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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wild, gripping, a twist in the space we call the mind...
When I was 12, Madeleine L'Engle's fantasy, "A Wrinkle in Time," effected me in a way no other book did - bridging the gap between childhood stories and grown-up novels. Like "A Wrinkle in Time" the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a fantastic tale in which a certain amount of the story occurs in places that are not of this world. We are given to...
Published on Aug. 19 2000 by R. Peterson

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Help!
I really liked the book but it's so frustrating with all the loose ends. It's like a David Lynch movie, and I feel like I wasn't equipped with the proper skills to thoroughly interpet the symbolism and meaning of the book. Someone perfectly summed up all the dissatisfing points that I would like more clarification on:
"Despite the fact that I enjoyed reading...
Published on March 24 2004 by catfightshiner28


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Help!, March 24 2004
This review is from: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel (Paperback)
I really liked the book but it's so frustrating with all the loose ends. It's like a David Lynch movie, and I feel like I wasn't equipped with the proper skills to thoroughly interpet the symbolism and meaning of the book. Someone perfectly summed up all the dissatisfing points that I would like more clarification on:
"Despite the fact that I enjoyed reading this novel very much and think very highly of it, I do feel somewhat unsatisfied with a number of plot elements in the intertwining stories that I think were not properly explained.
1.) Regarding the nature of Noboru Wataya's dark power, which Kumiko and her sister were also tangled up with: It seems to me Noboru Wataya is a sort of black magician who has learned to harness this innate ability, and yet it is hinted at that the entire Wataya bloodline is somehow affected by this evil power. This evil entity is central to the plotline (It was in some way responsible for Kumiko's horrifying streak of extramarital [affairs] which in turn triggered her disappearance), yet the phenomenon surrounding it is kept extremely vague. This mysterious something was almost certainly behind Noboru Wataya's defilement of both Kumiko's sister and Creta Kano, but as for the purpose for these defilements we are kept in the dark. When Toru finally does battle with this evil entity, it still is kept extremely vague and we never get to see it. I found myself wishing Toru would ignore Kumiko's requests and turn the flashlight on it, just for curiosity's sake.
2.) Regarding the story of the young boy who I assume is Cinnamon who hears the wind up bird and then proceeds to witness two shady looking characters burying a certain something on his property. Judging from his descriptions of these two shady characters - one tall and one short - I can only guess that they are indeed Noboru Wataya and Ushikawa. In the dream sequence the boy experiences after watching the real life events, the buried object is a human heart, which leads me to question #3...
3.) Regarding Nutmeg's Husband and Cinnamon's Father, who died in a certain hotel room under very bizarre circumstances. Nutmeg confirms that the assailants removed several of his organs and smeared his blood on the walls, etc. Again, I can only guess that Noboru Wataya, Ushikawa, and the evil being are involved here too. But there is never an explanation as to the connection between Cinnamon's father having his heart removed in a type of ritual killing, and Cinnamon Witnessing two men burying something which in the dream state is revealed to be a live beating human heart, shortly afterwards resulting in the loss of Cinnamon's voice.
4.) Regarding the dark hotel. I find myself wishing this place was explained a bit more. Who is the No Face man, or the "hollow man" as he refers to himself, and why does he decide to ally himself with Toru? Who is the whistling waiter? What is the significance of room 208? The dark hotel is obviously the domain of the dark entity with which Noboru Wataya is aligned. I can speculate that this is some type of spiritual prison maintained for Kumiko by Noboru Wataya, but I find myself wishing that the reason for this place's existence were more clearly defined. "
Does anyone have insight into these points? I would really like to read someone's in depth analysis of this book because I'm curious and frusterated as hell!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Weird events - fine. No reason for them - not fine., April 7 2004
By 
S. Becker "sminismoni" (Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel (Paperback)
I should start by saying that I usually like bizarre fiction. Well, "Wind-up Bird Chronicle" is certainly that. A "regular Joe" for the main character, surrounded by the weird and inexplicable - psychic sisters named after islands, a healer and her mute son (named after spices), a well with no water in it, and an alternative reality set in a hotel.
The beginning of the book sucks you in, written in a crisp, modern style, with no high-brow literary waffle. Very quickly you realise that something strange is happening to our "normal" protagonist, Toru Okada. The events don't seem to be connected in any way, but they are portrayed as clues, and you are batting for Toru to figure them out. The random, bizarre happenings make you excited, curious, desperate to read on.
So then you read on. And on. More strange characters and events get introduced. There are large forays into the Japanese occupation of Manchuria before WWII and gruesome stories of violence there. But still, you think (or rather hope, by now) that this will all be explained. Somehow. But alas, it isn't. And you begin to suspect that many of the things you thought were significant "clues", were actually just there to increase the "weird and quirky" factor.
