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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
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Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - M.R. 13 > Discussion - Week One - The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Book One, ch. 1 - 8

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message 1: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
This discussion covers Book One, Chapter 1 – 8, p. 3 – 100


Overcooked spaghetti, telephone-sexus-interruptus, a missing cat, a blind alley, a fake limp, a dry well, a deaf fortune-teller, an incongruous red vinyl hat, and two sisters named after Mediterranean islands – welcome to the wind-up bird universe…



To avoid spoilers, please restrict your comments to p. 1 – 100

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.


Casceil | 90 comments I've just finished reading this section. I feel like I am doing one of those "mystery" jigsaw puzzles where you have no picture to guide you, and it is up to you to figure out how the pieces fit together. So far I have a few little patches, but no idea of the big picture.

Noboru Wataya seems to link the patches, but not in any clear way. I love some of the lines about him. "Trotting out the technical jargon was a forte of his. No one knew what it meant, of course, but he was able to present it in such a way that you knew it was your fault if you didn't get it." (from p. 76) And, from p. 78: "[T]here was no common ground between us, and so however much we might speak words in each other's vicinity, this could never develop into anything that could be called a conversation. It was as though we were speaking to each other in different languages. If the Dalai Lama were on his deathbed and the jazz musician Eric Dolphy were to try to eplain to him the importance of choosing one's engine oil in accordance with changes in the sound of the bass clarinet, that exchange might have been a touch more worthwhile and effective than my conversations with Noboru Wataya."


message 3: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Casceil wrote: " "Trotting out the technical jargon was a forte of his. No one knew what it meant, of course, but he was able to present it in such a way that you knew it was your fault if you didn't get it." (from p. 76) And, from p. 78: "[T]here was no common ground between us, and so however much we might speak words in each other's vicinity, this could never develop into anything that could be called a conversation. It was as though we were speaking to each other in different languages. If the Dalai Lama were on his deathbed and the jazz musician Eric Dolphy were to try to explain to him the importance of choosing one's engine oil in accordance with changes in the sound of the bass clarinet, that exchange might have been a touch more worthwhile and effective than my conversations with Noboru Wataya." .."

A wonderful passage! Noboru is a really cold fish, isn't he? I read this book two years ago and I'm enjoying the reread. The mystery is pretty big and relentless and there are some extreme moments which I'm sure you'll enjoy.


Candiss (tantara) I've previously read several of Murakami's works, novels as well as short stories, and he's one of my favorite modern authors. I'm about through this portion of the book, and (as obvious as it sounds to say/write) yep - this is definitely a Murakami book. Everything seems relatively "normal," but then normal-seeming things gradually begin to seem very strange, out-of-place, and significant. (Then, of course, later everything warps all over the place.)

In this, reading his work always reminds me of falling asleep and slipping into a dream.

I'm enjoying this so far. I'm looking forward to the slope where everything starts sliding faster sideways into surreality.


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

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Candiss wrote: "I've previously read several of Murakami's works, novels as well as short stories, and he's one of my favorite modern authors. I'm about through this portion of the book, and (as obvious as it sou..."

That slippery slope arrives in our second week of reading... big time!


message 6: by Dee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dee (deinonychus) | 27 comments It is very like a dream. In Murakami's work, I think something normal is out of the ordinary, and needs explaining.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) Definitely. There are many loose ends hinting at unsolved mysteries. In Murakami, every character seems destined to be connected to an alternative world. Characters and events at first appear normal then surprise the reader with impossible situations. In previously read books written by Murakami, even otherwise shocking events are seamlessly threaded into the narrative as if it's any normal day. Usually, there are satisfying endings.


William Mego (willmego) | 119 comments The same dreamlike intensity, the reality of the world burning off like morning fog, but in reverse. I love this book so far, like I did with 1Q84, but perhaps more so.

I can't imagine how difficult it must be to translate from Japanese to English, and a part of me has an irrational fear that somehow all the magic of his books is actually entirely from some kind of mistranslation, as though the original is actually a very pedestrian treatise on the home economics of young suburban Japanese couples with no other funny business. But I think he might like that idea.


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

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Will wrote: "a part of me has an irrational fear that somehow all the magic of his books is actually entirely from some kind of mistranslation, as though the original is actually a very pedestrian treatise on the home economics of young suburban Japanese couples with no other funny business. But I think he might like that idea..."

Hahaha!!! Good one Will!

But then, there's something to what you say. They are a pedestrian young couple who, in a Twilight Zone kind of way, fall into a never never land of seers and psychics and invisible birds in trees. Disembodied voices on telephones cause unsettling feelings, strangers tell stories from the past - the flow is, in fact, disturbed and the protagonists are pulled out of their routine life and forced to navigate this bizarre dreamworld - all in broad daylight...


