Ben’s review of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Ben (new)

Ben I think I'm turning Japanese!

message 2: by Ben (last edited Nov 10, 2009 05:12AM) (new)

Ben Haha! Well, now, I wouldn't want to spoil anything, plus I'm not finished yet... But I can tell you that I'm fascinated with it so far. This could be a tough book to review, but I may give it a shot anyway -- if not, I'll at least send you a comment through this thread giving you my opinion. Cheers!

Edit* This was a reply to Tami who has now deleted her account. Thanks, Tami! (Wherever you are.)

message 3: by Chloe (new)

Chloe What a fantastic review, it captured nearly perfectly my reactions when I first read it last year. It also makes me want to read more Murakami.

message 4: by Jason (new)

Jason Ben wrote: "I think I'm turning Japanese!"

You really think so? Nice review. So.... if I admit I've never read any Murakami, can I a) avoid getting thrashed here and b) get a rec on where to start? I know some other gr pals have opinions, but, Ben, start the rec train.

message 5: by Kim (new)

Kim What a great review, Ben! But now I'm even more intimidated by this book. I've read one Murakami book (RandomAnthony is a big fan)and this one has been the opus that's been stunting me for about a year.


message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 20, 2009 08:04AM) (new)

I think Murakami's writing is just goofy and most of his narrators sound as if they just disembarked the short bus*. In other words, I am not a fan and just can't see what other people see in him. At all.

But still... this is probably his best one.

* But I always have to add that I don't know if this is because of the Japanese-to-English translation or what.

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm still thinking about Murakami...

Someone tell me what's so great about him. Please?

message 8: by Megha (new)

Megha Great review, Ben.

message 9: by Ben (last edited Nov 10, 2009 05:10AM) (new)

Ben Thanks, everyone! I really loved it, but I know it's not for everyone. You have to be in the right kind of mood for it, which means you can't really try too hard to "get it", you have to let it come to you, otherwise you can get frusterated. There's just something more to it that I can't describe, that I know (some) other people also feel when they read him. Likewise there are also some great, brilliant authors that others see great value in, that just don't do anything for me.

Mike, I'm actually not as familiar with H.M. as I wish I was. His short stories give me a similiar feeling and response, but Norwegian Wood is the only other novel from him that I've read. Norwegian Wood is his more "normal" novel, I've heard -- which makes sense, as it's not as far out there or imaginative as this. I've heard that some of his other novels are even wackier than this, which may end up being too far fetched for me, but I want to find out. This seems to be his big-daddy achievement, as Kim and David state, so I'm thinking this should probably be your starting point... then, if you think it's too random, maybe go with N-Wood if you like his writing and see something in it.

David's right about Murakami's writing; it's different indeed, and comes across as overly simplified ("short bus" works). And I know Erik Simon, whose opinion I also respect, has said before that he thinks his writing basically stinks. But one can't judge the writing as a whole based on the voice of his narrators - there's a definite difference: overall, we have an impressive masterpiece, here.

message 10: by Megha (new)

Megha "Norwegian Wood" is a good novel, but it probably won't give one a feeling of what Murakami's writing is typically like. It is very different from most of his other novels.
I had started with "Wind-Up Bird Chronicle", without realizing what I was getting into. It worked great for me and got me completely hooked to Murakami's writing.

message 11: by Kim (last edited Apr 20, 2009 10:23AM) (new)

Kim I haven't read Norwegian Wood, though I hear that I should. I can't identify the 'voice' that I heard in his writing. It was... lyrical? Is that what I'm going for? I don't know... but I read Dance, Dance, Dance and enjoyed it.

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Not lyrical so much as the product of blunt-force trauma to the head, I think. But sometimes the two are in fact interchangeable.

message 13: by Jessica (new)

Jessica I'm not a Murakami fan, but I like your review Ben!

