on March 13, 2016
I can literally count on one hand the number of novels I haven't been able to finish, and while The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle isn't one of them, it's radiantly clear to me now, after the fact, that it should have been.
This book is about as interesting as tupperware. As interesting, actually, as a comparison to the interestingness of tupperware.
Look, there are fiction writers able to conduct prose with a spare style and language and still be every bit as technical, scintillating, and artful as their peers that do otherwise; Murakami is not one of these writers.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is exactly what many readers will assume it is before they reach page fifty: a waste, mostly, of time. I saw the thing through to make sure that was the case, that I wasn't being unfair. But it's transparent by the end, if not well before, that Murakami had little idea what he was doing with the plot, what emotional or psychological extractions he could really, tangibly make from what he had written. The non-personality of the protagonist, Toru Okada, is never redeemed in any way despite Murakami's attempts to wrestle it; the many isolated chapters taking place (in epistolary, monologue and other forms) from the P.O.V's of secondary characters really add nothing to the core story other than dress it up through a gesture of meek vanity to appear more complicated and worthwhile than it is. Not only that—not only are the connections it draws obvious and surface, but the novel spends its last breaths explicitly drawing these out on the reader's behalf, the author apparently not at all confident in his audience, so that the reader in the end barely has even mystery to hold onto. (And by the way, the blurb on the back of the book is misleading: the most intriguing element it describes doesn't even appear in earnest until the last hundred pages, and in a manner hardly worth the anticipation.)
In other words, Reader, when you're still more or less fresh into the story and questioning if this book will be worth it: it won't. There is no "it".
on July 28, 1999
Let's try real hard to be weird and mysterious as possible. Apparently Mr. Murakami didn't try hard enough. An abandoned house(possibly haunted), a wise-old teenager, a malevolent brother in-law, dreams crossing into reality, things disappearing into thin air? it's all been used, re-used, recycled and borrowed. No wonder the book is so long. Mr. Murakami attempted to string together every para-normal theme and ended up with more of a scary campfire story than a chronicle. I was unable to finish this book. The pain Creta Kano whined about to Toru Okada for what felt like three days was similar to the pain I felt reading 75% of this book. Did the Boogeyman appear in the ensuing chapters? The story sure felt like was heading in that direction. If you're looking for "flakes" try the psychic hotline instead. It's less time consuming and more entertaining.
on February 9, 2003
The only thing that kept me going past the halfway point of this 600+ page book was the hope that, by the end, the author would somehow tie together the long and eclectic list of characters and story lines. Alas, there was no attempt at all to do so, the result being a collection of seemingly random people, places, and events that bear little if any relation to one another and serve no purpose in the overall story. I was really looking forward to reading this book after reading the good reviews, but after finally finishing it I wish I had pulled a different book off my shelf.
on April 30, 2002
It has been about nine months since I read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. After having read Murakami continuously for over a year, that book burned me out and disappointed me, and now it's time to write as objective a review about it as possible. Before buying it, I thought I was "saving the best for last," as I had read every Murakami book available in the U.S. except this one.
I don't understand why so many readers think this is Murakami's best work. I wish that I could have enjoyed it, but it was a dull, uninspiring, stale read. There is no growth in this book, no energy. No sympathy for any of the characters; no ideas to awaken one; every line is just the same existentialist circus. This book goes nowhere. After having heard so many starry-eyed, enthralled readers talk about Toru Okada's voyage to the underworld(his wife leaves him, and he decides he wants to spend time in a dry well in his backyard), I thought I was in for the eighth wonder. In one word, it was boring.
I don't know why I thought this. I'm not claiming that it will seem as stale to anyone else, but I just want to warn other readers that --Murakami fans or not--- if they haven't read it, perhaps it is best to go to a library before buying it. Here I will try to give the best reasons I can to say why I didn't enjoy it. I am very familiar with Murakami's work, and perhaps if this had been the first book of his that I read, I would have liked it more. But in any case, the writing was nothing of what I had anticipated.
Toru Okada is the Murakami "everyman" taken to its most boring extreme. This is the heighth of this very Murakami concept to many, but his character is hardly believable. The story opens while he is cooking spaghetti. He has quit his job in a law firm and is trying to think at the moment, but he gets no thinking done and enjoys staying inside all day, listening to music. He seems to have no reaction, no emotion, no opinion, and his energy and spirit is lost somewhere in space. Toru Okada is pale, stale, flavorless...dry like camphor.
Perhaps the book would be more effective if it were 400 pages shorter. With a little life breathed back into it, the book's elements, story line, events, all would make for an interesting story, but by the time each major event of the book is complete, though, we've forgotten what it is we are trying to find. We have ceased to care. There's no gravity anymore; we're floating somewhere as dead as Toru Okada. Take Kumiko's disappearance, for example. It takes forever for it to happen, for it to be of importance to the reader.
In the meantime we meet even more camaphorous characters that further bog down the story. May Kashara (sp? sorry, I don't have the book anymore), the annoying teenager. Toru Okada spends what it seems like 7 or 8 chapters taking little excursions to his backyard to talk to May, who seems to be hiding something. Her leg is bad (Murakami's women characters either 1) have some sort of issue with sexuality and play the piano, 2) spend every day in a café until someone comes to pay the bill and takes her home with them, 3) have inhumanly gorgeous ears and little else, 4)have bad legs and disappear all the time); she limps. She drinks soda. She is obsessed with death and seems to have an obsessive crush on him. He's oblivious to that, of course.
Okay - all of these things have the capacity of forming a book worth reading, but the problem is that the writing is lifeless, and that even the most amazing ideas (characters going through walls, psychic alter-egos, alternate realities, dangerous and mysterious characters, etc.) all fall through and end up soggy and sickly, like discolored detergent-water on mud.
Creta Kano? Reviews make her out to be almost supernatural; it doesn't get more enigmatic than this, I thought. But she and her sister are so dull. Murakami was running out of ideas?
The only part of the book that I can say I enjoyed was when the old army officer tells about his time in Manchuria, where he saw a man being skinned alive. That could be a nice short story.
I have to be honest. I go to book three, and then threw the book in the fireplace. It just wasn't worth it. It is sadly disappointing, an anemic book. I liked other works by Murakami, though, especially The Elephant Vanishes (a collection of his best short stories), Sputnik Sweetheart, and Norwegian Wood.