Japan's most highly regarded novelist now vaults into the first ranks of international fiction writers with this heroically imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II.
In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat.... Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo.
As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid 16-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria.
Gripping, prophetic, suffused with comedy and menace, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a tour de force equal in scope to the masterpieces of Mishima and Pynchon.
©1997 Haruki Murakami (P)2013 Random House Audio
"Dreamlike and compelling.... Murakami is a genius." (Chicago Tribune)
Murakami's wonderfully delicate, mysterious and absorbing novel is terribly marred by the narration here; Degas renders the main character unpleasantly arch and snarky initially and seems to be struggling without success to find the right voice for him throughout; children and teens have voices like obnoxious TV cartoon characters, and both female and children's voices are indicated by a very rapid, jerky, breathy, oddly pitched delivery that's just all wrong and actually jarring. The tone throughout is much too theatrical and feverish for the quiet deeps, wry humor and reflective unfolding of this tale.I loved reading this book - Murakami's stories never seem abstract and 'experimental' in the off-putting way at all and I can never put them down. Other narrators have done Murakami really, really well (1Q84, with multiple readers, is terrific, as is Kafka By the Shore with Sean Barrett and Oliver Le Sueur ). Degas just never gets the mood of the work right, to my mind.
I'm a Murakawa fan; would just add to the many reviews of his work something that's often not mentioned - not only are they deeply beautiful, his novels are really fun to read. I think he's often made out to be less accessible than he is; newcomers should just relax and flow along with the narrative and not be too worried about assembling things - just kick back and enjoy the ride. Even with a poor narrator it's a dandy.
No indeed. I'm really not such a hard critic of audiobook performances and appreciate many readers deeply, but a good reader needs to understand and respect his characters and not deliver caricatures.
I didn't closely follow the outline suggested here (seriously?), but would say that this is a tremendous tale, difficult to put down for those who like Murakami's work, and widely reviewed elsewhere; I only wanted to warn readers that they might be unfairly put off this author by the disappointing performance here.
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
A weird metaphysical (I KNOW it is a bit redundant to start off ANY review of Murakami by dressing it up in adjectives like weird & metaphysical) novel. I remember wanting to buy this book back in 2007, but I was poor and just about to get married and it seemed like my limited money would be better spent on bread and cheese. Now I own three (four if you count audible), but I still wish I bought it. I still regret NOT buying it. Not necessarily because I wish I had read it earlier. I think I'm reading Wind-Up Bird Chronicle at exactly the right point for me, but just because I would have liked to carry that book with me like some form of lucky talisman during the last 17 years (kinda like what I did with Infinite Jest). And it is more than that ... I actually remember in my brain THE book. Displayed with the bird eye out against a support beam in the bookstore. I regret not buying THAT book.
I've now read about all of Murakami. Well not quite. I still have to read: 1Q84, Sputnik Sweetheart, Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche, Hear the Wind Sing & Pinball, 1973. That's it. After THAT I'm done. Anyway, my point is even after reading 11 or more previous Murakami novels I still exit W-BC a bit uncertain.
I liked it a lot and think it is an important novel and worth the listen/read, but it just seemed a bit too untidy or ambiguous. I KNOW. The novel is built on ambiguity, uncertainty, evil, weird coincidences, funky time, projections, reflections, shadows. My only criticism is that sometimes the shadows seemed to cover the reflections (metaphorically speaking). Sometimes, I read a page and was left with not just a WTF moment, but exhausted from not knowing WHY it twas a WTF moment. Anyway, there still is no escaping that the novel is huge, creepy, cool, and feels like David Lynch should make the movie (complete with midgets and nymphets). For me it was a 21st century novel written in the last decade of the 20th century, reflecting on the evils and history of the past and present Japan.
The storyline was complex and VERY imaginative. From reading some of the other reviews, it seems that people either love the narration or hate it. I really enjoyed that Mr. Degas was able to create such distinct voices for each of the characters. It made the audio easy to follow. I admit that some of the voices were a bit exaggerated, consistent with the perceived nature of the particular character, but for me, that was a plus. I enjoyed both the story and the performance.
I've now ventured through more of his books but this remains my favorite. Performance seems like it should be annoying, but somehow is just perfect instead.
Many of the performer's voices were distractingly awful. His voice for May sounds exactly like a man doing a comedic impression of an annoying teenage girl for a broad comedy, his voice for Ushikara is a bad villain stereotype from a low budget Hanna Barbera cartoon, and he insists on reading the 'news story' chapters using a poor imitation of a classic newsreel narrator. The only thing that kept me listening was the wonderful writing of Murakami itself, which deserves the respect of a competent vocal actor.
I've recently discovered Murakami and his style of writing is the perfect form of escapism for me: mysterious, fantastical, evocative, and darkly funny. I particularly love the sense of isolation of some of the main characters as they do mundane things in their Tokyo apartments. Sometimes the author's ambiguity and leaving loose ends untied is a bit of a letdown as you reach the end of his novels, but the overall journey more than makes up for it. I've listened to 1Q84 and now The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and decided to leave a review because of the contrast in the quality of the narrations. I have not been able to write a review of 1Q84 because I listened to it on a friend's account, but I will once I purchase the audiobook myself, which I intend to do as I loved it. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle I cannot entirely recommend on Audible however. I wish I had read the book instead. Rupert Degas voices many of the characters as cliched caricatures, particularly the female characters. I did enjoy what he did with Lieutenant Mamiya, but May Kasahara, one of the characters I most enjoyed, was a disaster. Degas reduced the morbid and reckless teenager to an absurdly annoying cheerleader.I don't understand how someone can read a phrase like 'I really did have nightmares in that place- all the time- and I'd wake up soaked in sweat, but even then I'd wish I could have kept dreaming, because my nightmares were way better than reality in that place.' and think 'I know, I'll do my best Kim Kardashian on speed impression!' Maybe it was meant to be extra disturbing that way. Didn't work for me.
