Monday, April 19, 2010

Book review: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

I just finished one of the trippiest books I've ever read- The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, by Hakuri Murakami. The protagonist, Toru Okada, is thirty year old Japanese man living a mundane life, until everything normal begins to unravel. A strange woman calls, the cat disappears, his wife runs away, and at the same time, a number of unusual characters start appearing in his life, from a psychic and her sister to lonely teenage girl to a World War II veteran with a tale to tell. I can't really even begin to describe the story- it's so weird (like a Japanese book version of an arty film from France) and oh so very long, clocking it at a dense 607 pages. Although I did like the book, it took me FOREVER to finish- normally, I'm a pretty fast reader but I really struggled with this one. On the plus side, it's definitely interesting and well-written and I liked the main character as well as some of the side ones, like the stylish mother and son duo who run a secret psychic enterprise. On the down side, occasionally the story veers off on metaphysical tangents about the soul, past lives, and whatnot, and I found these stretches tedious and would have enjoyed the book at lot more if it were just a touch more straightforward. It did redeem itself a bit with the ending, which did come up with an explanation for a lot of the trippy spiritual mystery stuff.

And now for something even weirder that The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle:

This music video by a band called Hot Chip. I've never heard of the band before but I saw the video and could not get it out of my head, it's so weird! I can't decide if it's brilliant and hilarious or just fucked up. Watch for yourself and let me know what you think.

6 comments:

KcM said...

Weird. You're the third person in the past two weeks or so to recommend (sort of) Murakami. I was thinking of starting with the short story one -- The Elephant something or other -- to see how he sits with me.

Molly said...

I LOVED this book. It's the kind of book you hope they never turn into a movie ...

What are you reading next?

eileen said...

Yeah, it would definitely get ruined as a movie. I liked it but can't say I loved it- there were parts I loved (May Kashara, the well, Cinnamon, etc) but other sections that dragged a bit for me. Since books are expensive here I joined the library- I took out an Umberto Eco book and also one called What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn, so one of those will be next. If anyone has recommendations, let me know- I can request books from the library!

danimal said...

Loved this book! It is really one of his trippiest if not his hardest read, I've read pretty much everything he has written. I highly recommend South of the Border, West of the Sun and Norwegian Wood as well for much different Murakami experiences. How bout that part in TWUBC where they are in Mongolia and the Japanese captain or whatever gets skinned alive!!! That scene is branded in my brain!!! Now try some "2666" for one of the most effed-up recent fiction books!

J.R. said...

That video is friggin fantastic!

eileen said...

Dan, you were the one who originally recommended it to me! I'll have to another Murakami book at some point.

and I can't believe JR is the only one who's commented on the video...did the rest of you not watch it? Come on!