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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
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Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - M.R. 13 > Discussion - Week Two - The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Book One, ch. 9 - 13,Book Two, ch. 1 - 3

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message 1: by Jim (last edited Nov 25, 2013 01:21AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
This discussion covers Book One, Chapter 9 – 13, and Book Two, Chapter 1 – 3, p. 101 – 205


Toru and May count heads. A keepsake from a dead man. Love and war in the desert. A newly empty nest. A three-way conversation that sticks Toru with the bill.


To avoid spoilers, please restrict your comments to p. 1 – 205

IMPORTANT REMINDER: We’re trying out a new discussion format. Instead of posting one week at a time, all discussion segments will be posted on the first day of reading. If you read faster than the weekly schedule and wish to comment on later portions of the book, please choose the correct week and try to limit your comments to the particular section.


Candiss (tantara) I was surprised by the Lieutenant's harrowing story - mostly because I haven't encountered quite such gritty, harrowing realism in Murakami previously. I've realized that I expect surreality in his work as a matter of course, and thus such literalism ends up feeling, in comparison, strange! It really brought the story down to earth in a hard-hitting way.

It was especially interesting to me to see that whether the backdrop is surreal or brutally realistic, Murakami's characters always have a transformative experience, which often links them to each other or links various parts of their own lives in some metaphorical and meaningful way (or both.) Murakami is truly an author of transformation and of metaphor, which is a large part of what I love about his work.


Casceil | 90 comments Speaking of transformative, I couldn't help noticing an odd parallel between the Lieutenant (who stopped feeling anything after the sun found him in the bottom of the well) and Creta, who was in constant pain in her youth, but stopped feeling anything after her botched suicide attempt. It's as though both of them continued to live past a point where they maybe should have died, and their abilities to feel did die.


message 4: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Candiss wrote: "I was surprised by the Lieutenant's harrowing story - mostly because I haven't encountered quite such gritty, harrowing realism in Murakami previously. I've realized that I expect surreality in hi..."

The flaying is possibly the most intense thing I've ever read. Even during this reread, it was gripping.


message 5: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Casceil wrote: "Speaking of transformative, I couldn't help noticing an odd parallel between the Lieutenant (who stopped feeling anything after the sun found him in the bottom of the well) and Creta, who was in co..."

Definitely a lot of parallel stories and parallel realities going on throughout this book. The idea of a physical trauma/event as a trigger for a new sense of self/reality also comes up again later in the book.


William Mego (willmego) | 119 comments I find myself identifying with our protagonist more than I usually do, and the insults he bore at the meeting that closes this week's reading definitely stirred the blood.

As I had hoped, I love this book as much or more than his later written and for me, earlier read, 1Q84. All the jacket blurb pull quotes are accurate; dreamlike and compelling indeed.

Pain --> transformation --> transcendence is an interesting theme, a grim version of the radioactive spider bite that gives a mild-mannered cub reporter hidden powers.


message 7: by Betty (last edited Dec 02, 2013 11:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) That startling, surprising red comes up again to underline an especially extraordinary event. Above was noted the mismatched red, vinyl hat signifying the strange presence of Malta Kano. Now in Week 2, there is the blood-drenched sand of an horrible act in Outer Mongolia and the red-face of cool Wataya in reaction to Toru's bluff.

Other observations this week are the recurrences of dry wells, "special powers", secrets, life stories, and empty boxes.


message 8: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Asma wrote: "Other observations this week are the recurrences of dry wells, "special powers", secrets, life stories, and empty boxes...."

Recurrences, repetitions, parallels, echoes... what might all of this mean? When something is given to the reader and/or protagonist repeatedly, what is the author trying to accomplish/communicate?


message 9: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Will wrote: "I find myself identifying with our protagonist more than I usually do, and the insults he bore at the meeting that closes this week's reading definitely stirred the blood.

As I had hoped, I love ..."


Noboru really does hit all the self-esteem buttons in both Toru and the reader. What a nasty prick he is!


Pain --> transformation --> transcendence is an interesting theme, a grim version of the radioactive spider bite that gives a mild-mannered cub reporter hidden powers.

True! A kind of weird, intense, Japanese anti/hero's journey.


Any thoughts on the missing cat? the wind_up bird?


message 10: by Betty (last edited Dec 03, 2013 12:32AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) Jim wrote: "Recurrences, repetitions, parallels, echoes... what might all of this mean?..."

I have no idea other than Murakami is making the story as fantastical as possible through memories, dreams, and prophecy. The recurrences of details, etc, make the fantastical more recognizable as ordinary and keep the reader more alert to possible clues.


message 11: by tia (new) - rated it 3 stars

tia | 51 comments Asma wrote: "That startling, surprising red comes up again to underline an especially extraordinary event. Above was noted the mismatched red, vinyl hat signifying the strange presence of Malta Kano. Now in Wee..."