At the end, several important people and occurances had just disappeared out of the novel (Malto and Creta Kano?), or were left hanging without explanation or resolve. I don't want the meaning of everything spelled out to me, I'm happy to use my imagination to figure some things out. But this book didn't even leave me with a skeleton on which to build my thoughts at the end. Only one of the themes (good vs. evil - how original) was resolved to my satisfaction.
Read Murakami's book for an introduction to his style, read it if the words "Japanese" and "bizarre" in combination sound good. But don't expect to finish it feeling contented.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wild, gripping, a twist in the space we call the mind..., Aug. 19 2000
By 
R. Peterson "I'm worldwide..." (Leverett, MA (for the moment)) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel (Paperback)
When I was 12, Madeleine L'Engle's fantasy, "A Wrinkle in Time," effected me in a way no other book did - bridging the gap between childhood stories and grown-up novels. Like "A Wrinkle in Time" the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a fantastic tale in which a certain amount of the story occurs in places that are not of this world. We are given to suspect that some of these places might be in the protagonist's mind, or, they might not be. Set in Tokyo, this is the story of a young married man named Toru Okada whose cat and wife both disappear (under different circumstances). The reader follows Toru as he searches for them both (as well as his search for "self"), and in the process encounters oddly "re"named mystics, an endearing if somewhat depressed teenage neighbor girl, an old war veteran with horrible memories from Japan's engagements in Manchuria, and a megalomaniacal brother-in-law (by far the scariest character in anything I've read in a long time). The tale gripped me and was a great read. Murakami does fantastic things with both the physical and psychological details and has a way of drawing in the reader to feel (s)he is in Toru's head.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars drama with spaghetti, April 15 2004
By 
G. B. Talovich (Wulai, Taiwan, ROC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel (Paperback)
Other reviewers have summarized the plot very well, so I will leave that out, and keep my comments short. This book reads like a No drama: full of ritualized, stylized drama hidden behind masks. In the end, you never really get inside the characters' lives; a successful novel draws you in, whether you want in or not. Partly, this is characteristic of Japan, circles within circles, barriers within barriers, but partly, I think the author is striving too hard for effect.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Murakami Makes Us Care, Then Leaves Us High And Dry, Jan. 20 2004
This review is from: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel (Paperback)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was my first Murakami, and through the first half of the book I had every reason to be impressed and excited by its promise of a rewarding and thought-provoking read. Indeed, in the early going I was mesmerized by the multifarious cast of quirky characters and the somewhat kooky plot lines, and additionally, the unbalanced mood and the underlying tension kept me eagerly focused towards the explanations and resolutions which were surely coming. I was willing, if not thrilled to leave the main storyline time after time to read and absorb the lengthy historical chapters, secure in the knowledge that by book's end, the interconnectedness of it all would be made abundantly clear. However, the second half of this book left me far more disappointed than the first had gotten me interested. Let's get this out of the way first so there is no misunderstanding: Murakami is, without a doubt, a gifted and interesting storyteller with a unique voice and an engagingly oblique manner of limning his plot. But his technical skills and economical prose style notwithstanding, he is either the laziest or most arrogant author I've ever come across. After causing us to feel so strongly about the predicaments and machinations of so many characters, and making us wonder about the resolution of and connection between so many story lines, and schooling us in a good dose of Japanese, Manchurian and Mongolese history, and escorting us through a variety of worlds, netherworlds, cyberworlds, dimensions, dreamscapes and cityscapes, we are left dangling in mid-air. Absolutely nothing we are interested in having revealed to us is ever explained or made clear. And 600 pages of unresolved set-ups is no small matter. We have been on the receiving end of long and ponderous expositions, all of which are interwoven with mysterious shadow-plays and subtle implications: What are Noboru Wataya's strange powers? how do Malta and Creta Kano ultimately tie into everything? -and please tell us why we had to hear about that red hat so many times if it didn't end up being important to the story... and what the heck is really happening at the strange sessions where Nutmeg and Cinnamon offer rich women the opportunity of fondling Toru's skull in a dark dressmaking room? where on earth had Mackerel been? was Kumiko the mysterious woman in the netherworld hotel room? and why did May Kasahara run away from home only to start writing Toru an endless stream of letters in which she refers to him as "Mister Wind-Up Bird" every other sentence (o.k., so it's cute...), all this in-between the times she is making men's wigs in the countryside 15 hours a day? and what is the significance of the strange guy with the bat? and why did Toru Okada share the trait of a throbbing blue mark on the face with Nutmeg's zookeeper father? So after 600 pages we don't get any answers to anything, and meanwhile most of the characters whose unresolved predicaments we have been wondering about for quite some time now, have either disappeared from the plot entirely, or been transmogrified into less-palatable versions of themselves. Some simply flit back into the story for a brief moment before the end mercifully comes. We are, shockingly, left without any of the