Jessica's Reviews > The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
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Jan 21, 08

bookshelves: aborted-efforts

I didn't finish this book. I could've, it wasn't bad or anything, I just didn't really feel like it. I feel sort of the way about Murakami that I do about Paul Auster, only much more so: both seem theoretically appealing but then just leave me feeling chilled. I can read them, but I'm not compelled to. The beginning of this was striking, memorable, and quite beautiful, but I just didn't care. It had no soul for me. I couldn't engage, and I sort of thought, "Well, probably I should keep on reading, because it is very well-written and everyone loves it, so it'll probably pay off.... or, I could return it to the library and read something else." I chose the latter option. If this means I'm dumb or something, well, so be it.... I might try a Murakami book again someday, since I don't have anything against him, but I'm not setting any records running to the bookstore in a big hurry.
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message 1: by Jenny (new)

Jenny He's on the same shelf as Jeffrey Eugenides and Michael Chabon... the "everyone loves it so why don't I" shelf.


message 2: by Anne (new)

Anne Jessica, I completely agree about Murakami and Auster. For me, something is just *missing* in their books (at least the ones I've tried to read), something warm. You describe this feeling (and my confusion about it, as so many people love them both) succinctly and perfectly: "It had no soul for me."

With both authors, I can't help but wonder WHY they are writing. Murakami's prose is technically "good" and there's undeniably art to it, but it rarely makes me feel things I didn't know I felt -- and to feel compelled to read (and, in this case, finish) a book, I need that.

Our "everyone loves it so why don't I" shelves are perpetual mysteries. I feel so much soul-love for Michael Chabon that I get migraines thinking of people not liking him. And just the other day I was passionately defending Lorrie Moore to a naysaying friend who finally said, "You can't convince me because I just don't feel it."

I quoted me some pop-crossover 90s Bonnie Raitt of the ballad persuasion. And we both nodded sagely.


Natalie I enjoyed The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, but don't think that you missed much by abandoning it partway through. Murakami falls apart in the final act in all of the books of his that I have read.

I like Murakami in the same way that I like David Lynch; impeccable attention to detail, incredible ambiance and keen technique. Murakami has this way of constructing (magical realist?) worlds while incorporating all these bizarre, repetitive details (like the lady's large red hat, or characters based on American fast-food mascots) that scream out to the reader, "analyze me! I am foreshadowing something!" and yet the details don't add up to anything in the end - they are seemingly just there to create a mood. You get caught up in the mystery of the protagonist's missing wife, but by the time you find out what happened it is such a surreal Dean Koontz affair that you feel a bit like it's the end of Twin Peaks and none of your questions are answered which I find REALLY DISAPPOINTING.





message 4: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Ooooo, these are all excellent calls that help me understand better why Murakami just doesn't do anything for me. The David Lynch analogy is a great one, yeah, I mean, I like David Lynch's stuff (well, some of it), but it is mostly all ingenious window dressing and mood, it's not about anything, there's no compelling reason for it, particularly, other than its aesthetics and this sort of world it creates. Not that there's anything wrong with this at all -- er, except the last season of Twin Peaks, there was definitely something wrong with that -- but it's usually hard for me to get all excited about.


P.S. AAAAGHHHH!!! The thought that someone could possibly NOT LOVE Lorrie Moore makes me want to break down in tears. Why IS that?


message 5: by Erik (new)

Erik Simon I have nothing to add but corroboration and initial thanks to Jessica. I have never understood the fuss over Murakami. Not only soulless, but prose, and a story, that's a bit like diarrhea--it just keeps coming out and coming out without much seeming order, and then, for some reason, it just ends. I think maybe here I'm speaking about the quality of the prose. His sentences never feel very artfully crafted--insouciant construction, childish syntax, uninspiring verbs.


Jesse i could see how murakami could turn some readers off and this is the only novel of his that i have read, but i thought that it was very effective in addressing something that never gets addressed: namely, japanese guilt surrounding world war 2 war crimes. granted murakami could do with some better editing: the book was published as three separate novels and then stiched together in the english translation with something like 90 pages being cut. i do think that murakami suffers more as a result of his readers than his actual work, i.e. the kid always telling you to read murakami is also the kid who thinks dave eggers is as good if not better than david foster wallace. but again this is the only novel of murakami's that i've read (i did re-read it though) and it does have a strong theme, and some great imagery (which i would argue does contain some concrete foreshadowing), as well as an interesting protagonist. his weaknesses for me were that his female characters were interchangeable, aside from their physical differences. this could be a reflection of japanese culture, but i'm not sure; i think it is just hard to write great, unique characters. anyway i think reading "WUBC" through the lens of the horrors of japanese war crimes and the collective refusal of their society to recognize said crimes really brings a new light to the novel, and can take some of his random, red herring meanderings, and give them some real meaningful teeth.


message 7: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy Yeah, I often find myself skeptical of Murakami due to his fan base. Of course, this is, for the most part an absurd reason to not read someone, albeit whenever I ask these people why I should read him, the best paraphrase that this question typically elicits is that "his books are so crazy", or that he "is a great writer". Literally, I'm not kidding. Same thing with Chuck Palahniuk, a writer who's quality I can safely say is poor. I hear ya on the Eggers comment too. That guy's "literary artifice" is about as subtle as a shotgun blast.

Anyway, bla bla bla...

In your opinion, what would be the best Murakami to start with?


Jesse well, i've only read "wind-up bird chronicle" so i can't really say which f his is best to start with. "wind-up bird chronicle" is considered his best work overall. it's worth at least trying, like i said, i think "wubc" has a lot to say about things most novels never touch. i mean, in the big scheme of things, on the literary ladder, murakami is kinda middle rung, but you can't just go from "catcher in the rye" to "ulysses" you gotta have something in between. murakami's american pop sensibilities can wear thin, but he has an interesting angle on it, being japanese. and really what young writer that blew up in the 90's doesn't reek of pop culture.


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