The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle discussion

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Sherry Let's start discussing this book on September 15, 2008.

message 2: by Yulia (last edited Sep 14, 2008 07:35PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Yulia (Since I'm a very late riser, I'll post this now.)

Thanks again to Happyreader for nominating this book!

How to introduce Haruki Murakami? (He's the kind of author whose fans share stories about how they first came across his work.) He is hugely popular in Japan and has been a very successful transport to an American audience whose culture and literary tradition he openly embraces (he's translated many writers from English into Japanese, from F. Scott Fitzgerald and Truman Capote to Raymond Carver.

Murakami ran a jazz club/bar after college, but realized at the age of 28 in a moment of unexplainable inspiration that he could write the type of novel he wanted to when he saw, during a baseball game between two Japanese teams, the American Dave Hilton hit a double. And for those who like weird coincidences, an American Murakami fan was reading an interview with Murakami online when she realized it was her own husband who had hit that double all those years ago! Imagine all the random ways people are inspired every day.

Murakami used to have a somewhat counterculture reputation in Japan and appealed especially to a disillusioned young audience, but this has never stopped him from winning Japan's highest literary honors. He first came to America's attention with Norwegian Wood, which Murakami himself is rather embarrassed about (whether because it's not his best work or because it's untypical of his voice, I'm not sure).

message 3: by Yulia (last edited Sep 23, 2008 04:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Yulia The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was actually written while Murakami was a writer-in-residence at Harvard, where his translator also worked conveniently. According to an interview with Jay Rubin, as soon as Murakami would finish a section, he would give it to Rubin to translate and Rubin sometimes offered his own advice and critiques (he didn't care for the Kano sisters).

After finding out the book had been edited for the English edition, I went on a mini wild sheep chase (short of learning Japanese and reading the original myself) to find out what passages or details had been censored. Perhaps a scene between Toru and May unfit for Americans? But after finding an interview with Jay Rubin, I learned that the answer is much less salacious: Rubin says it was merely a matter of redundant passages that he removed to tighten the text (Japanese writers rarely undergo the editing process that American publishers require), not an issue of specific content that was inappropriate.

It'll come as no surprise for those who have started this tome that Murakami writes without having laid out a plot first and just goes where his imagination takes him. This sometimes makes for frustrating passages, but it also leads his readers into literal and figurative terrains they wouldn't otherwise come across.

And ultimately, it's the quirky beauty of his details and similes that have always made him such a joy to read: for example, the utterly identifiable and senseless argument between Toru and his wife about blue tissues and patterned toilet paper, or the debate with May Kasahara about why six fingers is any less irrelevant than four breasts on a woman.

As I suggested in the regular CR thread, Murakami raises more questions than he answers in his books and often presents us with mysteries that simply can't be solved. Which ones struck you as the most interesting and/or frustrating? For starters, maybe we can consider just what or who is the wind-up bird. Any thoughts? Is it just the bird Toru hears each morning outside his house?

Happyreader Yulia, thank you for the thoughtful introduction.

I loved this book. I finished it yesterday and am still pondering what it all means at the end. Today I read a 1996 New Yorker profile (available to anyone who as the Complete New Yorker on DVD) written to coincide with the US release of Wind-Up Bird. It opened with a discussion of Murakami's heavy use of Western influences, which is something I had wondered about. For instance, Toru has his coffee at a Dunkin Donuts? All the music referenced is Western classical? I kept thinking "don't they have Japanese products in Japan?" Supposedly, this has something to do with his mixed feelings towards Japanese culture, although he admits that while living in Europe and the US (he had just moved back to Japan at the time of this profile) that he felt more connected to his Japanese identity, including his appreciation of Japan's mono-ethnicity and the nation being more cohesive as a result (?!!).

In the profile, Murakami also stated that one major theme of this book is the underlying vein of irrational violence in Japanese society. I'll agree that there is a strong connection between the violence engendered by the Japanese strict obedience to following orders and the simmering threat of violence for not conforming as represented by Noboru Wakaya. Yet when is violence ever rational and what society doesn't have it's violent side.

Anyways, so many questions raised by this book.

What did you make of the actual wind-up bird and what do you think it represented? Why is the bird never seen?

Who is the little boy who hears the bird and the man climb up the tree? Is he the young veterinarian (I'm guessing since he had the mark since childhood)?

Why are there so many characters with made-up names? Malta and Creta/Nutmeg and Cinnamon?

Favorite characters? I personally loved Nutmeg and Cinnamon.

Who did you trust/not trust? Is Mackeral the same cat or a changling cat? When was Kumiko really Kumiko such as during the computer exchanges and in the hotel room? Mr. Honda and Malta appear trustworthy yet they are consulted by the less trustworthy Watayas.

What do you think the main themes are?

message 5: by Yulia (last edited Sep 14, 2008 09:21PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Yulia Murakami certainly is enamored by Western culture, by their literature and music and diversity. Japan is 99% Japanese and while this may seem to encourage cohesiveness, it actually inspires a deep distrust of strangers, both Japanese and not. (I knew a sixth-generation Korean in Japan with a Japanese name who hid her ethnicity because her friends made a point of avoiding Koreans; she in turn made a point of making foreign friends). The fact is, Japan may have a reputation as smiling hosts, bu they trust only their closest circle. I read in a non-fiction book on Japan ( Shutting Out the Sun ) that Japanese cars don't make way for ambulances, nor do pedestrians stop the help those who fall. It' the Korean missionaries, not the Japanese, who feed their homeless.

But as for the Dunkin' Donuts reference, I'm not sure if that was in the original or if it was a way for Rubin to convey the type of eatery the character was at. Sure, American companies have invaded the world, but Rubin sometimes substitutes a Denny's for an unknown Japanese chain to give readers a better feel for the ambiance. But I'd have to consult the original on this.

Sara Grace So I am barely on page 90, but I wanted to stop by and stake the early claim that I'm a little in love with Murakami's style. Somehow both easy-going, even conversational, but sliding into insight after insight with ease. I like the episodic nature of each chapter (and even subsection). I can't help but feel that if he lingered in any one scene to long it would become painful or overwrought. He seems to be a master of knowing when to "wrap it up." Ha, I might feel differently on page 500.

I'll be back later -- though possibly much later.

- Sara Grace

Sara Grace Oh, also I listened What I Talk About When I Talk About Running recently.

To Yulia's comment - I think Murakami actually just likes Dunkin' Doughnuts. It comes up a couple of times in the memoir too.


