I didn’t read this book. I listened to it. All 29+ hours of Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle! It took me nearly four and a half months to get through it all, partly due to an ipod malfunction and partly due to the book’s occasional inability to hold onto the reader/listener. Credit to Naxos books who delivered a top-notch product, it’s a great listening experience, which is enhanced by Murakami’s descriptive dreamlike prose.
The Wind up Bird Chronicle is the very long, bizarre dream tale of Toru Okada. He’s unemployed, losing direction and his wife, who abruptly leaves him for no apparent reason. As he trudges through life, reality gets twisted as Okada gets sucked into the inner worlds of supporting characters. Murakami’s prose is strange, unsettling and mesmerising. His ability to delicately nuance the inner worlds of supporting characters is masterly, amazingly quirky and memorable.
Toru Okada is postmodern hero; an immensely passive man who voluntarily drowns himself by allowing tidal waves of other people’s interior universes envelop him. As he ambles through life struggling to find meaning and direction, he struggles to come to grips with loneliness, isolation and confusion.
Crafty dream logic runs throughout this hefty tome, to weave an intricate cross-stitch between interior worlds. Unfortunately Wind-Up Bird ultimately becomes a victim of the chaotic and superficial postmodern society it sets out to critique and explore. It scratches so many interesting surfaces but never truly is able to penetrate emotional depths and affections for the characters as novel of this volume warrants. In the end you realises that the reader is observing an observer. It’s like walking through a desolate art gallery – or hotel corridor – glancing the various worlds that pass us by briefly, fleetingly, fragmentally; immediately interesting but unsatisfying.
Fortunately the Japanese will never fail at being the one of the largest exporters of all things funny, cute and quirky. Wind-Up Bird cleverly and uniquely mixes the cute and the weird, ensuring – despite its unsatisfying denouement and pseudo-mystical stammering – it’s ability to intrigue and mesmerize.
If Wind-Up Bird and Foster-Wallace’s Infinite Jest, two titanic postmodern canon entries, epitomise higher levels of postmodern writings, then truly I am a fish out of water, stuck in the wrong era, craving modernity, meaning and depth, a good old fashion story arc with a classic narrative and hero.
Till next time gadgets.