answers we have been so eagerly reading towards, left to fend for ourselves with our own imaginations, abandoned to perform what was essentially the author's main responsibility to his readership. If we are not owed either the answers he has made us wonder about, or at least some reason for having asked the questions in the first place, what are we doing with our noses buried 600 pages deep in this book? In my opinion, the end result of this type of coy, shadowboxing style of writing is pointless storytelling. These are not the type of deeply- conceived characters with fascinating complexities, where it would be interesting and rewarding to ponder the various sorts of ways that life and fate might have affected them had the story resolved this way or that. It is the very situations and the bizarre potentialities of this story which imbue it with interest, and I felt bamboozled after caring enough to wonder what it all meant, only to have Murikami stop the engines in total limbo. Frankly, in this vein, I think Murakami missed his golden opportunity towards the end of the book when Toru Okada is morphed back from the strange hotel room to the bottom of the flooding well. As the well fills with water and our hero is paralyzed from the abject exhaustion of just having traveled through time, space and hotel room walls, we are not sure what will become of him, but we fear the worst. Now comes the brilliantly-named chapter, "The Story Of The Duck People"!!! Holy cow, here was Murakami's chance! As long as our author is leaving it all up to us anyway, I think he should have drowned Toru in the well and made this Duck People chapter describe a bizarre other-dimensional world, which is some kind of weird afterlife place, where everyone from the book ends up as half-duck folk, and where because of this strange new "reality" the whole plot has a chance to be explained and resolved. I'm being serious! Before I knew what this chapter actually was - alas, just a final May Kasahara letter in which she describes the antics of some real-life ducks who live by her wig factory *yawn*, I had some STRONG chills running up and down my spine. The image evoked by those weird words, "The Story Of The Duck People," made me think that Murakami had fooled us until the very last moment, blindsiding us with the unexpected coup de grace, succeeding richly at the precise moment when all seemed hopelessly unresolvable. And such is the fine line which writers walk... In "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle," in my opinion Murakami fell off the high wire, and didn't build himself a net sufficient to save himself and his book from a failed try at greatness.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Free Jazz, Jan. 7 2004
By 
Daniel C. Wilcock "journal-ist" (Washington, D.C.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel (Paperback)
We can all marvel at the sheer creativity Marakami wields in this book. But be warned, all ye fans of straightforward fiction.
Sure, it's fun to read. The main character is a kind of average-joe underacheiver whose life is thrown into a kind of cartoon-choas. But like free jazz, the virtuoso solos lead nowhere but confusion and . . .
In the end, unanswered questions abound. We never really figure out what the sinister "tendency" is that overcomes the main character's wife and turns his life upside down.
It's got something to do with sex and human brutality - but the plot is never resolved so we have little more than a sketch of a bizarre and twisted tale of modern Japan and the lingering legacy of WWII.
I'd recommend this book to those interested in modern Japan and to fans of literary art who might dig deeper into the book's symbolism.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Creates more questions than it answers, Feb. 4 2010
By 
M. Yakiwchuk (Edmonton, Alberta Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel (Paperback)
First, the good: This is a highly readable book. I started The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle about 6 weeks ago, and read it through to the end. Also good: The story is complex and multi-layered, and the action never flags. Now for the bad: Murakami writes this book almost entirely in the passive voice. This can be very effective when describing action sequences, but it is less effective when describing the main character's thoughts. Also, the main character is so riddled with doubts that he seldom understands when he is in the "real" world (i.e. the world we currently inhabit) and a dream or subconscious world. Another issue I have with this book is Murakami's overuse of simile's - specifically, overuse of the words "kind of" and "like". I prefer reading books where the author describes things as they are, not what they might be, "sort of are", or are "kind of like". While some might say this adds to the book's level of intrigue and sense of mystery, I got the feeling the author (and through him the protagonist, Toru Okada) was simply unwilling or unable to develop the ideas proposed in the book. Having said that, the story itself and the questions it asks are intriguing enough on their own to keep me reading through to the last page. I recommend The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle if you're looking to read a book that holds your attention all the way through with good story and pacing, even if the book as a whole leaves you with more questions than answers.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Jan. 15 2004
By 
Damian Kelleher (Brisbane, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel (Paperback)
I finished this book last night and my feelings are mixed. On one hand, I absolutely loved the first three hundred pages or so, but the last three hundred...ugh, they just got too weird.
The story starts off simply enough. A young couple have lost their cat, probably in the nearby alley. Things start to get a bit weirder when the man (who is unemployed), starts receiving explicit phone calls and encounters a number of strange people with odd stories. This part was all good. I liked how it was getting steadily weirder, but still remaining anchored in reality. At this stage, nothing was implausible, just very weird.