Sherry I had the feeling that the little boy who saw the man disappear up a tree was Cinnamon, because he couldn't talk afterwards, or at least the "divided" boy who was left after his experience couldn't get words out.

There are so many questions, and I can't imagine there are a whole lot of answers. What do you all make of the "divided selves" that keep cropping up after some major experience?

Happyreader SPOILER ALERT!!!

The Nutmeg/Cinnamon storyline is fascinating. How does Nutmeg know all the stories about what happened in Manchukuo after she left? I could see the boy being Cinnamon, explaining the sudden muteness after he divides that night. I wonder when the bird/thug sighting is in relation to his father’s murder. Were the two men at the tree his father’s murderers? Why was the father so brutally murdered? Is it related to him going too far out into Japanese society to promote his company? The drowning end for Nutmeg’s father seems so mundane but is that related to why Toru is warned to stay away from water by Mr. Honda since they may be linked by the mark? Yet Toru goes to the ward pool without incident. The only dangerous water that I can remember is in the well.

The divided selves are also fascinating. Is Toru’s division because he can’t consciously comprehend what’s going on? Consciously, he doesn’t even suspect Kumiko is having an affair despite her odd hours. He needs to be taken out of his comfort zone before he is able to tap into his intuition.

For some people, traumatic experiences make them more compassionate to the suffering of others. That seems to be the case with both Nutmeg and Creta, who gain their psychic powers after very traumatic experiences and appear to have Toru’s best interests at heart. But what about Malta? There is definitely a schism between the sisters at the end. Was Malta more closely aligned with Noboru and his interests than originally presented?

message 10: by Ruth (new) - rated it 1 star

Ruth Sigh. Am I the only one who's finding this tough going? I feel like I'm slogging through mayonnaise.

Yulia Sherry, the theme of the self splitting is in almost every one of his novels (most notably in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World). My only guess is that, in a society where you're expected to present such a standardized and pre-defined self, the only choice for the individual is to lead a double life and split the side of him or her that wants to explore other avenues or realms of being.

Yulia Ruth, as a previous CR member noted, this may not be the best choice to read for a previously-determined month/week, but one worth reading or trying eventually (to me, at least). And as I noted, there are rather tedious passages, but they do serve their purpose, though their meaning took me several years to understand.

Since first reading this, I've read a lot about Japan and gotten a better understanding of how unorthodox Murakami's characters are. For one, the atypical nature of the wife being the primary breadwinner in the family, in a society where the options for women are disturbingly limited and the two most coveted jobs to attain are as a flight attendant for JAL and as a newscaster, where women must put on their "cute" voices and are considered Christmas cake if not married by 25. (A successful newscaster in her late 20's committed suicide some time ago, causing great shock to the Japanese public, wh bought into her chipper camera face.)

Also, since more and more men in the States are being supported by their wives, I didn't realize at first how unconventional and bold it was for Toru to quit his job with no definite plan in sight. This is a society, after all, where salary men often commit suicide rather than bring shame to their family, company, or nation (as has happened shockingly often since the 90's crash).

I'll continue in another post. . . .

message 13: by Yulia (last edited Sep 23, 2008 04:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Yulia Another thing that struck me when I first read Wind-Up Bird was how May's parents and Toru weren't very surprised by her simply not going to school. But in a society where about 1% of students do just the same, stop attending classes; in a country that mastered the art of cram schools to prepare students for entrance exams into more challenging schools and high schoolers for entrance exams into better colleges, where admission to an elite college is meant to set you on the right track for getting a career; and where ruthless bullying is sanctioned by teachers and parents as part of the trials of coming-of-age, it becomes less surprising that some students simply opt out of the school system. It's become an increasing phenomenon, even an epidemic, in Japan, termed hikikomori, where kids and adults refuse to leave their room and are simply left food and/or an allowance by their helpless and sometimes abused parents (in Japan, domestic violence refers usually to kids beating their parents). Obviously, as she left her room and spoke easily with Toru, May wasn't a hikikomori, who are often male, but it did explain in part the seeming normalcy and comfort with her not going to school.

It occurred to me only a last week that perhaps it was Toru himself who best embodied the hikikomori mindset, not only in leaving his job, but in his long seclusion to and meditation at the bottom of the well. That made it more understandable, to me at least, why Murakami might have made his protagonist refuse to act for so long: however frustrating it was to read and endure with him, it may have been psychologically necessary for him to shut himself off from the world. What do you think?

message 14: by Jean (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jean I enjoyed the book, however I had a difficult time reading it because after each chapter I needed to stop and ruminate on what Murakami could be eluding to. This made for not an easy read. I, at times, wanted to stop reading it but
each character was so fascinating that I wanted to know more.

I also would like to have had more discription of physical aspect of Japan because I needed to keep reminding myself that the book took place in Japan not America. I guess like Yulia, I should have stepped aside and read some factual info on the country (didn't have time with such a devastingly long book.) Visualization is very important to me when I read. It's one of the things that allows me to enter the pages of writing.
I did come away with some things to ponder. For example,

"Is the possible, finally, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another?"

"Two thirds of the earth's surface is ocean, and all we can see of it with the naked eye is the surface: the skin. We hardly know anything about what's underneath the skin."

"You always look so cool, like no matter what happens, it's got nothing to do with you, but you're not really like that. In your own way, you're out there fighting as hard as you can, even if other people can't tell by looking at you."

Very strange book but it held my interest to the end.

Happyreader That's an interesting thought. It may fit yet I wonder if hikikomori is related to saving face and Toru did not strike me as caring whether he saved face or not. The man dropped out because he was completely devoid of ambition or purpose. He wasn't hiding; he just couldn't be bothered to get it together. I'm not even sure he really loved Kumiko. Kumiko was his only social outlet. They were more mutually dependent than they were intimate. In fact, one theme that does run through the entire book is how no one ever really knows anyone else. Heck, half the time they don't even know each other's real names.

KIND OF SPOILER I wondered about the absence of May's parents. We have no idea if May's situation bothered them or not. They were probably concerned that she suffered from some mental illness, as did I. In fact, at one point in the book, I thought that May may have been the surviving daughter of the family in the abandoned house and that she was hiding in May's house. We never see anyone else at May's house. I only gave up the idea of May as family massacre survivor once Toru contacted May's parents to find her at the factory.

