Monday, November 28, 2005

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle: A Review 

In the past two years I have become a fan of the popular Japanese author Haruki Murakami. If I were to classify his books in a particular genre, I guess I would have to make it as broad as magical realism. In the latest book I read of his, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, he continued his search for meaning in a world that presents itself as very black and white on the surface, but is actually a million shades of grey beneath. I realize that is a bit vague and cliched, but it is a good starting point. This book is apparently considered Murakami's magnum opus, and I can see why: it's physical size is larger than most of his works, and thus it delves deeper into a darker reality, a reality which we all find ourselves in from time to time. But it is when we go deeper into that reality, which is within ourselves, that we make the most realizations about ourself and the world around us. Murakami drives this point blatantly home when his main character finds solace deep within a well upon multiple occasions. On the surface, the tale is one of a young man who is looking for his wife. Early in the book, (after one of the best passages - ch. 2 - describing relationship I've ever read), Okada's wife leaves him mysteriously. And the rest, on the surface, is a story of a man in search of the "why's", and seeking to regain his wife, lover, and best friend. But it is about so much more than that. Murakami's patented "shadow world" makes another appearence - the battleground for the archtypical man versus himself theme personified. An almost separate war story runs alongside the main storyline - a tale where the reader's need for pretty clear lines of good and evil get borne out. But it connects to the main story though its telling and the gift of an empty inheritance seeming to suggest that what we leave people when we die cannot truly be contained in tangible, physical objects. Another of Murakami's favorite foil devices shows up here - the young girl. The full extent of what he is trying to say with his 15-17 year old sidekicks I am not sure. But, in a way, May seems to be the figure of wisdom in innocence that is on the verge of losing itself. The opportunity for the main character to ruin that innocence always presents itself, but the characters never do that - they seem to recognize not only would that be morally wrong, but, (and more to the point of Murakami's thinking I believe) that it would be wrong to ruin that singular source of powerful wisdom. There is a power within them that the protagonist needs to use to reach their goal. What it is, is theirs to discover. The vague way in which Murakami paints the main portion of the second half of the book suggests that what he is trying to say is not found therein, or at least not in the particulars. This frustrates me greatly as I want to know just what exactly was going on in the so-called "hanging house"! No, the real action of the story takes place in the well and in the shadow world(s). The characters of Nutmeg and Cinnamon boggle the mind, but they are also just foils for Okada, pointing the way for him to release whatever energy/power he has within himself. Others can recognize it and benefit from it, but he has no idea what it is he does. Until he figures that out, he will go on searching blindly for his wife, because finding her is ultimately wrapped up in him rediscovering himself.

I really enjoyed the book and I really enjoy Murakami's style of narrative. He makes you think; he is never going to just hand you the story, because life never just hands you the story. And just when you think he has done so, BAM, he writes a whole chapter about seemingly unrelated events in some magical shadow world as if just to poke you in the eyes and say, "Quit looking with these!!" I recommend Murakami to you if you like psychological, metaphysical detective stories about love and finding oneself anew. But, if you've not read Murakami before, I'd suggest starting with another one of his more approachable books, like Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.



it was great seeing you back home. again during christmas?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:30 AM  

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