Then. The author must have gotten too caught up in making things weird, because it started to get really stupid. The main character followed a random guy around for a while and then beat him up. For no real reason (the reason was there, but it was weak, I think), a woman started spending lots of money on him, his wife disappeared under increasingly stupid circumstances, he developed...ugh...psychic powers. Etc and etc. Not too impressed with all that.
But. I was waiting for it to be all neatly wrapped up. And it wasn't. One of the main characters at the start, May, she was relegated to little more than a letter writer at the end. I didn't see the point at all of the old man telling his long (but interesting) stories about Russia/Japan hostilities in WW2.
And the *BIG SPOILERS* big bad guy at the end being his wife's brother? Sure, that was obvious, but it was never really explained just how he managed to get all these psychic powers, or what he intended to do with them, or why he was such a threat. And the psychic dream world place was never explained, not at all.*/BIG SPOILERS*
So in the end I was disappointed. But I loved the start. I can handle weird, but not stupid weird.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing worse then snobbish literary shmucks, Dec 30 2003
By 
Sal Paradise (in the general area) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel (Paperback)
Amazon.com reviews, despite being very helpful, are plagued with one major ailment: the book snob's opinion. I can't stress how furiously my scrawny arms shake when I read a defensive, hostile review chalk full of copious and unnecessary references to other books that's only purpose is to inform me why this person possesses some greater knowledge/has a "more valid" opinion then the rest of the fine people writing reviews.
It's hard to bear when these people use such revoltingly snide, pseudo-punchy literary terms as "fast food fiction," and "short attention span writing," in an attempt to emulate the scathing book reviews they long so desperately to be able to write. Tell me, how many times can one successfully classify hip literature as a product of the "Mtv Generation." Yes, it's all about the Mtv Generation. The nerve of us. We just barge onto the scene with our "fast food fiction," vintage track jackets and ipods, with complete disregard to the standards of profundity established by an aging Gen-X dufus.
Don't pay any mind to these people. Chances are, you aren't pretentious enough to have a rigid set of standards and won't send down lighting and pestilence on anything that fails to meet them. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles is wildly imaginative, and that alone makes it worth reading. Murakami writes an intensely surreal story in a simple, straightforward tone that creates a nice contrast between the books' protagonist and the events surrounding him. It's deeply emotional. I could say more, but you should just experience it yourself. It's a deliriously entertaining read. Just go out and try it. Ignore the imposters and spite the cynics.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Subtler than it seems, Dec 29 2003
By 
Adam Pelavin (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel (Paperback)
-
Nothing happens.
The thought always comes to mind when I think of "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle". It's not literally true, but it is perhaps the quickest summary of what impresses me so much about the book. Tumultuous events surround Toru Okada, yet in the course of the book he rarely leaves his own neighborhood, and stays mostly in his own block. For a good part of the story it seems that he is a passive receptacle for the stories of the bizarre characters who enter his life. His wife disappears, and for a long time his only response seems to be waiting for others to help him.
Nothing happens. Or: the journey is almost all internal. There is a stillness to Murakmi's story, a meditative quality that I haven't seen in any other contemporary fiction. This seems to me the novel's primary brilliance, for it is in stillness that Murakami is able to show the psychic chaos underlying what might be easily dismissed as straightforward events.
Toru's path is never straight, but the next step is always clear. In this (and others of the book's elements) there are echoes of Lieutenant Slothrop from Gravity's Rainbow, but where Pynchon decides that such seemingly arbitrary movement can only end in dissolution, Murakami makes what seems to me a much braver choice, because it means that he needs to bring everything together in the end.
A teacher of mine was once told (by a fellow writer at a conference in Argentina) that Americans misapprehended Magical Realism. "You have a complicated name for it," the writer said, "but really it's right out there in the hills." I think something similar can be said for Murakami's more "fantastic" elements; to me they seem anything but arbitrary. Some characters appear to drop out of the story, some plot lines to remain unresolved, but I don't think Murakami leaves pieces unfinished simply because he ran out of steam, or found the main plotline completed before he had a chance to tie up loose ends. The structure of the novel seems both deliberate and intelligent to me, although some of the important connections between events remain deeply implicit.
Of course none of this is worth anything if the book doesn't move you. But this in my opinion is where Murakami makes his bravest decisions of all: in spite of the somewhat detached tones of Toru and the other characters, in spite of the clear tendency towards the kind of cynicism that is so popular in contemporary literary fiction, "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" ends up being a deeply emotional work. It has been very rare in the past few decades for a book to intelligently handle love as a primary element without resorting to some form of detachment; this book does it as well as any other I've read.
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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki Murakami (Paperback - Sept. 1 1998)
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