Yulia, I'm curious which parts you thought were dry. I loved it all and loved the interweaving of the WWII plotlines and the modern plotlines. I even loved May's crazy letters home. Ruth, this simply may not be your cup of tea. Nobody loves every writer, regardless of their talent. I swear I could live a happy, fulfilled life without ever having to read Faulkner again. I just can't connect with Southern Gothic (or, heck, Gothic Gothic).

message 16: by Jane (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jane Thank you to all of you for the thought-provoking discussion. You expressed some of my thoughts. After I finished the book, I asked myself, "What did Toru actually accomplish during the book?" He kind of reminded me of someone I know. This man is 64 years old and spends every day "working on himself". So I was annoyed with Toru for being so passive. A couple of times, he gets violent with his bat, but most of the time he sits.

I tried to make sense of all the references to islands and water or lack of water, but I didn't come up with anything.

For awhile, I thought that Creta might be Kumiko in a Jackie Kennedy disguise, because Toru says how much Creta's body is like Kumiko. Then I wondered if Kumiko had sent Creta to comfort Toru.

What about all of those strange images of people giving birth to horrible things, like Creta and Kumiko? In the end, Toru dreams that Creta had a baby. Do you think this is really true? Many of Toru's dreams did come true.

Happyreader, thanks for nominating this. I would never have read this book if not for Constant Reader.


message 17: by Yulia (last edited Sep 15, 2008 06:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Yulia Happyreader, no, hikikomori do not shut themselves inside to "save face" or their honor. They are withdrawing from a world they cannot connect to or accept. So I don't see Toru as so different from them, though his room happened to be in a well. Don't base your opinion on my brief description: the NY Times had a great article on it some years ago.

I was disappointed when the Kano sisters dropped out of the picture and then May went missing. To me, she was the life of the book. So no mention of her in the book went unappreciated. What annoyed me was Toru's seeming aimlessness in the well, as well as his time with Nutmeg, which seemed to have no connection to his original journey. I know you liked that passage, but to me he couldn't compare to the younger females in the book. I did find fascinating and frightening the WWII passage. It was one of the strongest parts of the book.

Jean, I didn't research Japan until I'd read all his books, actually. It was only later that I wanted to get nonfiction background on the country. I also left a bookdart on that line, "Is the possible, finally, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another?" As Happyreader suggests, I don't think it is possible, despite our best efforts and long proximity to partners no matter how long we gaze at our navels or sit in a well. Because there's so much about ourselves we'll never understand, much less another human being. That said, I do believe it's possible for another person to understand us better than we understand ourselves, though not perfectly of course.

I actually never considered the geography of the book, since I always focus much more on the characters than on their environments. In fact, since I stay in my apartment all week except for a few hours, I'm an extreme in my lack of awareness of my surroundings.

As for music, yes, Murakami is obsessed with it, from the Beatles to jazz to classical. The contemporary stuff is often in English, but this is no surprise, as the world is largely influenced by music from English-speaking countries, especially from the U.S. When I went to Russia, I heard not only top hits from the States, but Russian singers doing their own songs in English. And in a beautiful Japanese film, "Dolls," by Takeshi Kitano, a pop star sings in English (it's a must-see, though awfully sad).

Melissa I was completely fascinated by this book, though I didn't give myself enough time to savor it much.

I too was struck by the frequent references to Western music, explained in part I guess by Yulia's biographical note.

The split person(alitie)s are part of the puzzle, but what I really enjoyed were the segments where dream and reality are so hard for Toru to distinguish. I have had a similar experience after trauma, so maybe that's why I enjoyed reading those sections more than others might, even without any clear resolution.

Then again, I don't actually read this sort of book as a puzzle to be solved. That would be too pat I think, more like a mystery book. It's more of a mysterious, at times 'surreal' or (better) dreamlike experience that makes me spin -- in a pleasurable way.

message 19: by Gail (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gail I like its dreamlike qualities as well, Philip. I tried not to think too much about the inner meaning of the book, since I was more into reading along with the author's imagination. I mean that I just wanted to follow along as he led the way, up this lane, down that path, back to yesterday, or, no, let's look over here now. Somehow it struck the perfect pitch for my current mood. Kind of like lying in a hammock on a drowsy summmer afternoon...a loooooong afternoon. I dunno, I'm not usually stymied this way: I feel as though I'm saying, "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like." Huh.

message 20: by Happyreader (last edited Sep 15, 2008 07:30PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Happyreader Apropos of this book, the Constant Reader discussion link for this book has disappeared!! I only got back in by clicking on my own comments. Does this mean we've slipped into an alternate universe?

Like Gail, I floated along wherever Murakami took me while reading but now I'm trying to map back to figure out where I went and why I went where. Jane, I too pondered if Creta and Kumiko were the same woman and now even wonder if Malta and Creta weren't figments on Turo's imagination. Who knows what's in one world or the other in this book. As for Creta's baby, doesn't the dream come around the time that the baby palm mark disappears? Something is birthed, metaphorically or otherwise. I'm inclined to go towards metaphorically.

Philip, I'm sorry to hear about the trauma, hopefully a not too recent event. I agree that the slipping back and forth between dream and non-dream states was fascinating, particularly because the dream states seemed frequently more trustworthy and aware than the non-dream states.

Yulia, interesting which scenes didn't work for you and, now that you've defined it, sounds like Toru could be an example of hikikomori. Regardless, I agree with Jane. His passivity is annoying, as I'm sure it's meant to be. I read that he represents the passive Japanese everyman who just went along with the wartime atrocities and the more modern societal conformity. There are definately apathetic American counterparts and you want to shake them too.

Speaking of the everyman, while the WWII scenes were fascinating, I found the scenes a little too sympathetic to the Japanese. Yes, there are the Chinese "baseball" players who are butchered but aside from them, the Japanese are frequently portrayed as victims, rather than aggressors. The only active soldier you meet is the spy who is never violent but rather the victim of violence. The other soldiers are only following orders and seem disconnected from what's going on. The book could almost be saying that there are a few bad seeds like Noboru but otherwise it's just unaware sheep and what did they do? Little delving into the seeds of violence within us all. I will admit that the incident with the baseball bat did say that even passive men like Toru have the capacity for violence but he seems to think it's just a fluke and arises only when provoked.

That said, Lt Mamiya was very sympathetic and I was hoping that Creta's baby was a sign that the curse had been lifted.

Yulia Interesting question, HR, one I considered recently though I can't remember in what context (on CR?), about whether circumstance brings out dormant violence in our nature or if circumstance changes us to respond accordingly.

