Jason's Reviews > The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
933518
's review
Sep 29, 2012

it was ok
Read in September, 2012

This book is VERY weird...In more ways than one. I went back to it because I remembered it being better than I thought at the time I originally read it. I sort of reluctantly have to agree with my past self in that 2 stars is the way to go; the book is hysterically overwrought. That said, I still think it's a phenomenal book.

one thing that's occurred to me is the theme of incertitude in accurate communication between human beings...
the telephone becomes a major symbol here...
at the time in which the novel is set, the early 80's, the telephone represented a sort of insoluble mystery...
who was it we were really talking to when the telephone rang and we picked up the receiver?...
how do we know for certain they're who they say they were?...how do we know what they tell is accurate or true?...
this idea translates directly to the nature of other human beings and their fundamental relationship to us:

how do we know for certain the person who sleeps next to us is the person they have represented to us over time?...can we trust beyond doubt that they are who they say they are?...how do we know they won't change that representation tomorrow or even a minute from now?...

in essence, everyone we come in contact with, even those closest to us, is like that telephone that rings: a blank uninhabited mystery that is filled with the content provided by the essentially unknown entity that communicates to us from the inside...

murakami continues to develop this theme...
the main character walks into a dry-cleaner's shop and notes the boom box playing on a shelf...he also notes the music playing and the genre of the cassette tapes that lie next to it...from these pieces of semiotic information the main character develops a complex character profile of the shop owner...he even goes as far as to conclude that only this genre of music (easy-listening) is possible for a dry-cleaning shop owner to listen to...any other form, such as hard jazz, would inevitably lead a person into another occupation...

this semiotic information, or symbolic set, is analogous to the ringing telephone...we pick up the receiver and interpret the information that is imparted to us in order to establish a meaningful depiction of the associated entity...

this is essentially one of the primary cognitive methods by which we come to "know" those people who pass in and out of our sphere of existence...
the same unreliability is inherent in this system as previously noted in the answering of the telephone...

despite these examples of potent symbolism, which will usually compel me to like a book even when it is bad, i cannot seem to enjoy this novel...

i read a critic describe faulkner's 'requiem for a nun' as 'a bloated failure of a book'...that sentiment almost perfectly sums up my feelings about this text...the only thing i would add is an episode from the novel itself...the main character in the story, toru, follows a musician across town to a run down neighborhood wherein the musician attacks toru with a bat...toru takes the bat away and pummels the musician half to death with it while the musician laughs...
this moment is totally emblematic of what one takes away from this book...it is a pointless journey accompanied by brutal and aimless punishment that we have to struggle mightily to enjoy...

it is my opinion that this work could have benefited ENORMOUSLY from deep revision...at least 300 pages could have been edited out with no loss to the overall program of the novel...

but is it a failure?...
very nearly, but not quite...there is a lot here that is wonderful...but those good bits are strained to near breaking by the ponderous weight of the bad...
so a definitive yes on the bloated part, and an almost on the failure...






4 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Sounds fascinating...and cerebral!! Too cerebral? Less affecting?


message 2: by Jason (last edited Aug 21, 2008 09:54PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jason it is VERY cerebral...
i've never read anything by an asian author before and i can't help but think what i'm experiencing with this book is a kind of culture shock...
i want to say the pacing is too slow, but that's not right...
it's stilted in a strange way...there's this relentless formality to it that creates a very detached, dreamlike, and turgid tone...
it is less affecting...

it very well could be the best worst book i've ever read...


message 3: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Ha -- I see. Yeah, well, hm. . . I've read a lot of different Asian authors, and, like US authors, they is all different : ) But...hm...you know, it kind of reminds me of Gibson's cyberpunk novels. Does it not stand up to the comparison??? Hey, I'm talking through my butt, here!


Jason i've only ever read 'neuromancer' and i recall i didn't like it...the tone is definitely similar...although gibson was a lot more spaced out and trippy...
gibson wrote like he was bonked out on psychedelic drugs...
murakami writes like his perceptions have been sharpened to a level where he can't exclude even the most minute of details...he seems compelled to catalogue every moment in the text with scientific precision...

i don't know...i think the main thing with this book is it's so different from anything i've read before, and is thus highly challenging for me...sometimes i think i totally understand what he's doing and then i don't think i do at all...
i have more to speculate about, but it's probably best i wait until i finish it...


message 5: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Oh, I like seeing what you see while you go through it...even though, yes, of course we have to suspend a little something till we finish the book!

Hm, is it like waiting till the end of a relationship to write about it? I might have never spoken about anyone else, ever, if I'd have had to do that!

Just joshing around...


Jason i've haven't ended a relationship in so long i guess i'm disqualified from commenting...

i have finished the book though and i did not like it...
way too long and way too esoteric...

i usually thrive on heavy imagery, but this was too much even for me...


message 7: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Hm, sounds too cheesecake-y!!

Lugubrious. Yuck. We have to thank others for reading books and letting us know we wouldn't like them. . . Thank you!


Jason i don't know...
i'd really hate to turn you away from this writer just on my say so...
so very many people adore this book, many more than didn't i must say, it is very likely that i just had a subjectively negative response to it...
it's without question a monumental achievement...i would actually like to know what you think of it...
i can't escape the feeling that i've missed something...there's so much symbolism and allegory here that a good deal of it very probably sailed right over my head...
i don't know...
the more i think about it the more i don't like this book, but for some reason i continue to be troubled by it...


message 9: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Hm...you've convinced me! When I get a chance, I'll check it out. . . but it'll be a while. Classes start tomorrow. I have more classes and more students than ever before. I might disappear a bit : (


message 10: by KC (new) - added it

KC Jason wrote: "it is VERY cerebral...
i've never read anything by an asian author before and i can't help but think what i'm experiencing with this book is a kind of culture shock...
i want to say the pacing is..."


I enjoyed the book so to each his own. It had parts that left me cold but what I wanna know is - am I one of many who knew who the mysterious caller was from the moment she hung up the first time? Or am I one of few?

Otherwise, the rest of the mysteries remained mysterious for most of the book.

Contrary opinions on books are always helpful. I have read books I wish I could forget. This is one I'll reread to try to gather more from. It's not Kafka on the Shore, but it was fun in a sort of masochistic way.

I do actually think that there are cultural issues at hand. There's something about the two Japanese writers I've read that often makes me feel like I am living on a different planet than they are. But that doesn't bother me. Just forces me to stretch a little.


back to top