The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Murakami has been on my list of authors to read for a long time. I first became aware of him a few years back, while working in a bookstore. While shelving books, I was always drawn to his intriguing and colorful book covers. And I was also impressed by his loyal and passionate fans that would tend to congregate in front of his books and whisper amongst themselves, comparing their favorite titles. I’m not sure how I eventually selected The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle from the long list of Murakami books. Regardless, I finally cracked it open during a sleepless night, a few weeks back.
And that is a significant detail, because as a lifelong insomniac, I typically pour through a book, even a 600-page book like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, in a matter of days. But for some reason, this one was a slow read. A very slow read. In fact, there were many times when I simply just wanted it to be over. No joke.
It isn’t that I hated the book. I was just bored with it. Which is shocking because it has a little bit of everything — a man who recently lost his job, sets out to find his lost cat and his missing wife; a pair of psychic sisters; a politically motivated, somewhat evil brother-in-law; a death-obsessed teen-aged girl; a zoo keeper; a WWII soldier; a man-skinner (yes, that is exactly what it sounds like …… gross); a mute; a healer; a dried up well; and of course, a wind-up bird that is never seen, yet is always a precursor to something bad about to happen. Something for everyone, right? Well, perhaps that was the problem. There was a lot going on ….. lots of sub-plots that I kept thinking would somehow tie together at the end to reveal an amazing story. And while there were some connections made at the end, I felt cheated. It seemed as if lots of balls were left in the air, without closure. And even some of those connections that were revealed, were confusing and vague.
But obviously there was enough going on for me to continue reading every night ….. even if I only covered a few pages rather than a few chapters, as I typically do. I did enjoy the wide variety of forms he took in presenting the story — letters, hallucinations, dreams, news clips, flashbacks, texts of internet conversations — just to name a few. And I did enjoy how Haruki played out the underlying themes of loneliness and isolation. I found the main thread of the story somewhat interesting. I just didn’t need all the complicating sub-plots and characters. And I certainly didn’t need some of the unnecessary violence.
Overall I was disappointed. But perhaps more disappointed in myself for not seeing what others see in Murakami books. Am I not hipster enough to appreciate his style? Am I too daft to see the connections? Am I too boring to appreciate his unique style? Alas, I will not be one of the cool kids that hang out in front the Murakami section whispering my favorite lines and scenes. If I am missing something, please let me know. I want to be a hipster too. Enjoy!
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