Yes, Toru is frustratingly passive in this book, despite his first bold act to quit his job and even after leaving the well. I know he was going through a lot emotionally and taking his time to process it, but I often wished we had a better inkling of what was going on in his head, what questions he was unraveling about history, human nature, and violence. I wanted to wring his neck, non-aggressively, of course. :) Speak up! tell me what's the matter!

On the one hand, I dislike when books get too pedantic and theoretical, but on the other, I felt like so much was left hidden beneath the surface, yes, like the ocean we can only see the skin of.

It's odd how I'm writing of my frustrations with this book with such energy, when in truth this happens to be among my very favorites. I suppose it inspires extreme responses in me.

Wilhelmina Jenkins I agree with all of you who have mentioned the dreamlike quality of the book. This was not a book that I could analyze in any way; I just went along for the very strange ride. The Creta/Malta sections were very confusing to me, and I could never quite get a grip on the whole mental prostitution idea. May did seem to anchor the book in reality, preventing it from floating away altogether. I suppose that my lack of understanding didn't bother me much, since clearly Toru's understanding of his experiences was also incomplete. This book seemed to be something to experience rather than something to analyze. Noboru Wakaya as the epitome of evil was haunting and disturbing. In fact, generally the evil in this book was so extreme - skinning people alive, for example. The wind-up bird, heard by some but not by others, seemed to be keeping the evanescent world from flying apart, just winding it up and keeping it going. I've never read a book quite like this one. Is Murakami at all typical of Japanese authors? Does anyone know if the book retained its original feel when translated from Japanese?

Yulia Murakami once said he had to create a new way of writing (Japanese), or something to that effect, in order to tell stories the way he wished to, but I'd have to know Japanese to investigate whether he was being immodest or if he meant he confronted challenges with the language, sentence structure, or Japan's orthodox style to understand his point.

The Japanese writer who most reminds me of Murakami's floaty style is Banana Yoshimoto, whose first novella, Kitchen, was a break-out hit here. She also has a very good short-story collection, Asleep, which I'd recommend. She has a story in The Art of the Story, in fact.

Mary Jo Phillip, I wish I had known before reading it that it would be better considered a "surreal dream"; it definitely had that feel to it, but while reading it, I was thinking it was more of a mystery. I was concentrating very hard, trying to figure out which bits were "clues" and expecting all the loose ends to be tied up at some point; with so much going on, it was frustrating to me to try to remember all the details in order to pull them together later. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had read it in a more "relaxed" fashion.

I didn't have any trouble with the American culture references until he mentioned the Osmonds; I literally did a doubletake and reread that. I had to wonder if the Osmonds really were popular in Japan or if this was substituted in the translation for a popular Japanese group that the average American reader would not recognize. Yulia, would you know if this was the original reference?

Someday I might reread this with different expectations and enjoy it more, but this time through I found it confusing and frustrating. As I expected, though, I'm gaining tremendous insights from all these posts and will definitely be following along.

CR is great for encouraging us to read outside of our comfort zones; although this is not one I would have picked up on my own, I'm certainly learning from it and want to thank everyone for your input.

Theresa I've read this book 2 or maybe 3 times in the past and decided not to re-read it with CR, but y'all are making me wish that I had. Excellent comments and discussion. I have nothing intelligent to add at this point, but want to say this is one of those books that make me happy - not in the sense of it being a happy story, in fact many parts are quite sad, but just that such a wonderful book exists.

Yulia, I too thought of Banana Yoshimoto when I read Mina's question. Her style is similar, but I find BY a bit tiresome after a bit, whereas I find Murakami to be a constant delight. I sound like I'm gushing, I know, but I have such a deep affection for his books, this one most of all.

In some ways, Murakami reminds me of Canadian writer Robertson Davies. Certainly not in style or any surface manner, but in the spirit of their stories. They are both telling modern fables, aren't they?


message 26: by Yulia (last edited Sep 15, 2008 11:49PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Yulia As for the Osmonds, I can only guess that they were in the original (wince). I recently met a Japanese translator (American-born), and I was stunned and disappointed to learn he hadn't read this book yet. He promised to for me, but I'll have to check in to see if he has.

I agree, Theresa. Yoshimoto isn't in his league. I've read many of her books, but am often very dissatisfied, even by the famous Kitchen, whose second half let me down. I don't check out her new works anymore. I simply didn't know how to say not to expect as much from her.

Her best work in my mind, the novella "Argentine Hag," isn't in print in the States. I got it at a ridiculous price online only because I feel connected to the image on the front cover, a painting by Yoshitomo Nara.

I'll make sure to look up Davies, though.

Happyreader Definite Spoilers:

I found this short review from World Literature Today, Spring 1999. For a review, it definately gives away major plot points so stop reading now if you don't know how the book ends.

Published half a century after the end of Japan's fifteen-year war that began with the seizure of Manchuria in 1931, the voluminous narrative (1,156 pages in three volumes in Japanese) The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle probes the meaning of time, memory, and self-- actualization in the "high-tech" age. Haruki Murakami spices this postmodern work with elements of science fiction, in a manner reminiscent of works by such cyberpunk writers as Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo.

The first-person narrator of the story is a thirty-year-old man with only a thin sense of subjectivity. Having left his job for no specific reason, he idles his time away, while "the wind-up bird" winds "the spring of our quiet little world." His world begins to crumble, however, when his cat vanishes, followed by the disappearance of his wife. His search for his wife sends him on a virtual journey, leading him into the darkness of a deep dry well and through its wall into "the other side." A "dangerous place," this cyberspace realm is dominated by the televised image of the hero's worst adversary, his wife's brother, who has gained enormous political popularity by exploiting the mass media's potential for image-making. He is a nephew of the top confidant of the ringleader of the 1931 Manchurian Incident and holds the key to the destiny of his sister. Having given himself the nickname "Wind-Up Bird" at the outset of his journey, the protagonist is now the keeper of Time, determined to fight against his brother-in-law for his wife's freedom.

The journey thus takes the protagonist back to the time of Japan's invasion of China and to the subsequent Nomonhan Incident of 1939, in which unspeakable atrocities took place. A string of people, all appearing and disappearing like images on television and computer screens, guide him in his endeavor. Among them, a veteran of the Nomonhan Incident and repatriates from Manchuria reconstruct for the hero scenes of the atrocities. Their stories constitute a legacy of Japan's modern period, which began in 1868 with an all-out push for a capitalist economy and for militarization. A high-school dropout, an alter ego of the hero's wife, sends constant encouragement to the protagonist from her own "little quiet world" somewhere far away.

