Monday, June 13, 2011

Notes on 'Wind-Up Bird'....

I read an old NY Times review of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle that described the wind-up bird as "a weird, unseen bird, whose cry is a recurring harbinger of evil." It also mentioned the uber-confusing scene where the childhood Cinnamon finds strange men in his backyard and ceases to speak afterward: "....another interpolated story, about a young boy whose identity is snatched by a doppelganger who steals into his bed at night."

What does it all mean? There are tons of reviews/analyses out there, but few go into detail about Japanese nationalistic or historic symbolism. The primary mention of this idea is that the message of the book is "responsibility" - that Toru Okada's new understanding of Japan's involvement in wars past teaches him to take responsibility for his own life in the way that his nation should for it's past. The subtitle of the article above is "...postwar Japan is adrift, eating fast food and wearing Van Halen T-shirts," but then gives little more support to this assertion in the text. So I have a hard time buying it. To be honest, it seems to me like the primary message of the book is "this is some crazy sh*t"--a far cry from the simple message of "responsibility". :)

Otherwise most reviewers discuss that the book reveals an experience of passing from numbness to feeling, or from oppression to freedom. All acknowledge the confusion and constant intertwining of dream and reality. No one suggests any concrete symbolism or meaning.

Nonetheless, this is one of my favorite novels that our club has read. My favorite aspect of Murakami's writing is the paired mention of the concrete and the surreal in one breath, in one action, in one moment. It created a sense of wonder in the world, in other people, and even in someone's clothing or hairstyle. Despite the often crudeness and always weirdness of this, that wonderment kept me intrigued and wanting to keep turning the pages, peering behind yet another door.

I thought this was a fantastic book and am happy to take more Murakami recommendations! And looking forward to this month's pick with another Asian theme - The Man From Beijing by Henning Mankell:

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