I did in fact used to be a fan. I loved his early work, the short stories especially...

message 14: by Ben (new)

Ben Thanks, Jessica! What more could I ask for? And I'll have to check out his early stuff... Cheers.

message 15: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 21, 2009 06:06AM) (new)

i love murakami and banana yoshimoto. and many japanese writers. is it the translations? who knows. but i always get the sense that the deep, buddhist, patient soul of the culture is inherent or at least underlying in every sentence.

that's a huge and probably inaccurate generalization. but it's what i feel, literally feel.

ok. laugh out loud now.

message 16: by Jessica (new)

Jessica I like Yoshimoto too.
It can't be the translation. Has to be the sensibility.
Other Japanese writers I like (rather different from Yoshimoto and Murakami): Kenzaburo Oe, Kobo Abe, Kawabata, Natsuo Kirino.

message 17: by Ben (new)

Ben Banana, eh? heh. Actually I guess I need to give him (or her?) a shot...

And tami I agree with you on the whole buddhist influence-thing with Murakami; it's something that I sense and feel as well... and I also dig....

message 18: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony Excellent, excellent review, Ben...brilliant...

He manages to meld the unbelievable with the everyday, craftily, so that what would typically seem like fantasy, takes on real life. He allows us to intuitively grasp the wider ranges in our perceptions.

Dead-on. Dead-fucking-on.

message 19: by Lori (new)

Lori Banana is a she, heh.
Your last paragraph is the perfect advice for most of his books!
As Megha says, Norwegian Wood is quite different than this one and also Kafka on the Beach - it's a straight forward musing narrative quite based in reality, with no forays into the fantastical. Still the same underlying voice of an old soul reaching for connection. I also read this book first, before NW.

message 20: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins I'd agree Murakami's no literary heavyweight, but what I've liked about him is the transparency of his imagination, or rather how the nondescript almost dullness of his writing (the words themselves) allows a clear view of the workings of his imagination. His imagination is incredibly inventive and generative, though after a while it just starts repeating itself.

In an essay he wrote about his running practice he kept referring to himself as dull, which from the essay itself I'd tend to agree with.

When he really gets going in his creative writing it's almost as if a vastly more interesting and imaginative entity has taken possession of Murakami the dull, plodding jogger.

message 21: by Ben (new)

Ben Thank you RA and Lori! So, now that I've read this and Norwegian Wood, I can't decide which Murakami to read next. I think I have it narrowed between Kafka on the Shore and Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World, but could be persuaded towards another. Anyone have any suggestions or input?

message 22: by Matthieu (last edited Apr 21, 2009 03:55PM) (new)

Matthieu Abe! Oe! They're the best.

message 23: by RandomAnthony (last edited Apr 21, 2009 04:51PM) (new)

RandomAnthony Ben, I'd just hit the bookstore, read the backs, and pick the one you like best. I'm not the hugest fan of After Dark and Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World is the most "science fictiony" of his work. Each of the other titles is different in its degree of realism but still wonderful...

message 24: by Connor (new)

Connor yeah I'd agree, so far my favorite is South of the Border, West of the Sun. After Dark and Sputnik Sweetheart were both interesting. If i were you, I'd read 'em without direction, cause thats what Murakami does when he writes. He said that when he has a good story to tell, he just keeps writing and lets the present state of mind put pen to paper.

message 25: by Ben (new)

Ben Thanks for the input, guys. It's interesting that Murakami writes without direction; I assume it's rare for a writer to take that approach, but I'm not that surprised to hear that he does, given the nature of his novels. It seems to make perfect sense, in fact, that he would let the "flow" of the story and characters take over and unfold naturally. I wonder if that's an approach more common among Japanese authors...

Eddie: I found myself thinking further about your comment, "the nondescript almost dullness of his writing (the words themselves) allows a clear view of the workings of his imagination", and I wonder if he does this intentionally to increase the affect... sounds like probably not, given what you call his "dullness", which is fascinating enough to just ponder -- how someone can have such a strong imagination yet be "dull". What an interesting guy -- I'm gonna have to pick up his autobiography too...

message 26: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins Ben, I get the impression he himself is amazed by what he's able to invent with his writing. He's also suggested this quality of "possession" overcoming him when he writes. With his first novel he had the experience of it "writing itself".

