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A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel [Paperback]

Haruki Murakami
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 9 2002 Vintage International
A marvelous hybrid of mythology and mystery, A Wild Sheep Chase is the extraordinary literary thriller that launched Haruki Murakami’s international reputation.

It begins simply enough: A twenty-something advertising executive receives a postcard from a friend, and casually appropriates the image for an insurance company’s advertisement. What he doesn’t realize is that included in the pastoral scene is a mutant sheep with a star on its back, and in using this photo he has unwittingly captured the attention of a man in black who offers a menacing ultimatum: find the sheep or face dire consequences. Thus begins a surreal and elaborate quest that takes our hero from the urban haunts of Tokyo to the remote and snowy mountains of northern Japan, where he confronts not only the mythological sheep, but the confines of tradition and the demons deep within himself. Quirky and utterly captivating, A Wild Sheep Chase is Murakami at his astounding best.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Immensely popular in Japan, the author's first novel to be published here is a comic combination of disparate styles: a mock-hardboiled mystery, a metaphysical speculation and an ironic first-person account of an impossible quest. The narrator is a modern Japanese yuppie: divorced, in a mildly exciting relationship and a much less exciting job as an ad copywriter, he lives unexceptionally until a photograph throws his life into chaos. The snapshot, which he uses to illustrate a newsletter, shows a field of sheep with one unique crossbreed, and the picture is special enough to have attracted the attention of both the nomadic friend who sent it to him and a right-wing Mr. Big who, moribund, wants the source found before he dies. The Boss's henchman, a sleek, scary majordomo, gives the narrator one month to track it down, and the story that ensues is a postmodern detective novel in which dreams, hallucinations and a wild imagination are more important than actual clues. With the help of a fluid, slangy translation, Murakami emerges as a wholly original talent. $30,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This novel, the American debut of a popular contemporary Japanese writer, will have a familiar ring to Western ears. The narrative moves adroitly through mystery, fable, pensive realism, and modernist absurdity to tell the tale--at least on the surface--of a Japanese man caught up in a puzzling quest for a somewhat mystical sheep. The spare style echoes Raymond Carver, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler, with matter-of-fact absurdities reminiscent of John Irving and, in less inspired moments, Tom Robbins. While the climax of the story is somewhat unrewarding, many readers will enjoy being pulled along by the playful and engaging style and fluid structure. Interesting as an example of current Japanese writing and as an unusually hip and irreverent look at contemporary Japanese society, this would be a nice addition to larger fiction collections.
- Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll., N.Y.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A life affirming story June 5 2006
What is power? What is life? What is living? Murakami explores all those questions in a hauntingly beautiful and absurdist tale of an everyman on a hunt, then a quest, to find a curiously marked sheep with mysterious powers. Reveling in his mundane life, the protagonist and un-named author reflects the sterilie modern life: our daily routines are but anesthesias against the encroaching dangers of a truly lived life. In his own words, the narrator searches for boredom instead of trying to escape it. Then the sheep spector appears, and begins to wreck his carefully constructed persona -- beginning to pump life into what before had only been shadows of emotions (e.g. J's bar, a dried beach)