Have you also noted the recurrence of the Sun?


Betty Asma (everydayabook) Yes, Tia, there is the progress the Sun makes as it crosses over Outer Mongolia from horizon to horizon (like the mythological chariot drawing it across the sky); there is the Sunlight lighting the dark, deserted well for a few minutes daily; there is the burning effect the Sun makes on necks and backs; and there is the Sun's absence as it gives way to starlight. Civilization is a palimpsest over elemental nature and psychic phenomena. It is clever to imagine both realms sharing a story.


message 13: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
These comments from Tia are reposted here from the Week One discussion:


I am taking my time rereading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle so please forgive me for the late comments/questions. I just finished The Thieving Magpie and here are some thoughts/ideas:

* Toru and Kumiko's relationship seems to have been built on very unstable foundations. Did Kumiko marry Toru for love? Or did she marry him because he was supposed to give her attention, love... those things her parents could not give her? For some reason, when I pictured their house in my mind's eye, I imagined something more solid/stable... but instead, we find out that their house doesn't belong to them, that they're renting it from Toru's uncle, who withholds the right to evict them with only three months to vacate. The foundations of their marriage seem less stable after reading this!
* The Uncle's description of the cursed house and the futility of the Shinto purification. What evil spirits possess that house?
* Lieutenant Mamiya's unflinching depiction of the "enormous" experience he shared with Mr. Honda in the treacherous Hulunbuir Steppe border region. I looked this area up and discovered that Hailar has historically been known as the "gateway between China and Russia" (ongoing gateway/portal theme) and that the Khalkha River was the site of the decisive battle between the Japanese and the Soviets (1938). Mamiya explains the logistical advantages of the Mongols/Soviets, e.g. the difference in elevation, use of the local Mongolian tribes...
* Sergeant Hamano's reference of the rape of Nanking, but also Murakami's sympathy for the farmers "without politics or ideology," no Nationalist Party, no Young Marshal Zhang (the leader of Manchuria after the death of his father, who was coincidentally killed by the Japanese), nor the Eighth Route Army (formed from the Red Army, it was the main fighting unit against Japan, led by Mao Zedong). Sgt. Hamano also questions the purpose of the war.
* Fascinating descriptions of the Mongol insurgency. The purge of collaborators, sympathizers. A dangerous time, indeed.
* references to the impending global war and the alliance between Hitler and the Japanese.
* I love the descriptions of Mongolia - "the horizon became a faint line suspended in the darkness, and then the line was drawn upward, higher and higher. It was as if a giant hand had stretched down from the sky and slowly lifted the curtain of night from the face of the earth." Lieutenant Mamiya points out the vastness of the Mongolian steppe, the migratory fauna, the stars that remain visible during the day. It is like a dreamscape.
* We find out that Mr. Honda is a prognosticator, possibly commissioned by the Japanese army for his gift. Mr. Honda tells Mamiya that he will not die on the continent and then a strange thing happens - stranger, perhaps, than the deeply disturbing account of Yamamoto being skinned alive - that he CAN NOT die. But according to Mamiya himself, after returning home after twelve long years, he doesn't recognize his former life, all of his friends and family members are either dead or transitioned into different phases of life; Mamiya is neither dead nor alive in Japan. He is akin to the stone bird statue who is fated to continue his daily existence until he is either carted off (in a coffin/buried/dead) or crushed (this seems unlikely, considering Mr. Honda's prophesy that Mamiya will live a long life).
* Lieutenant Mamiya references the Lamaist oboo and the well. A deep, dark, dry well. Surely this well informed Mr. Honda's warnings to Toru about wells and flow??
* As I said above, I found the passage about the light of the sun in the well more powerful than the disturbing account of Yamamoto's death a few paragraphs earlier. Whereas in the beginning of the first book, the sun is depicted in a negative way, here the Sun is associated with death - peace - heaven? It reminded me of descriptions of near-death experiences, the "bright light at the end of the tunnel" stuff. Mamiya recalls stretching his arms out and feeling "blessed" and an overwhelming sense of "oneness." But then Mamiya sadly tells Toru that "whatever heavenly grace I may have enjoyed until that moment was lost forever." Did Mamiya unwittingly make some kind of Faustian bargain? He cannot emote love, sadness, he is an empty vessel. But he was given life --- perhaps to do Mr. Honda a favor, in exchange, when the time was right? Is Mamiya going to play a role in helping Toru resolve all the mysteries surrounding him?
* The chapter closes with two new mysteries: what damning information did the document contain? what happened to the document? could it ever be retrieved?? what impact would it have, if it was? And, an empty Cutty Sark box. Are we supposed to find meaning in the emptiness of the box here? Or the box's namesake? Are we to read something into the nautical history of the Cutty Sark and its Asiatic journeys?

Looking forward to dipping my feet into Book Two later tonight...


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