With her husband's help, the wife eventually frees herself from her brother's spell by bludgeoning him with a baseball bat-the weapon used by Japanese military men in Manchuria to execute Chinese soldiers for their "insubordination"-and escapes back to the reality on "this side" of the well wall. The protagonist too emerges from the well, now replenished with fresh water, as a man with a solid sense of responsibility and commitment.

A delightful story, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle demonstrates the enormity of Murakami's literary imagination and his thoughtful insight into the meaning of postmodern reality. The translation, capturing the style and aura of the original, is equally enjoyable. It is regrettable, however, that the English version has been subjected to extensive cutting, undoubtedly under pressure from the publisher.

1,156 pages?!!!! Either those Japanese characters take up a lot of room or the editing is really extensive.

What do you think of Toru as time keeper? Of Noboru and, perhaps by extension, Kumiko as inheritors of the Manchurian legacy? Of May as Kumiko's alter ego?

Sherry I'm just adding the link now to see if the topic reappears.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Sherry Happy, I can't answer those questions. All I can do is come up with new ones. While I was reading the book, I kept thinking of all those myths about men having to go into Hell to rescue their lovers who had been stolen or trapped. I'm terrible at remembering mythic details, but Orpheus comes to mind. He had a lyre, though, and was a wonderful musician. Toru did not have a comparable mythic skill, but he certainly had determination. Whether he was the keeper of Time, I don't know. He heard the wind-up bird in the beginning, but then it disappeared. Maybe that was a clue that Time was altered.

Also, the men in this book were wonderful housekeepers. All that work that Cinnamon did every day to keep "the Residence" pristine. All that effort put in to have the surfaces of things be beautiful. Hmmm....

Wilhelmina Jenkins Orpheus came to mind for me, also, Sherry. Also the rush of fresh water into the well reminded me of new life through baptism and similar practices in other religions.

Rosana Sherry, I had not previously thought of Hell/Hades myths, but after reading your post, the connection is quite obvious. The story gains a totally different layer of meaning when I think of it under this perspective.

But before I go any further I have to disclaim up front that this is not my favorite Murakami book. There are parts of it that I have found brilliant (the chapter on marriage – the toilet paper, the beef with green peppers, the wife’s hormonal cycles – or the jelly fish – how we are so unaware of the world as a whole, only living at the skin) I also enjoyed the historical parts and I may say more about that bellow.

However, the second part of the book became too long. Why introduce Nutmeg and Cinnamon at that point? Other people here seem to think that they were interesting characters, and I don’t disagree with it, but there were already Malta and Creta in the first part of the book? Why drop 2 characters to introduce 2 others?

Yulia mentions upthread that Murakami does not have a plot in mind when he writes. It felt obvious to me at times that this must be the case, and I hate when a author puts me through endless pages of nothing while they find their voice. I am thankful that the North-American edition was edited, and I wish more of it had been cut off.

It may say a lot about me that the parts in this book I enjoyed the most were those better anchored in reality. The historical chapters brings to light the suffering of individuals through the monstrosity that was the soviet concentration camps, and the Japanese campaigns in Asia – subjects that I know nothing about. So often we are immersed in stereotypes, it is hard to humanize those that were “the enemy”.

I also enjoyed May – my most liked character in this book. She reminds me of other female characters in other Murakami books. He seems to always have a depressive female character tucked away at a mental institution/school or, in a slight different note, in an idyllic factory this time. Those characters seem to me to always help anchor his stories, and true to form, May is the character I find more meaningful in this book.

Kumiko, however, I never got to know. And I feel extremely sorry about that. She is the character that could have been the main force in this book. A woman divided between family and marriage, searching for her own sexuality while fighting dark forces (either psychological or metaphysical). Yet, all we see is the lost damsel locked away waiting to be rescued, or worst, yielding to her fate.

Then there is Noboru, another character that could have been… but never became! For the dark force of evil that he represented, Noboru was quite lame. Really… Yes, there is the scene with Creta, but other than that, his evilness is basically never demonstrated. Other characters in the book – Noboru’s secretary and the Russian officer – are more monstrous than Noboru. One could argue that Noboru’s capability to bewilder people through mass media was evil, and I am not going to argue about that. But I think in the case of “Noboru, the character” Murakami made the simple mistake of telling and not showing. The very first rule one learns on Creative Writing 101.
Well, I wrote too much. Now it is someone else’s turn.

message 32: by Melissa (last edited Sep 16, 2008 11:05AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Melissa I'm copying a post I made in the other CR discussion thread for this book - they may be combined at some point??

I was interested in the level of detailed description of what the protagonist ate and of what virtually all the characters were wearing, including cosmetics.

Someone in the lost thread pointed out that there was little notice taken of the physical setting other than in a general way -- apart from the details of the alley, of course, or the houses, but little of the Japanese environment at large. Much more topographical interest in Manchuria, I would say.

But the lavish attention to food and clothing in a way provided some visualization that might have been missing in description of the neighborhood or city.

Melissa Spoilers follow.

I found the skinning scene(s) quite difficult to read, but was interested to see the Russian officer Boris return later in the story.

I wanted to learn more about Mr. Honda while reading the "Lieutenant who could not die" sections.

There is a similar skin-removal specialist in one of McMurtry's Lonesome Dove books -- Comanche Moon, if I remember correctly. Not Mongolian, but perhaps Apache or Comanche. So apparently this method of torture/execution is not mere literary invention, as I would wish it to be.

message 34: by Yulia (last edited Sep 16, 2008 02:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Yulia Capitu, it's eerie how similar our reaction to the book is, from May's being the shining star to my annoyance with the Kano sisters being replaced by Cinnamon and Nutmeg, who were "different" but not as intriguing, Kumiko's being underdeveloped to Noboru Wataya's being just as much of a shell, even a caricature, regardless of what significance was placed on him in the end. Yes, both he and his sister were mere props in this story, which was very unsatisfying.

Was all the hidden meaning revealed by the review Happyreeader found (amazing to read, really, as if it were discussing a different book altogether) supposed to be obvious, or was the American edition so greatly excised that all the nuance of the story was lost?

Unlike the reviewer, I didn't see Toru as the hero of his own story. If anything, he was a mere spectator. Why is it I failed to be convinced by this theory of resurrection and salvation? Am I simply too concrete in my appreciation of the book? Yes, I loved the book as much as the reviewer did, but it seems we were on opposite sides of the well's wall while reading it.

