Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-Up Bird ChronicleThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jobless, Toru Okada spends most of his days searching for his missing cat. Until his wife goes missing as well. Why did she leave? Did she ever love him? And can Toru navigate an ocean of strangeness to get her back?

Back when I first joined Goodreads, one of the first things I noticed was how a novel I'd never heard of, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, got so much praise from Goodreaders. Was it hype? Or worse, was it just hipster bullshit? You know what I'm talking about. "I only read novels that have been translated from foreign languages. Now let's go watch a foreign film and pretend to understand it."

At the insistence of a Goodreads compadre who seems to have deleted his account since I bought this, I decided to plunk down my money and give it a shot. What did I think? I dug it but don't start fitting me for skinny jeans and a distressed faux-vintage t-shirt quite yet.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a very breezy read, surprisingly so since it was translated from Japanese. It tells the story of Toru Okada's disintegrating life, from his quitting his job at the law firm, to the family cat, Noboru Wataya, named after his wife's brother, going missing, to his wife Kumiko disappearing one morning. From there, things get stranger by the minute. Toru gets entangled with a sort of psychic therapist, Malta Kano, and her sister Creta, as well as striking up an unusual friendship with the unusual girl next door, May Kasahara. And that's before the really weird things start happening.

Weird books are my bread and butter so the weirdness didn't impede my enjoyment one iota. A lot of crazy things happened and the book held my interest the entire time. The writing is wonderful. I felt Toru's emotions as he felt them and I found his reactions to be really believable. When I read Kumiko's letter about why she left, I felt as betrayed as Toru must have felt.

Like I said, I dug it but I didn't love it. There were a lot of weird things happening and a lot of it was never resolved. While I enjoyed the WWII digressions, they felt unnecessary to me. I guess my main beef was that I didn't understand what all the hype was about. Sure, it's very well written but it doesn't have a lot of substance to it, not for being 600 pages long. It reminds me of Douglas Coupland and/or Neal Stephenson once they had achieved the editorial freedom to write whatever they wanted to. Not once did I contemplate taking days off work just to read it, nor did I feel like it was a life changing event.

That's about all I can articulate about The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle at this time. Good, not great. Not as pants-shittingly awesome as I've been lead to believe. Definitely still worth a read, though.

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