I should never have done that to you (or to anybody). But I can’t help myself sometimes. I know exactly what I’m doing, but I just can’t stop. That’s my greatest weakness. (pg.376)
Those people believe that the world is as consistent and explainable as the floor plan of a new house in a high-priced development, so if you do everything in a logical, consistent way, everything will turn out right in the end. That’s why they get upset and sad and angry when I’m not like that. (pg.461)