I can't fathom how Toru was ever the keeper of Time: he was a mere idler, a man who, if anything, made a point of neglecting the passage of time! What book did I read?

Rosana Spoilers Be Aware

Yulia, the review seemed very different from my own experience of the book also. Toru as Time Keeper? Where did I miss this one? And May as Kumiko’s alter ego? I perceived May and Kumiko as very different entities. And to answer Happyreader’s last question: “Noboru and, perhaps by extension, Kumiko as inheritors of the Manchurian legacy?” Yes, this is what at the end is suggesting, but again the connection is very thin. Maybe the idea is that all evilness is connected? Or again, the editing I so much welcomed earlier harmed the book more than helped by cutting essential elements of it?

But I wonder if I am coming across as too critical of this book. Because at the end I would say that I liked it (I just don’t know how many stars to merit it though). It is like looking at a painting in the wall and enjoying the overall effect from faraway, but on close examination disliking certain colors that were used, or wondering why attention was not paid to a detail here and there? This certainly would not be the first time I was overcritical though.

The great genius of Murakami, I believe, is that his writing leads us with almost hypnotic powers through this chaotic universe, and with such gentle hands that he manages to suspend disbelieve. We find ourselves believing as real a young woman dressed as Jacqueline Kennedy who is a prostitute of the mind. Or a young man dressed on an Armani suit that can communicate without words or sign language. Or that someone would climb down an old abandoned well to meditate. More than that, he does poses deep philosophical questions about the human condition - love, marriage, connection, death, war, evil, etc, etc… - without ever becoming rhetoric or contrived.

I guess my disappointment with this book in particular is that at times Murakami did fail to hold me at this place he created, either by becoming longwinded or by having certain characters not quite well developed.

Again, I talked too much…

Yulia Regarding the split selves and parallel worlds Murakami depicts, I sometimes wonder if they are actually two distinct Murakami voices. That interview I read with Jay Rubin noted that he and Murakami's earlier translator, Alfred Birnbaum, never asked to translate the same stories, and that, when discussing his work, reviewers either spoke exclusively of his (Rubin's) translated stories of Birnbaum's, not both, even in collections where both their works were included. I wonder if, in such a long work as Wind-Up Bird, both of Murakami's voices appear, causing such different interpretations. I'd have to do a thesis to investigate this properly, but does anyone else get this sense about Wind-Up Bird, that depending on your filter, you can articulate two entirely different meanings and values from this work?

message 37: by [deleted user] (new)

I read this book in Dutch unabridged translation. Spoilers ahead.

My favorite parts in the book where the more unrealistic parts. I didn't really like the warscenes.

Reading all the comments on here there were a lot of comments regretting Toru's passiveness. But unlike others, Nutmeg and her father the veterinarian for example, Toru doesn't accept his fate. He could've just gone back to his normal life after his wife disappeared. Instead he does whatever he can to get his wife back and to save her. In the end he may not succeed in getting his wife back, but he did try.
If he would succeed, would he get the same wife back or would she have become someone different? Like the cat and his tail.

The lack of environmental descriptions didn't really bother me. I just imagined everything to be very Japanese modern minimalistic (not much worth the trouble of describing it).

Mary Ellen (Not sure which thread to post on, at this point!)

I am a little over half-way through; I've never had quite this reaction to a book before: as I am reading (and "floating" is a great description of the experience!) I am enjoying it, but as soon as I "step back," I find the book very, very annoying!


Anyway, did anyone else find May disturbing? Particularly regarding her removal of the ladder and closing Toru in the well. In their later discussion, she says that she wouldn't have killed him, but intended to let him up just at the brink of death (I'm paraphrasing inartfully) so he could share some weird inner experience of hers. And that she thought this plan (torture!) would be the best thing for each of them. Toru insightfully notes that, having gone that far, she'd probably find it easy to go the final step and let him die, and later decide that his death, also, "was the best thing for you and for me." That passage just made my skin crawl, even more than the death-by-skinning incident. May seems to be a very dangerous, disturbed person. I am amazed that she is a favorite of many here; perhaps this is because I haven't finished the book yet!

Mary Ellen

Yulia Mary Ellen, yes, I do see the darkness in May's character and it did spook me, but she's also very human and I could somehow identify with her darkness. And ultimately, I don't think she's a bad person, just lost. But maybe you'll have a firmer opinion of May, whether you dislike her or not and why, as you proceed with the book.


Sibyl, wow, you're the only person I know who's read the unabridged version. Bravo! So is the plot of Toru as Timekeeper and May as Kumiko alter ego more fleshed out in the original version? Did you read the review Happyreader posted (message 27) in which the reviewer unravels the plot and seems to find it so perfectly clear what it's all supposed to mean? Is this the case with the unabridged version? Or for anyone who's read the abridged version, does the review ring true to how you read and interpreted the book?

Wilhelmina Jenkins For me, the darkness in May's character seemed more understandable because she is so young and apparently completely unsupervised. Young people tend to do dumb, sometimes dangerous things, but I did not think that she had the evil nature exhibited by other characters in the book.

I'm lost on the May/Kumiko alter ego analysis. Maybe the reviewer didn't want to be seen as "floating", like the rest of us!

message 41: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 20, 2008 09:21AM) (new)

I don't know what the exact differences are between the abridged and the unabridged versions of this book, but I do know that Murakami's books are not exactly plotdirected. So my guess is that the abridged version should be easier to 'analyse', because the editor (Jay Rubin, Murakami's American translator) must have cut the most irrelevant passages.


Because Toru calls himself "wind-up bird" he must be some sort of time keeper. Murakami gives the characters in his books names that explain something about them. The wind-upbird can be seen as a personification of fate, but Toru fights against his fate - the disappearance of his wife. He is not a wind-upbird but an anti-windupbird.
The only alter-ego I can find for Kumiko is how she appears in room 208, or maybe Kreta Kano. When Toru has one of his dreams about Kreta she changes into the mysterious woman who later turns out to be Kumiko. There are some similarities between May and Kumiko. Both go through a period of radical change. May has left school and works in a wig-facory now. Kumiko also makes some radical decisions. The difference between her and May is that May makes this decisions because she has the freedom to do so - apparently her parents don't really care for her education, not very Japanese. With Kumiko I get the impression she's being forced by some strange power Noboru has over her. That's also symbolised by her being trapped in a room, where other persons can get in and out without too much trouble, and later by her being in prison, she refuses to be released.