This is a great leap down the rabbit hole and back -- and upon coming back, a sense of melancholic affirmation will linger with you beyond the finished words.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Contemplative Apocalypse of the Curious June 11 2004
I like to think of there being two very different kinds of novels: ones about characters, and ones about events. Some try to tell a story of something that happened, some try to tell a story about the people that fill up this world.
Of these two, the work of Haruki Murakami is definately character driven. The entier point of his books, actualy, tends to be the people in them, looking for eachother, separating and reconnecting, beeing twisted together in the braids of fate.
Some people, (esspecialy those who prefer the events-driven novels) may be frustrated with this book, because for much of it, very little in the way of events happen, and when events do happen, they are so strange and outlandish that one is half tempted to ignore them as tall tales fabricated by the characters to pull at our collective legs.
Thus, if a reader is of the right mindset, one can discount the plot and events entierely as some bizzaro-world never-never-land hallucinations, and cut straight to the jewels of the book: Murakami's ecstatoc observations about people, places, and things that are normaly so mundane in our life that we just over look them. By brining these banal things under such intense scrutiny he presents a world more fantastic then reality, more concrete than fantasy, and reminescent only of the way you must have looked at things as a child, where a bug in a jar was as fascinating as a plasma screen TV.
I will tentatively outright recomend Murakami to anyone, however, I will attach to that recomendation a warning, that you shouldn't be surprised (or take it personaly) if you don't like it.
To really appreciate his work on a personal level you have to be cut of the same cloth as a mad scientist, a Buddha, or Humphrey Bogart, although which one - I'm not yet sure.
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I never would have thought that so much could be built from such a simple premise, but Haruki Murakami manages to wrap a small woolen mammal into something much larger: a conspiracy that draws together powerful forces and interesting personalities as our protagonist is sent (somewhat against his will) on a wild sheep chase. The title is perfect: this is a book about a quest to find a sheep: both literally, figuratively and spiritually.
The plot can be confusing (and even somewhat boring in the first part of the book), but it pulls together nicely at the end. The real enjoyment, however, comes from the descriptive qualities of Haruki Murakami's writing. He is able to capture an immense quantity of personality and flavor in even the most off-hand observations. This technique was so successful in capturing my attention as a reader, that any other minor shortcomings are easily overlooked. In fact, I finished the book happily thinking "wow, what a great book!" and could only really criticize pieces upon reflection.
Combined with the plot (yes, somewhat confusing) and the characters (which seem flat on the surface, but are very "real" and likable), this descriptive quality made A Wild Sheep Chase a real joy to read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought March 20 2004
Murakami is known for his unconventional storytelling, sometimes completley surrealist, in which images have more importance than ideas. When he seems to be trying to say something cohesive, it's still hidden behind layers of strange imagery. What I liked best about A Wild Sheep Chase was that the message was so direct - and, at least to me, interesting. It seems to be suggesting that humanity and 'greatness' are irreconcilable (of course, it's a lot more complicated than that), which is especially interesting in contrast with a reference to Yukio Mishima near the beginning. I found it very though-provoking.
On other levels, though, it isn't so succesful. A lot of the characters are very thinly drawn. This may be intentional; it works in the case of the main character, who I guess is supposed to be one of those everymen, but his girlfriend, for example, has such a total absence of personality that when she disappears from the narrative, it seems like an attempt by the author to get rid of an awkward character. A few of the characters really are outstanding - the villians, and one eccentric chauffer, but they are mainly present in the first half of the book. Later, when the narrative rests entirely on the protagonist and his girlfriend, it gets somewhat boring. Its first novel status, though, is more than an excuse for that. I still recommend it.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Surreal Japanese folklore of modern times
Caught between two worlds, what is real and what is imagined? Tells the story of the Japanese need to believe in both the modern and ancient tales.
Published 7 months ago by Nan
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts Strong, Finishes Weak
I don't know if sheep ever chase their tails the way dogs do, but if this novel were a sheep, that's what it would do. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Daffy Bibliophile
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book Worth Picking Up
I never wanted to put it down. Murakami writes about a world that breaks with reality, but in a strangely tangible and relatable manner. Read more
Published on July 13 2010 by Stephanie R. Goldberg
3.0 out of 5 stars Review of the audiobook
While reading A Wild Sheep Chase, Rupert Degas played the protagonist, his girlfriend, and the butler's voices quite well. Read more
Published on March 17 2010 by Sam
3.0 out of 5 stars What exactly happened?
Like Haruki Murakami's other novels, A Wild Sheep Chase consists many events and characters that are similar to his other novels. Read more
Published on March 17 2010 by Sam
2.0 out of 5 stars This novel didn't speak to me
For the life of me I couldn't get in to this novel. I tried. I really really tried. I heard such good things about Murakami's novels that I was really looking forward to this... Read more
Published on Sept. 21 2008 by NorthVan Dave
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing.
This was a curious book... Murakami paints a mildly depressing and self-depreciatingly witty portrait of a man, detached and unconcerned, living a wholly mediocre life. Read more
Published on May 10 2008 by The Rogue Ninja
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor Story
I previously read 'The Wind Up Bird Chronicles' which I thought was great. So I knew what to expect with the 'Sheep Chase' but I was terriblly disappointed. Read more
Published on May 21 2004 by "mauka_showers"
4.0 out of 5 stars Woody Allen and Savador Dali meet Samuel Beckett, maybe.
I like this book very much because I couldn't help identifying with the central character who reminds me in some ways of Woody Allen's screen persona - a nerdish type loser of no... Read more
Published on June 28 2003 by Ian Muldoon
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