But I think he might've written himself out by now, but who knows...

I also can find dullness very interesting. At least outward dullness.

message 27: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony Forgot to mention there's a Murakami group, Ben...

message 28: by Megha (new)

Megha Ben wrote: "Thanks for the input, guys. It's interesting that Murakami writes without direction; I assume it's rare for a writer to take that approach, but I'm not that surprised to hear that he does, given t..."

I remember reading somewhere that he had once approached a psychologist to figure out why cats made an appearance in most of his novels. They couldn't reach any conclusion though. This sort of implies that novels flowing out of him theory has some truth in it.

I also can find dullness very interesting.
I too feel that this dullness does play a role in the kind of affect his imaginative writing has on the reader. His characters are very detached and sometimes react to the oddest things with no more than 'of course' or 'Oh brother'. I think this helps in what would typically seem like fantasy to takes on real life like Ben said in his review.
This kind of detachment sometimes has a humorous effect as well.

message 29: by Ben (last edited Apr 22, 2009 11:37AM) (new)

Ben Megha, great point about the detachment of his characters. In N-Wood and in this, it was like the protagonists were constantly obvserving but not engaging, like they themselves are like Murakami, with an active inner world that doesn't necessarily show on the outside.

message 30: by C. (new)

C. This is a great thread, and a great review. I struggle with Murakami, myself. His writing style irritates me because I find it very cliched and unoriginal, but hell, what can you do?

message 31: by Jessica (new)

Jessica I find it surface-y.
But it wasn't always thus.

message 32: by Martine (new)

Martine Choupette and Jessica, Murakami is a mood writer. If you're susceptible to his kind of mood, chances are you'll love his work, but if you're looking for more than mood, you may indeed find him a bit overrated. Personally, I just love the melancholy and dream-like atmosphere he evokes. It's an East Asian sensibility I greatly appreciate. But I agree he's not for everyone.

message 33: by Sarah (new)

Sarah This is the only Murakami book I've read, and I liked it. I don't really know how to describe my feelings for it, though, which is why I starred it without writing a review. Maybe I should just link to yours.

message 34: by Connor (new)

Connor Martine I could'nt've said it better. That's exactly it, its a mood thing. I've always appreciated his ability to explode the particle moments of his books into a whirlwind of uncertain emotion and desperate attempts for association and meaning, and then to take it right back to its origins with a dizzying twist or metaphor that curls a smile in your mind or blows a hole through your heart, all with a cool japanese ambiance.

message 35: by Jessica (new)

Jessica for a mood piece, how I love the film:
In the Mood for Love.
Korean, I think?

message 36: by Martine (new)

Martine Nope. Chinese. Hong Kong Chinese, to be exact.

For Korean mood pieces, check out Kim Ki-duk's oeuvre. The man is a genius. Film-making at its very best.

Connor, that is a brilliant description. Wow!

message 37: by Jessica (new)

Jessica I will check out Kim Ki-duk, thanks.

message 38: by Martine (new)

Martine Jessica, this is him.

I particularly recommend Bin-Jip (3-Iron) and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring, but really, nearly all of his films are worth watching.

message 39: by Jessica (new)

Jessica thanks Martine.
I remember from other threads that you have an extensive foreign film knowledge, second to none.

Any Korean writers you'd recommend, while we're at it?

message 40: by Ben (last edited Apr 26, 2009 07:01PM) (new)

Ben Jessica, it's interesting to hear that Murakami's style used to be different; that it wasn't always "surface-y," to use your term. I think this gives more weight to the theory that he actually chooses to write in the "simple" manner that he does now. I doubt he changed out of laziness or a slippage in skill.