The 'darkness' in Mays character is more of a game to her, like putting her hands over her boyfriends eyes while driving on his motorcycle. She never really meant to kill him, but because she's still young she doesn't really know where or when to stop.

message 42: by Yulia (last edited Sep 20, 2008 04:59PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Yulia You both put May's darkness in so much clearer terms than I could. Regarding Toru as the Wind-Up Bird, I always puzzled as his being seen as such. After all, hge defies the society's demands he live mechanically, unwaveringly, like clockwork. He stops working, just as the wind-up bird stops visiting his neighborhood to sing its clock song. If anything, I saw Toru as a dismanled clock with all its intricate parts on a table and with no true understanding or desire to put himself back together. Yes, he wants Kumiko back, but he has no desire to return to the life as the perfect law firm gopher. He refuses to be understood tidily or take on a role that he doesn't want. That's why I could never see him as the wind-up bird, a role which so many take for granted. As Sibyl says, he is the anti-bird. It's a relief to know the unabridged version only makes the reading more tedious and doesn't explain the mysteries any better. I was afraid we'd been cheated for the sake of page count.

message 43: by Theresa (last edited Sep 21, 2008 01:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Theresa A wind-up bird is a metaphor for time, but time that is human-directed. The bird/time stops if not wound up on a regular basis - not how we usually think about time,eh?

I was going to say that I took all of the female characters to be Jungian archetypes, but they are maybe more like facets of Toru, trying to figure out where his humanity had fled. This is where I make the Robertson Davies connection.

This ties in to the scenes in China, since this topic is generally hidden in Japan (deep down the well . . .) Someone mentioned that they thought the Japanese were portrayed too sympathetically iin the scenese in China. This is a bit ironic, since Muramami is one of few Japanese writers willing to tackle this subject.


Happyreader SPOILERS!!

One reason May pulled away the ladder was that she was pissed off that Toru was in the well and not worried about dying. She wanted him on the brink of death so that he would face and fear death and live accordingly.

Death is big theme in this book. Creta tries to kill herself and can't; Lt Mamiya is cursed by the knowledge that he won't be dying in China or Siberia and is forced to live out a soul-less life in Japan; Noboru for a time is left in a coma and has to be killed off. Characters frequently say that there are many ways to die and are forced to watch when others are skinned alive or bayonneted and death is sloppily metted out like with the animals in the zoo. Cinnamon's father is brutally slaughtered and disemboweled. Kumiko is suffering a slow soul death, fitting in with Sherry's Orpheus theme.

Is the Wind-Up Bird an oracle of death? Why are some characters left in a Japanese purgatory?

JG (Introverted Reader) SPOILERS

I just finished. I'll say right up front that this is not a book I would ever have chosen to read on my own and I would probably have given up pretty early on. But I did finish, and like most of you, I have more questions than answers. I have thoughts about the book, but the book was written in such a dreamy style that I actually have a hard time putting my questions and thoughts in words that make sense.

I thought of Orpheus and Eurydice as well, Sherry. Especially the last time Toru's in the hotel room and Kumiko's voice is shouting, "Please, I'm begging you to stop! Don't look at it if you want to take me home again!" And what exactly is it that he's not supposed to look at? All I could come up with is that we all have dark, hidden parts that we don't want anyone to see, probably especially the people we love most.

I honestly started wondering at some point if all the women who suddenly enter Toru's life as Kumiko is leaving are all some sort of aspect of Kumiko. I gave up on the idea with May and Nutmeg, but I still wonder about the Kanos. It was reinforced toward the end when Malta tells Toru in his dream that Creta's baby is named Corsica and then later Toru tells May that if he ever haves a child he'd like to name it Corsica.

I saw the Wind-Up Bird more as a harbinger of fate than as a time-keeper. It seemed to me that whenever someone heard the wind-up bird, bad things happened shortly thereafter. Toru and Kumiko hear it and Kumiko leaves Toru, with all that follows; the Japanese soldier hears it at the zoo and is forced to kill the Chinese soldier with a baseball bat, hears it again, and foresees the terrible deaths of all the men in the clearing with him and is killed a year later in the labor camp; Cinnamon (I never questioned that the little boy was Cinnamon) hears it and feels that he splits in two, never speaks again, and his father is brutally murdered a few years later.

I didn't see May as evil. She was someone else that had this terrible experience and sort of less obviously split in two. She's had this horrible wreck that left her injured and somewhat lame and left her boyfriend dead. She's having trouble dealing with that. Death has become real to this 16-year-old girl. She takes away Toru's ladder to make him feel it too. She doesn't want to deal with this alone. Toru's probably right when he tells her that she would have found it easy to let him die, but I don't honestly think that was her intention when she did it.

I didn't really find Toru to be all that passive. Mr. Honda had told him, "The point is, not to resist the flow. You go up when you're supposed to go up and down when you're supposed to go down. When you're supposed to go up, find the highest tower and climb to the top. When you're supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom. When there's no flow, stay still. If you resist the flow, everything dries up. If everything dries up, the world is darkness." Based on that, he probably felt that the time to find Kumiko would make itself known. If he fought it he would lose her forever. Another small incident from the story that illustrates this is when Toru is remembering a baseball game he went to when he was young. The baseball players were throwing autographed baseballs into the crowd and everyone else was fighting and reaching for them. Toru just stayed in his seat and one landed in his lap. I also have this woefully-ignorant-of-Buddhism-and-Japanese-culture idea that maybe for them, sitting around and thinking and meditating is not the big waste of time that it is to us more-action-oriented Westerners. I don't know if that's at all right. All I know about it I probably learned from reading Siddhartha my first year of college, so it's entirely possible that I've got this all wrong.

I don't have any idea what the whole subplot about the war in Manchuria and the Soviet labor camp had to do with anything. Someone else will have to give me some ideas about that one. I found it interesting, I just don't have any idea what it really had to do with Toru's story.

What did the wigs and baldness have to do with anything? They kept showing up too. Maybe something to do with hiding who we really are? I honestly don't know.

What was the hold that Noboru had over Kumiko? I personally thought of it as some sort of early childhood abuse, but I don't really know. Was it psychological or physical? Was it some sort of mental illness that ran in the family?

Lots of questions and very few answers with this one.

On a side note, there was one passage where Toru is talking about watching baseball in the summertime. Of course, I can't find it now. I thought Murakami perfectly caught the essence of summer in those two paragraphs. That was probably my very favorite passage.

