Phoebe's Reviews > A Wild Sheep Chase

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami
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Mar 10, 09

bookshelves: friction, dubious-genre-works
Read in March, 2009

The first couple chapters of Haruki Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase are beautifully written and very effective--they slowly start to weave a story about a man's unsuccessful romantic relationships. These initial chapters are told with an intense attention to detail, both physical, visceral details and emotional details.

But then the book gets "weird" and takes a nose-dive.

I say "weird" in quotation marks because nothing in the first two hundred and fifty pages (of a 350-page book) is really that surreal or fantastic. What's more, the plot--briefly, the story of the narrator searching for a sheep in a photograph taken by a friend--is developed at a snail's pace. The "wild" in the title seems to me to be a terrific misnomer.

Instead of developing the story naturally, through action, Murakami relies on dialog to hash out the novel's more surreal elements. The conversations that the characters have are painful, unbelievable, and unnatural. Such as:
"To return to the cyst, what I mean to say is that the period in which the cyst appeared coincided precisely with the period in which he underwent a miraculous self-transformation."

"In your hypothesis," I said, "there was no casual relationship between the cyst and the self-transformation; instead, the two were governed in parallel by some mysterious overriding factor."

"You catch on quickly," said the man. "Precise and to the point."
Well, I don't catch on quickly, apparently, because I just didn't understand the vast majority of whatever it is they're talking about. And who talks like this, anyway, even in translation?

Based on the strength of the first chapters, I won't hesitate to pick up Murakami's realistic fiction, but I think I'll stay far away from his overwrought "fantasy."
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Joel murakami writes realistic fiction? ;)

try norwegian wood, that's one of the "normal" ones. wind-up bird chronicle is also weird but not obtusely so. but it's also very long.


Lchupacabras GS Just a quick comment concerning the language of the book; people do speak to each other in a formal fashion in certain situations, this being a business-like meeting makes it an appropriate situation, and Japanese is notorious for having various formalities in it's language. Just so you know ;)


message 3: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Norwegian Wood will certainly be the only novel of his you will probably enjoy, and even it is filled with a surreal feeling. It is this deceptively simple unreality that is his mark.


message 4: by DameHedwig (new)

DameHedwig I've always assumed the title in translation is meant to reference the English phrase "a wild goose chase", rather than imply the novel is a rollercoaster of fun plotting.


Jeana Spot on review for me. The only reason I gave it two stars, was because of how beautifully it was written. The story ... not so much.


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