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4.3 out of 5 stars
A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel
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Showing 1-10 of 18 reviews(4 star)show all reviews
on 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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on June 28, 2003
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 particular physical attraction who has a way with words and who usually gets a very attractive woman to sleep with, though he spends most of his time rueing what he HASN'T got and is continually in search of that SOMETHING. This novel is about a quest. About dreams. And finally, about the realisation that life is about bugger all, so you'd better enjoy that friendship, that meal, that lovemaking, that scene, that memory, and relax a bit and have a laugh. There are laughs aplenty in this sly book, many of the laughs are in the details such as the scene where a very damaged black moggy cat sitting on the front seat of a distinguished limousine causes the Chauffer to lower the windows from time to time on account of the deletirious odour the cat emits from time to time in the form of brief but audible farts.
And I suppose, in our life we don't wander around the shopping mall thinking "themes" or "great and noble thoughts" but more like " Why does that woman get into the 8 item express lane when she clearly has 11 items?" Incidentally, the novel is also a very likeable and satisfying read.
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on August 13, 2002
Like Pallahniuk or Nick Hornby (his counterparts in America and England respectively), Murakami's first-person narrative has a fast-paced, personal feel. The plot unfolds in the same way such an unbelievable tale might be recounted on the stool of an intimate bar. Our hero, a recently divorced 29 year-old advertiser from Tokyo, is forced into A Wild Sheep Hunt based on his connecton to a mysterious photograph; a photograph that on the closest examination reveals a nonexistent breed of sheep. In the course of the novel, Murakami's readership is introduced to a panorama of remarkable characters and bizzare coincidences. We eventually understand that the events we're witnessing are controled by something of an invisble hand. For the greater part of the novel we are a part of a mystery of the highest form.

On the otherhand when the loose ends were quickly tied in the last three or four chapters, I was left with the feeling that the answers were less than satisfactory. There were definately moments riddled with a depth of insight (his thoughts on his ex-wife's slip or the discussion about the reproduction of body cells, come to mind), but on the whole i felt the novel was a bit superfiscial; that it was, to some extent, just an outrageous story. Murakami's inclination towards the abstract metaphor and his quiky descriptions of the visual were ofte inspired but after 350 pages the device was stale. Though the journey was extremely interesting, the destination reached was, for me, hardly worth the exciement.
This was the first piece i'd read by Murakami and I look forward to reading other works (especially The Elephant Vanishes), but it won't be tomorrow that i rush out to by one.
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on October 9, 2001
Meanwhile the narrator's friend who sent this infamous picture, known only as The Rat, writes cryptic letters to the narrator, leading him on another sort of chase. The Rat never tells where he is or why he is writing. He seems to want something from the narrator, but this quest for what the Rat wants is just as mysterious as the chase through Japan for a unique sheep.
The narrator is given two months to find the sheep. He decides to embark on the search, reluctantly, because it seems he has no alternatives. His new girlfriend, who is entirely unremarkable save for her stunning ears, accompanies him and, interestingly, often predicts the turns their path will take in her dreams. The two-month deadline in curtailed as the Boss takes a turn for the worse; they want to locate the sheep before the Boss dies.
The narrator and his girlfriend travel to Hokkaido, where all clues point to the sheep being. The girlfriend has a feeling that they should stay at a place called The Dolphin Hotel. The narrator hates it there, but later they discover that the building used to be the Hokkaido Ovine Hall. SHEEP AT LAST! It also turns out that the father of the hotel's owner lives there and maintains the Sheep Reference Room on the 2nd floor of the hotel. The father is known as The Sheep Professor. The narrator and his girlfriend talk to the man and discover that the Sheep Professor indeed had been inhabited by the very same sheep they were chasing. He was a changed man after his encounter. "Can you imagine what it's like to be left with a solitary thought when its embodiment has been pulled out from underneath you, roots and all?" The Sheep Professor goes on, "The sheep that enters a body is thought to be immortal. And so too the person who hosts the sheep is thought to become immortal. However, should the sheep escape, the immortality goes." Apparently, before the sheep embodied the Sheep Professor, no sheep of this kind had existed in Japan. The Sheep Professor had been a soldier in China, and that is when the sheep jumped into his body.
The hotel owner sympathised with the narrator and his girlfriend and their quest for the sheep, but he had his own problems. He had never been able to get close to his father at all, and he blamed the sheep, "Sheep hurt my father, and through my father, sheep have also hurt me."
The narrator continues to search for the sheep but the search leads him closer and closer to where he believes his old friend Rat is staying. The narrator and girlfriend head to a villa up in the mountains where, it turns out, Rat must have been and might still be. Once there, the narrator begins to have encounters with a Sheep Man who gives him cryptic warnings. The girlfriend disappears mysteriously in the middle of the night and the Sheep Man tells the narrator he will never see her again. Eventually reality and fantasy mix, until it is not clear anymore (to the reader or to the narrator) what is quite real and what isn't. The narrator begins to realise that everything happening at the villa is like a "grotesque comedy of mishaps".
As it turns out, the sheep with the cream-coloured star on its back had inhabited Rat, and he was the one orchestrating the whole affair of the narrator having to seek him out. The Rat is interacting with the narrator, but the Rat is basically already dead. The Rat recognised the destructive power of the sheep and had been driven crazy and decided to make sure the sheep could never escape again and hanged himself. The book ends in a surreal haze. Nevertheless, an entertaining haze.
Sheep Chase is not Murakami's best work, but it is fascinating and highly detailed and unusual.