Yulia JG, I think you make a good point about the cultural differences in our Western notion of being active and the Buddhist notion of flow. I do know Toru was actively processing events and listening to clues a he seems so passive. I suppose, as a wound-up East Coaster (a far East Coaster, as Palin would call me), I wanted Toru to spring to action when the wise or Zen thing to do was to wait, watch, and listen for the truth or the wave of motion to unfold. Perhaps we should regard and understand Toru as mindful above all else.

Ricki I'm nearly finished but thought I would spring into the discussion before everyone goes onto new readings.

I read somewhere that someone compared this to Metamorphosis (Kafka). This may have been earlier in the discussion here...or not. I think this is a good point as Toru is changing albeit slowly throughout the book and I'll get back to that later.

The Wind-up Bird - first of all this is a really interesting study of time and place. For example - Lieutenant Manimota tells Toru about being in the bottom of the well during the Manchurian war - Toru ends up finding one and repeating the experience. Whilst Toru is interacting with the Kano sisters both time and place shift, etc.

However, I also looked at it in the context of Jung - the Kano's and May may also represent aspects of Toru's anima - the feminine side of himself that he needs to contact in order to get out of the automatic actions and responses he has. He already began that path by leaving his job. His wife was unable to feel physically with him and he was moving in an automatic way through life. One of the aspects of this is that firstly - the idea that you repeat experiences until you grow beyond them. There is also the idea that you can never know another person deeply until you know yourself at that level. Hence the image of going down into the well and the repetition of going down the well both in time and place.

In addition - Manchurian War - in the Japanese culture I believe I've read that there was little knowledge of the cruelty of the Japanese towards the Chinese at that time. I wonder if Murakami isn't trying to deal with the the idea of public image and reality. It's interesting in the context of global political actions - of which we are aware - the earlier treatment of some US soldiers (and UK) towards the Iraqi prisonners. The general nastiness of war, full stop.

The Japanese do have a huge part of their culture based on saving face as mentioned earlier - I've had first-hand experience of that - and for the Japanese to consider their own misdeeds during the was would be quite an achievement - I am not surprised that the book was banned in Japan.

At the point at which I am, Toru has encountered Cinnamon and nutmeg - mind you their names were only chosen by Nutmeg because Toru needed to call them something. Again - putting a name to what may be personifications of his own psyche. It may also be interesting that if these are all parts of Toru - then what they wear and how they all appear would be of import.

This may all be way off but hopefully it'll add something to the discussion. And, by the way,I am really enjoying the book - although occasionally I put it down and pick up something lighter to clear the senses.

Rosana So many great points have been brought up; I don’t know where to start…

Theresa, the idea of “the time that is human-directed. The bird/time stops if not wound up on a regular basis” is very consistent with the overall book (even the title), yet I never saw it until you point it out. But, JG comment: “I saw the Wind-Up Bird more as a harbinger of fate than as a time-keeper” also seems fitting. Maybe these two aspects are not contradictory though, fate does not happen if time stays still.

Although I am completely ignorant of Jung’s psychology, I found Ricki’s post also very enlightening. If I think of the various characters as aspects of Toru’s personality, then the disappearance of the Kano sisters and the apperance of other characters through out the book would be explained, wouldn’t it?

As I mentioned earlier though I found the historical chapters the most intriguing in the story. I did not know that this book had been banned on Japan. And I do believe that the Manchurian war is still a very delicate subject among the Japanese. However, Murakami does portrait the various Japanese characters with great sympathy for their personal loss and impotence to change the course of the war imposed on them from a higher military hierarchic. More than anything though I was surprised to learn of Japanese soldiers held up in Russian concentration camps 4 years after the end of the war. We do hear a lot of the suffering of our POW’s, but I don’t recall ever hearing about the suffering of the Japanese prisoners. History indeed is as told by the victorious!

By the way, there was also a well at the Russian mine where the dead - and sometimes still live soldiers - were cast off. Again the repetition of going down the well…

message 49: by Brooke (last edited Sep 24, 2008 09:47AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brooke Does anyone know how rape is viewed in Japanese society? From what little I've gleaned from other sources over the years, Japan can be a very sexist place (for example, I used to read a blog by a Japanese-American woman who moved to Japan and was just horrified by how her female friends were groped by men on the subway and just put up with it). Was Toru's reaction to Noburu Wataya raping Creta Kano unusual or not? He became uncomfortable and didn't want to have anything to do with the knowledge. This was before he (and we) knew Creta was a prostitute and that the "defiling" was something above and beyond the sex itself. And then there was May Kasahara's letter where she talked about thinking about Toru raping her and what her reaction might be, and I didn't even know how I was supposed to react to that.

Melissa Thanks for all the wonderful comments, everybody.

JG - I also loved that passage about Toru remembering or imagining how he watched a baseball game as the summer night arrives. That particular time of evening is something I love to watch and think about. I think Murakami does an amazing job of evoking the feeling in a poetic fashion (the smoke floating in the light like wandering souls?). Doesn't hurt that I love outdoors baseball too.

I hunted the passage down and will type it in here -- it's from early on in Chapter 11, p. 264 in my Vintage International paperback edition. Toru is deep down inside his well; the theme of darkness and light is of course front and center:

The hands on my watch showed seven thirty-eight. I must have looked at my watch some two thousand times since coming down here. Now it was seven thirty-eight at night, that much was certain; at a ball game, it would be the bottom of the third or the top of the fourth. When I was a kid, I used to like to sit up high in the outfield stands and watch the summer day trying not to end. The sun had sunk below the western horizon, but the afterglow was still brilliant and beautiful. The stadium lights stretched their long shadows across the field as if to hint at something. First one and then another light would be turned on with the utmost caution shortly after the game got going. Still, there was enough light in the sky to read a newspaper by. The memory of the long day's glow remained at the door to keep the summer night from entering.

With patience and perseverance, though, the artificial illumination was winning its quiet victory over the light of the sun, bringing forth a flood of festive colors. The brilliant green of the playing field, the handsome black earth, the straight white lines newly drawn upon it, the glinting varnish on the bats of the players waiting their turn at the plate, the cigarette smoke floating in the beams of light (looking, on windless days, like souls wandering in search of someone to take them in) — all these would begin to show up with tremendous clarity. The young beer sellers would hold their hands up in the light, flashing bills tucked between their fingers. The crowd would rise from their seats to follow the path of a high fly ball, their voices rising with its arc or dissolving into a sigh. Small flocks of birds returning to their roosts would fly past toward the sea. This was the stadium at seven-thirty in the evening.

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