This book was a stunning overview of Murakami's work and influences. It made me want to learn how to read Japanese so that I can experience the full b...moreThis book was a stunning overview of Murakami's work and influences. It made me want to learn how to read Japanese so that I can experience the full body of his work (as much of it has not been translated into English. Kudos to Jay Rubin.(less)
A Wild Sheep Chase was the third book that I have read by Murakami. I found out after I finished that it is that third book in "The Trilogy of the Rat...moreA Wild Sheep Chase was the third book that I have read by Murakami. I found out after I finished that it is that third book in "The Trilogy of the Rat". The first two books in this series are now out of print, but after reading A Wild Sheep Chase, I think I have to chase down some used copies of the novels and experience the trilogy in full.
I interpreted the novel to be a story of emotion journey more than a story of physical journey. There was an actual journey involved as the main character went in search of the mythical sheep, but the true focus of the book was on the character's emotions. Murakami didn't even give the protagonist (or many of the other characters in the novel) a name. The main character could stand for any one of us.
I believe that the mythical sheep can be seen as either "the meaning of life," which sounds cliche but bear with me, or, "what happens when we lose sight of the true meaning of life".
Our main character (let's call him Max for discussion's sake) finds himself at the end of his marriage. His wife have left him for a friend of his, and he can't understand what that guy has that he doesn't, since the friend doesn't have a lot of money and he plays the guitar too much.
The girlfriend that "Max" hooks up with following the breakup of his marriage is a talented, quirky girl who compliments his own quirks nicely. Yet throughout the relationship, he is obsessed with her ears, a part of her, instead of the whole of her. She, on the other hand, has shown herself to be quite devoted to him, even supporting and joining him on his quest for the sheep.
These examples, plus his long-running friendship with his business partner and the company that they ran together, all worked together to form a meaning to his life that "Max" was unable to recognize or embrace. He was on his own sheep chase looking for meaning that he already had. When he finally caught up with The Rat and had their final chat on the mountain, he realized, to a small degree, what he had been doing wrong. The Rat had left everything he knew behind, including a woman who loved him, in search of new environments and new adventure in hope of some new meaning in life. What he ended up doing was forsaking the people and life that cared about him, that gave his existence meaning, and was overtaken by the mythical sheep. The encounter and habitation with the sheep revealed to The Rat that he had wasted his true meaning and life and was now left with an empty existance, when he should have appreciated and found meaning in the path he was originally given. The results for The Rat were thusly catastrophic. "Max", realizing this, leaves the mountainside with no girlfriend, no business, no business partner, and no wife, but with the enlightenment that it is not too late to find meaning in his life.
As a side story, the Sheep Professor serves as a microcosm of the larger plot. Having everything he needed in a profession that he loved and a family who cared for him, he gave it all up and sought "the sheep". He had the sheep as a part of him for a period of time, only to lose even that. In the end he was left with nothing except a son who wished that his father had cared more about him.
I loved the way that "Max's" emotions were described throughout the novel and how through "Max" we can see the results of not appreciating what we have, and also the overall process of what it is like to develop emotionally and truly realize what is important to us, what fulfills us, and what we need to do to keep those things in our lives.(less)
This was the first book that I have read by Philip K. Dick, and I was not disappointed. This novel was a page-turner and relatively quick read. It is...moreThis was the first book that I have read by Philip K. Dick, and I was not disappointed. This novel was a page-turner and relatively quick read. It is hard for me to explain what I got out of this book because it dealt with some very abstract concepts, but here are my thoughts (as disjointed as they may be).
How do we know if what we are experiencing right now is life, and not half-life, death, or a reincarnation of ourselves? This was the main question that the characters of Ubik faced.
The book presents a juxtaposition between two worlds, real life and half life. Those who are "alive" exist as we know life to be. Those who are in "half life" have died and been placed in a cold-pac, similar to the cryogenics that we have today, except that the cold-pac keeps the essence or spirit of the person alive. In this state, the deceased can still communicate with the living as well as other deceased people in the cold-pac facility.
After a massive explosion, the protagonist Joe and his coworkers try to get their dead employers body to cold-pac and then experience series of events that lead them to believe that they are deceased. They are able to communicate with their boss, who they believe is alive. By the end of the novel, however, the employer begins to see signs in the changing environment around him that indicate that the deceased employees are influencing the "real world". Or is HE the one who is deceased? The novel ends without providing a resolution or clearing up who is dead and who is alive.
While this lack of resolution can be frustrating to many readers, I saw it as a stroke of genius. Ubik, derived from the word ubiquitous meaning "everywhere", hints that perhaps we can exist in multiple ways and places at once. It is possible that we continue to exist in some form, or many forms, once we die, but it is also possible that the same could be true for our existence while we are alive. This concept reminded me of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, where doors could be opened to different "whens" and the same characters existed in multiple "whens".(less)
I somehow managed to major in Literature and Writing without having to read or even hear about this book. My boyfriend, who read the book in high scho...moreI somehow managed to major in Literature and Writing without having to read or even hear about this book. My boyfriend, who read the book in high school, decided that I should read it and bought me a copy. I'm glad that I read this novel, and was a little scared by how relevant it is to the world that we live in today, with it's censorship of topics that can be offensive to smaller groups and the frightening influence that the media has over us.