Now I'm thinking of digging up his older writing just to see which style I prefer. Given how much I loved this book, I'm guessing I'd be in the camp that likes his current style better. Maybe his former style was less clichéd and less surfacey...maybe it even flowed smoother, but I'm not so sure the affect his writing has on me would be as strong. As stated by others in the thread, the style he currently uses seems to provide a contrast with the imaginative things that he writes about. I think this may end up providing a more impressive picture in my mind as I read, while also making it seem more realistic, rather than a fantasy novel of sorts.

Are there any specific titles or stories you can give us that you'd recommend? Maybe Choupette and David would like his earlier stuff more, like you do. Plus I want to see if those, such as myself, that like his current work, will like his older stuff with the different writing.

message 41: by Jessica (last edited Apr 26, 2009 07:03PM) (new)

Jessica well, I really only know his early stories...and they blew me away, to use that trite expression. The newer stuff, his novels and the stories I come across in the New Yorker, lack (for me) the undercurrent the earlier work the world described was both strange and quotidian, sad and lovely. The characters...his writing--the sentences, etc., too.

message 42: by Megha (last edited Apr 26, 2009 07:21PM) (new)

Megha I just finished reading 'A Wild Sheep Chase', Murakami's third novel(the first two are out of print now, it seems). Even here the writing is very simple and easy to read, yet with a philosophical significance. In fact I found it simpler than 'The Wind-up Chronicle'. It is different from 'Wind-up..' in that the plot doesn't meander as much. It has mythical and fantastical elements, but it is not as bizarre as 'The Wind-up Bird Chronicle'.

At least for me, the affect 'The Wind-up Bird Chronicle' had was definitely a notch higher than other books of his that I have read.

message 43: by Connor (new)

Connor you should check out The Elephant Vanishes. Its one of the short story collections. I'm halfway through and I already love it. Its great to have with you when you've only got bits of time on your hands. Just like it is for novels, you want to finish it in one space of time to really take everything in.

message 44: by Jessica (new)

Jessica That is the collection I read after first coming upon his stories (years ago) in The New Yorker.

message 45: by C. (new)

C. Does anyone know where after the quake comes chronologically? That's the one I read, and while I thought there were a lot of good things about it, the writing style kind of drove me crazy.

message 46: by Megha (new)

Megha I think 'After the quake' came after wind-up..

message 47: by Ben (new)

Ben Okay, here's a link to his bibliography. Jessica, let us know if any of the older short stories ring a bell...

message 48: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker Excellent review. I just put down the book with a huge sigh of satisfaction and you've come close to capturing how it works. Beautiful. (Dang but now am I go to say in a review?)

message 49: by Ben (new)

Ben Thank you, Whitaker! It's unlike any other novel, isn't it? Such an interesting mind trip, yet intense and with emotional depth, as well. Glad you also enjoyed it!

message 50: by Gary (last edited Aug 23, 2009 11:03AM) (new)

Gary good god, ben . is there anything you can't do? any review you can't totally fuck up? i was wondering. every one i've read of yours is so well written, with great perspectives. blows me away ,my man! my 19 year old son bought this book when he was 15. (he's very bright,and was reading stuff when he was 11 that freaked me out with the adult choices he was making. guess who was doing the same thing at that age?? anybody we know??? hmmmm! i wonder???)

anyway, he read part of it and stopped. i asked him about it,and he gave me his copy. it's sitting on my dresser as we speak.

ok, does this review want to make me read it?? not sure?? i am wondering if i should wait till next june to hit it, when i am more relaxed,and able to concentrate on it. but you're talking to someone who likes faulkner,and faulkner is fantastic, but damn hard to read. so, anyway......i am in the thinking stages here. i am kinda reading poe, hemingway, and irving all at the same time,and i have a million things i should be doing instead of that. or this!!!!

so, anyway, you've given me a lot to ponder over, ben, my friend. if we could rate a review with stars, you'd get 5 on this, my man!!!

all the best!!! gary

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