T.D. Whittle's Reviews > The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
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Sep 28, 2014

it was amazing
bookshelves: favourites-mixed, reviews
Read from August 06 to 09, 2012

I can understand readers having extreme love/hate reactions to Murakami, generally, and to The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, particularly. As in his other works, the most recent of which is 1Q84, opening the covers of Wind-Up Bird is like strapping yourself into a carnival ride through someone else's dream world; unless you are very keenly interested in the mind of that dreamer, you will be in turns bored or repelled by the experience. I am keenly interested in Murakami, and I find myself willing to read pretty much anything he writes; but it is a love that surpasses my own understanding at times.

Like many other readers, I find Murakami's aesthetic sensibilities and his evocative symbolism - both of which can veer wildly from the banal and tedious to the overwrought, over-sexualised, or even ridiculous - tend to stay with me long after I've closed one of his books (even the banal and tedious ones). I read him with the same sense of fascination that I read the works of Jung, because I think that Murakami is grappling with the same types of existential questions, and that he seeks his answers by exploring the same types of places: the labyrinths of our own minds; the subtle and delicate ties that bind us to other sentient beings; the pragmatic and sensual bonds between us and the inanimate objects that fill our lives; and the metaphorical (or actual, depending upon one's beliefs) collective unconscious.

I must admit to getting completely sucked into Murakami's worlds; so much so, that I sometimes forget to check-in with basic physical reality. I had read three Murakami books before it occurred to me that one cannot see the stars in daylight from the bottom of a well - a claim his characters make in at least two of his novels, including this one. Nevertheless, the idea works beautifully as a metaphor. As with his other books, his symbols and recurrent motifs have a resounding power. I am haunted by that deep, dry well; that wind-up bird that speaks one's doom; that labyrinthine hotel with its prostitutes of the mind, its waiter who whistles Rossini, and its endless supply of fresh cut flowers, fresh buckets of ice, and tumblers of Cutty Sark; that teenage girl with the wooden leg who visits the duck people in winter; and, unfortunately, even that hideous manskinner.

It is probably fair to say, as with his other books, that some of the characters in Wind-Up Bird are rendered in a way that makes them seem too lurid, or alternatively too vague, to sustain our disbelief; and that some bits of the plot feel under-done, while other bits feel too contrived. Still, I find that they satisfy me in some ineffable way, and that I am happy enough to stay in the dream, trusting that Murakami is taking me somewhere vivid and compelling and completely fresh. Then I find that I can't quite wake up for a while after it's ended.
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Quotes T.D. Liked

Haruki Murakami
“In a place far away from anyone or anywhere, I drifted off for a moment.”
Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle


Reading Progress

04/09 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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Paul Bryant Great review - you actually explained why people like him! that's a first for me.


T.D. Whittle Thanks, Paul!


message 3: by Anthony (new) - added it

Anthony Chavez Great review. I'm about to dive into Norwegian Wood, my first Murakami read. But I also own this and 1Q84. Looking forward to them.


T.D. Whittle Hi, Anthony, and thank you. I am on a Murakami binge just now, so I am currently reading After Dark. I am looking forward to Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore.


Suzanne The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles was the first Murakami I read and I had much the same reaction you did. Since then I've only read Wild Sheep Chase, but liked Wind-Up Bird much better. His work reminds me of a David Lynch film with its surreal dreamlike qualities. I'm glad I've got so many of his other books to look forward to. Great review.


T.D. Whittle Suzanne wrote: "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles was the first Murakami I read and I had much the same reaction you did. Since then I've only read Wild Sheep Chase, but liked Wind-Up Bird much better. His work reminds ..."

Ah, you are right, Suzanne. There are similarities there with Lynch. I don't know how I missed that, now that you've mentioned it. Thanks, too, for your feedback. Cheers.


message 7: by S.j. (new)

S.j. Kim I wrote my most angry - disturbed? - book review after Kafka on the Shore. One reviewer says of him that he is too emotional in some works and completely devoid in others, and the latter was what I read of it, all in its violently numb sexual ubiquity. I dismissed Murakami after that read but I have been asked to revisit him in forms of this book (Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) and 1Q84. I am contemplating it but I fear - yes, fear, for Kafka haunted me for days - the experience will be similar, at least with the former.


message 8: by T.D. (last edited Aug 15, 2012 12:17AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

T.D. Whittle S.j. wrote: "I wrote my most angry - disturbed? - book review after Kafka on the Shore. One reviewer says of him that he is too emotional in some works and completely devoid in others, and the latter was what ..."

Hi, S.J. -

I will read your review of Kafka on the Shore, as you've piqued my interest, but not until I've read the book, because I see you've got a spoiler alert there. I've ordered it, but not received it yet. I understand what you mean, and I think he can hold you close one moment, and toss you aside the next, as a reader (emotionally speaking). However, I have come to the tentative - and possibly wrong - conclusion, based on my completion of After Dark just last night, that he is trying to capture elusive states of being and feeling that are hard to pin down to a page in the reality of black and white text. I think, as an author, he is much more interested in the process than the outcome. I am fascinated much more by process than outcome myself, so that's probaly why I can tolerate this and actually enjoy even its more frustrating aspects. But, when I am in the mood for clarity and a satisfying resolution, Murakami is not the writer to whom I turn. Anyway, I am rambling. Still percolating on After Dark. I might write a review of that as soon as my thoughts have coalesced a bit more.


Suzanne td, very interessting insights re: "trying to capture elusive states of being" and the process vs outcome. Sometimes the journey is its own reward.

S.j., I think Murikami is not everyone's cup of tea. Frankly, he's kind of weird, but I like weird. The creepiness associated with some of the violence has disturbed me at times too, but not enough to put me off reading him, which I find worth a certain discomfort level for the rewards of the rest of it.


message 10: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Not His Real Name Beautiful review. Jung gets a mention in 1Q84.


message 11: by T.D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

T.D. Whittle Thanks, Suzanne and Ian, for your appreciative comments. Just now, I am listening to an audio version of 1Q84 because I thought that might be fun to do while exercising, washing up dishes, or doing other things I don't have to think about too much. It's forty hours long! I don't think it took me that long to read it myself. I am still adjusting to the narrators' voices (one male, one female) so I haven't decided what I think of it yet.


message 12: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Not His Real Name I'd love to compare notes when you finish it.


message 13: by T.D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

T.D. Whittle Of course, happy to do that.


Steve "the labyrinths of our own minds; the subtle and delicate ties that bind us to other sentient beings; the pragmatic and sensual bonds between us and the inanimate objects that fill our lives; and the metaphorical (or actual, depending upon one's beliefs) collective unconscious"

Murakami deserves plenty of credit for attempting any such connection. You phrased that so well, td! Excellent review!


message 15: by T.D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

T.D. Whittle Thanks, Steve!


Garima Outstanding review, T.D. This is my favorite Murakami book.


message 17: by T.D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

T.D. Whittle Garima wrote: "Outstanding review, T.D. This is my favorite Murakami book."

Thank you, Garima. It is my favourite too. Cheers.


message 18: by Tony (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tony Walton Love this review. Yes, his books (some more than others) are a window to a dream world. There are no equal substitutes.


message 19: by T.D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

T.D. Whittle Tony wrote: "Love this review. Yes, his books (some more than others) are a window to a dream world. There are no equal substitutes."

Thank you, Tony :)


Bryan What a great review!


message 21: by T.D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

T.D. Whittle Bryan wrote: "What a great review!"

Thank you, Brian :)


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