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on September 13, 2001
Wild Sheep Chase is just like it sounds in the title. It is a comedic meandering through the life of an aimless, newly divorced man with a penchant for the female ear. He works in an ad and translating agency. Actually, he suffers from indifference, lethargy and displays no ambition. He is approached by a mysterious man, asking him to seek out a specific sheep of a breed unknown to Japan. The sheep is distinctive for a cream coloured star located on its back. The mysterious man tells the narrator that this sheep once inhabited his boss (as well as various other individuals) and had ruined their lives when the sheep chose to leave these unwilling, unwitting hosts. The man�s boss was once a powerful and important man, but now barely clung to survival, with a cyst in his brain and unbearable hallucinations (80% of them haunted by sheep). At first, the narrator is confused: why him? First of all, he viewed himself so mediocre that he was not qualified for a mission of this magnitude and impossibility. (�Age certainly hasn�t conferred any smarts on me. Character maybe, but mediocrity is a constant, as one Russian writer put it. Russians have a way with aphorisms. They probably spend all winter thinking them up.�) The narrator argues that because he has nothing to lose, the man and his boss cannot threaten him. The man counters that every man has something to lose, but they only realise it when it is gone. It becomes clear also that the narrator has published a photo of this particular sheep (without knowing it). The narrator�s friend had sent him the picture and had asked him to distribute the picture as far and as wide as possible, to be seen by as many eyes as possible.
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on September 21, 2000
I enjoy Japanese authors, Kawabata, Dazai, Mishima. All very different in style, but all presenting serious work. So when I randomly picked this book up after seeing it was by a Japanese author, I really had no idea what I was getting into.
I more or less read it in one sitting because it's quirkiness grabbed me. A lot of people compare Haruki Murakami to Kurt Vonnegut. But I have to tell you, after reading nearly all of Vonnegut's work (Excluding Happy Birthday Wanda June, and the two "new" books, Bagombo Snuff Box and God Bless You Dr Kavorkin), Vonnegut is a thousand times more lucid.
That isn't to say I didn't like A Wild Sheep Chase, it was bizzare, humorous, and at times touching (when the protagonist visits the beach he used to hang out at, and finds that it has been filled in and there now sits pavement really affected me.)And in many ways the non clarity could be considered a strength. When you have a story as absurd as this one, trying to explain the universe in which it is operating can cause it to just fall apart.
But I was also left with a feeling of, "What the hell is this guy trying to say?" Then agian, does he really *have* to say anything?
Interesting characters and extremly fun. I enjoyed it and would recommend A Wild Sheep Chase.
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on December 2, 1999
The main character must find the special sheep with a star-mark within one month - the main character must have started the adventure by the strange man's order. This whole story is covered with mystery, so we can't say clearly why, where, when the story happened - and of course, this is the charm of the book. "A Wild Sheep Chase" is a mystery, but for me, the interesting point of this story is the main charecter's thoughts and interpretation of the world. Sometimes he notices really small things that we always ignore or don't care about and makes us agree with his thinking. For example, when he saw himself in the mirror, he noticed, "This is me everyone see.", but at the same time, he thought that the man in the mirror might just copy him, and perhaps, he might copy the man. The thinking is sort of common, but it hides in our mind deeply in daily life, so It remainds us that we consider it in the same way, and we can make sure of it. The reason these things happen is because he is a ordinary person with a normal life. That is, he is seme as us. Usually people try to escape from boredom, but he doesn't do that. When people come to accept their life, people might notice importance of life. I recommened this book to the person who likes mystery of course, and the person who tries to escape from foredom because you can find from the book not only something interesting but also something important. When you read the book, you could learn how you find the importance from your ordinary life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2010
I never wanted to put it down. Murakami writes about a world that breaks with reality, but in a strangely tangible and relatable manner. The 'chase' aspect of the plot appealed to my love of detective fiction, while the absurd concept of a metaphysical sheep provided a twist of whimsy to the book.
Definitely a book worth picking up.
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on September 25, 2002
Uhm. Yea. I can honestly say this is the most original novel I have ever read. The hunt for the evil sheep with a star on its back...No one but Murakami would think of something quite this insane. Which isn't to say to book is bad. It's manic and rarely makes sense, yes, but it *works*.
This is my second Murakami book, the first being Wind-up Bird, which I loved. Compared to Wind-up Bird, though, A Wild Sheep Chase comes off more like a short story than an independant novel. It is not any where near as spawling or epic as Wind-up, nor is the plot as deep, or the characters as rich. But inpsite of this, I still really liked A Wild Sheep Chase. No, there were not any profound themes, and my view of the world has not really changed. But man, was that one enjoyable read... Great, but shallow, story. Great, but hardly dynamic, character. And, most importantly, GREAT writing. Man I love Murakami...
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on December 20, 2002
First off, I am a big Murakami fan. This was the first book of his I read, but I read quite a few others since. This is one is still one of my favourties. I really liked how westernized the heroes were in their daily actions and habits, yet how that made them only more non-western, more japanese, more human. Contrasts of all types abound. Writing is strong, Mr. Murakami is a great writer and Alfred birnbaum did an amazing job translating. The language is fluid, forming itself on my mind and adding an atmosphere and context all by itself without the use of words for descriptions, thoughts, and feelings.

As with many other books, the story itself is somewhat secondary, the quest is more important than its result. In this book, however, I did not even thirst for a climax. I just savoured each page and hoped to find more of the same in other books by the author. I did.
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