Absolutely! Can David Lynch direct it?
I didn't realize it but I love mysteries. Science Fiction and Fantasy are a particular favorite though I like travel logs, science essays.
The narration was so distracting to me that I wondered how the story would be different with a better narrator. Degas fails to take into account that these people are Japanese and the story takes place in Japan. I'm not saying the characters should have Japanese accents, but the 15 year old girl shouldn't sound like an irritating Valley Girl! Some of the female voices mocks the characters they represent. It's painful listening to Mai and the ditzy voice discounts any value to her words.
None of the voices match the characters personalities. Our protagonist sounds more like an effeminate single guy than a suburban married man, and the character of Ushi (spelling?) sounding like Peter Lori detracts heavily from the story. It makes it too camp.
The story is at times stunningly graphic. The ability of the writer to conjure up scenes of torture and man's inhumanity to man may be a bit too much for those who are more sensitive. There is the ability for the horror to become rather too vivid when your mind visually fills in the scenes of men being skinned alive. I am not a person who is in any way delicate and some of it made me blanch.
This is a story of surreal fantasy and there are times the reader feels lost as to what is going on or feel they've missed something. A few of the subplots feel slightly unresolved as well.
The sex scenes are also relatively graphic but not so bad as torture scene by far.
Basically a very ordinary man who is floundering a bit in life and is feeling directionless after resigning from his job and has his life turned upside down the moment that his cat disappears. Murakami likes adding cats to his stories. From there, he gets odd phone calls from even stranger people. Which culminate in the life altering event of his wife disappearing. He is then thrown into contact with many odd and usually attractive women leaving the reader to wonder why he never contemplated locking the door and disconnecting his phone. From here on out we hear the stories of soldiers mentally scarred by the atrocities of war and some women with special gifts who often have been violated in sexual or psychological ways or both. If this all sounds confusing it is.
The book is the story of a living nightmare which our protagonist goes through where he becomes equally odd and often has a far too calm way of handling it. It's a bit tough to figure out how he really feels at times as most of us would not have reacted with equal equanimity at being trapped in a well.
Honestly, I couldn't put it down, but I'm not sure how much I enjoyed it. I would suggest that you read this one instead of listening to it to avoid the narration that will most likely leaving you distracted from the story thinking about the narration quirks and failures and how it effects the interpretation of the text.
Sarah in Brooklyn.
Mountain biking, surfing, skiing, literature, philosophy, psychology, theology and my ipod.
Yes, the brilliance of Murukami from IQ84 and Kafka on the Shore shines through in 60% of the novel. The editing down in English from the original needed another 40% reduction. Also, until a third of the way through the book it was hard to connect with any characters, but I'm glad I kept going. The quality of writing as it pertains to the overall flow is uneven and does not follow the flow of the books noted above. And strange characters with strange intonations of the characters. Kreta Cano made the most amazing transformation, but was such a flat character even so. Murukami went on to hone his style more coherently and more interestingly.
3 words: surreal, sinister, gripping.
An ordinary life goes slowly and then not so slowly off the rails, until the line between dreams and waking is no longer clear. The cast of characters is rich and interesting.
If felt like the author kind of gave up on making a coherent story of all the threads he had been drawing out through the book. Instead of the lines converging, they mostly proceed independently towards the horizon. The Manchurian war episodes contrast jarringly with the domestic life portrait.
By far the best thing about the experience. The range of different accents and affects he brings to the characters, like the threatening messenger or the teenage girl, is wonderful. The quiet, sibilant politician's voice will stick in my ear for a long time.
It certainly kept me awake late several nights.
I'm terrible at literary criticism. I think I read more from my emotional side than analytic side. So having said that...
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was like taking a long, leisurely drive on a windy and scenic road with someone else in the driver's seat. Here and there the scenery transfixes, and you slow down to take a more careful look. Other places the curves are tight and you look over the edge to the abyss, and thankfully have confidence that the driver will keep to the road.
This is my second Haruki Murakami novel, the first being IQ84. I had no idea what I was getting into with the IQ84. With The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle I was more prepared. The story is part absolutely mundane and part completely surreal with words that make it all flow together.
I don't know why I like these books, but I do. In a way I enjoyed this more than IQ84. In both there is violence, however surreal and fictional (in both senses of the word). But The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is more of a journey, like a road, that leads you from one place to the next. There is clearly a hero and a villain. Well, clearly in the Haruki Murakami sense of the world.
The story's narrator Toru Okada is also an observer, but he has faith in the outcome and his intentions are clear. He's willing to take whatever path is shown to him, and finds a few of his own making. Those around him share their stories while paving the way, or create diversions that may or may not help him on his way. Sometimes The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, made me feel like Alice in Wonderland, in more ways than just the disappearing cats.
The reader did a wonderful job.
If you can go along for the ride, the journey is quite lovely.
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