My understanding of how this novel is usually interpreted is as a commentary on the evils of censorship. This makes sense to me, since the primary motif of the novel is the burning of books. However, this was not the main message that I came away with.
I believe that Bradbury is commenting not just on book censorship but also on the impact of mass media. When we allow mass media to influence how we interpret the world, we lose the opportunity to form views of our own. So many of the characters in the book were too busy paying attention to the televisions in their "parlours" and listening to their "families" on the screens than communicating with one another. Trusting the media to supply all of the necessary information leaves people in the dark about their true situation and unexperienced with asking questions to improve their situation. As true testament to this, the city was attacked in a nuclear war that the citizens did not know much about and were unprepared for. The city was leveled by the end of the book and it is unclear how many, if any, survivors there were from the attack. However Montag, the main character, did know about the war and had asked throughout the book why no one was talking about it or asking about it. The group of intellectuals that he ran into after swimming down the river were informed about the war and anticipated the nuclear attack because their lives were not overly influenced by the media.
It was also interesting that Bradbury not only painted the media as controlling but also manipulative. When the chase was on to find Montag and he was no where to be found, the media lied to the public. They cornered and killed an innocent citizen while claiming that it was Montag. They did this in order to give viewers a conclusion to the ordeal that showed them in a good light. They did not want the people to know that they did not have control of the situation. They also wanted to be able to get people back to their "regularly scheduled programming" and "live as usual" to continue their control of them.
I believe that the books were banned because the content in novels, generated by free-thinking individuals, is not something that the media can control. The more people who have access to books, or anything that promotes creativity and freedom of thought, the less able the media will be to control them. Interestingly, tabloids were still a legal form of communication, containing articles no longer than a page in length and, more than likely, content that was filtered and manipulated to conform with the overall agenda of the media.(less)
This book blew my mind. Murakami has a wonderful way of taking regular people in mundane lives and bringing them to live with surreal ev...moreSpoiler Alert:
This book blew my mind. Murakami has a wonderful way of taking regular people in mundane lives and bringing them to live with surreal events. He took such a simple concept and turned it into an intricate web: we cannot escape our past, and we cannot get the most out of our present or future until we are willing to confront our past. He showed this through the struggles of so many of the characters, not just through Toru. Creta wouldn't face her past, Malta wouldn't explain her past, Toru's wife wouldn't share her past, May wouldn't take responsibility for her past, and Nutmeg wouldn't move on from her past. Each one of these characters suffered in their present situation because of how they dealt with (or refused to deal with) the past. Toru's final experience in the well shows that once he was willing to confront the past, instead of running away from room 208 as he had before, he is able to move on with his life. He experiences injuries during his confrontation, symbolic of the fact that dealing with the past can be painful, but he is then able to see his current situation more clearly and appropriately.
Not only is this book a commentary on the past, it also points to the affect of passivity. Toru meets each of the female characters in his life through chance. They come to him either by seeking him out themselves or through chance encounters. It is only when he takes action in the final episode within the well that he frees himself of the static situation his life has become.
I felt that the ending of the book was quite satisfying. We never really find out whether some or all of the characters existed in reality or in the parallel universe that Toru experienced. But do we really need to know? We are meant to come away with an understanding of what they experienced and how they affected Toru. Their reality is of little consequence. The vital parts - Toru's relationship with his wife, for example - are given enough of a conclusion that we can see how important it is for us to confront and embrace the past. What happens afterward (do Toru and his wife get back together?) is not important to the meaning of the story.
The wind-up bird is a symbol of the past. It's crrreeaaak heralds the coming influence of the past, which we can never truly escape. And Mr. Wind-Up Bird is a beautiful microcosm of how the past can creep up on you and break you back down until you are willing to acknowledge it.(less)
I wanted to give this book 2 1/2 stars but the rating system won't let me. Follet has skill when it comes to characterization, pulling the reader into...moreI wanted to give this book 2 1/2 stars but the rating system won't let me. Follet has skill when it comes to characterization, pulling the reader into the psyche of each main character. The book spans such a long period of time (over 60+ years) that parts felt incredibly rushed. The foreshadowing throughout the novel was mostly predictable, which I partly attribute to the book's poor pacing. Having to rush through the decades as he did, essential incidents in the lives of the characters received, in many cases, foreshadowing with results revealed only pages later. The novel has a partly satisfying ending, tying up the essential loose ends and leaving just enough unresolved to try and justify a sequel. I also felt that he was ripping off Ivanhoe and Le Morte de Arthur a little too much and some parts of the novel lacked originality or unpredictability. I enjoyed the book but not as much as I expected to, as it did not live up the hype. I'll probably read the newly published sequel, but not until it is released in mass market paperback.(less)