Betty Asma (everydayabook) That mismatched red vinyl hat really glared from the narrative. The characters described in the first hundred pages are developed very well and very interestingly. The life histories and the everyday lives are about to encounter the phenomena of surreality, where things are not what they seem.


message 11: by Dee (last edited Nov 26, 2013 06:40AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dee (deinonychus) | 27 comments Asma wrote: "That mismatched red vinyl hat really glared from the narrative. The characters described in the first hundred pages are developed very well and very interestingly. The life histories and the everyd..."

There is something about the colour red that really stands out, particularly against a black and white background. Did anyone see the film Paperman that won an Oscar for Best Animated Short earlier this year?

The contrast between the vivid colour and the mundane background also makes it more dream-like, I think.


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

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
David wrote: "There is something about the colour red that really stands out, particularly against a black and white background...."

and of course, red is a warning sign


Betty Asma (everydayabook) What an entertaining 6.33 minutes Paperman is. I recently saw a similar use of contrasting color in several book illustrations in which in the distance stood out a vermilion attired female, easily spotted in the muted background. Sad to say, the girl depicted was imagined to be someone else. So, there was something ominous about that. It would be interesting to discover more about Malta Kano.


message 14: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Stacie wrote: "Following along with you, I am really enjoying this book. Reading your descriptions, I am wondering how my understanding is getting ready to turn on it's ear. I feel like I have a good grasp of cha..."

An important passage to keep in mind is in Chapter 4, when Mr. Honda the spirit medium is introduced.

"A practitioner of spirit possession, he was one of the Wataya family's favourite medium types..."

"I have never been interested in such things, and Kumiko placed far less trust in supernatural matters than either her parents or her brother."
- p. 48 - 49

The important bit of info is the Wataya family's belief in the supernatural, especially her brother Noburu who is definitely involved in the world of spirit. Later on, we might discuss Noboru's similarities to Dr. Faustus.


message 15: by tia (new) - rated it 3 stars

tia | 51 comments I'm a slow reader and so I just finished the first ten chapters. A couple of thoughts/questions:

* what is the significance of Rossini's The Thieving Magpie? Is it a clue to one of the mysteries within the novel?
* the awkwardness between Kumiko and Toru is suffocating at times. We are introduced to a workaholic Kumiko who seems to be fine with an emasculated version of her husband and doesn't seem to be concerned with her husband's decision to quit.
* even though Toru quit his job at the law office as a gofer, he sort of remains one at the house, for what else does he do but run to the store, drop stuff off at the cleaners, &etc.?
* what was Kumiko doing in the alley?
* the Sun seems to play an important role in this novel, but what kind of role? the sun is always cast in a negative light (nyuck nyuck) - "the sharp sunshine," "the sun poured into me with a strange heaviness," "the sunlight penetrating my eyelids."
* it seems like every woman Toru comes across is fodder for sexual fantasy. This underlines the tension and awkwardness of the current state of their marriage.
* the characters that enter Toru's life question his perception of Time - "as if nine minutes would be too short or eleven minutes too long. Like cooking spaghetti al dente," "sometimes ten minutes is not ten minutes. It can stretch and shrink."
* the author makes a number of points about Japanese culture and how it has been informed by Japan's meteoric economic success postWW2 - his description of the commuter train, how the wig business took advantage of its customers who were just trying to postpone death (according to May) and the uniform (pardon my pun!) dress code for even low-ranking clerks tells us a lot about how Toru views himself in relation to his former coworkers, "normal" men with ambition and society in general.
* the introduction of former NCO Mr. Honda who is described as a "practitioner of spirit possession" seems to confirm Malta Kano's warnings about water and Toru's fate. He evens the well that appears in a later chapter.
* we read Toru's description of the bird sculpture and how it is set in time with no other possibilities but to stand in the same pose until it was "carted off or smashed to pieces." Another allusion to Time, perhaps?
* the discovery of the well with May Kasahara. Looking back and rereading this chapter, I found myself suspecting the young girl planned to use the well to trap Toru for "lots of hours" and deprive him of water (Mr. Honda) Maybe not, but on a reread, May definitely doesn't come across as an innocent, if mischievous girl.
* Toru admits to spending the night with a woman who would have slept with him - and this woman is afraid of underground waterways. Again, the mention of water and of being trapped.
* Again May talks about being "trapped in the dark all alone" with no food and water.


I cannot wait to see how these various mysteries are resolved.


William Mego (willmego) | 119 comments great list of thoughts and questions!

I too had that thought about the Rossini. It also made me think about the references to Janáček in 1Q84 where I believe the mood of the piece relates as a sort of emotional soundtrack to the characters rather than a direct symbolist clue.

I didn't see Toru as sexually driven as you did. He just doesn't seem to be as involved or as invested in his marriage with Kumiko or indeed in food, sex, current events, or having a job as those around him do.


message 17: by tia (new) - rated it 3 stars

tia | 51 comments Thanks!


I think I see Toru differently... he may not be acting on his sexual desires for the women around him (he stayed on the line while the strange woman tried to arouse him, he fantasized about Creta Kano, May's porn magazine, his odd night "recharging" his friend's "batteries") but he always seems to be in some kind of situation that would easily lead to sex.


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