I've decided that I like books better when I have some idea of what's going on. If I am following the protagonist through a dream-world, great; if I am simply reading about his real life, well, okay, but it better be interesting. In The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, I found myself completely distracted by trying to figure out where I was and who all the random people were. At first, I admit that I was intrigued; I was excited to see how the author tied the parts together. Eventually, however, I found the reading incredibly monotonous and excruciatingly pointless. I tried to figure out why I needed to care about anyone in the book besides Mr. & Mrs. Okada and Noboru Wataya, but if there are three characters I don't know well, it's those three. It was like reading a bad mystery novel where the author throws out clues that have absolutely nothing to do with anything except to prove that the reader is obviously not cool enough to know. At the end of this novel (yes, I finished it, which is more than I can say about Portrait of a Lady), I was more annoyed than anything. I hate reading books where I end up feeling like the joke's on me. What was I supposed to conclude or learn? How were the secondary characters even relevant? Even the author can't seem to understand what to do with them, so he just stops writing about them (case-in-point: Malta and Creta?) After 600+ pages, I guess I expected a bit more closure. Instead, the most memorable portion of this book for me is the description of filleting a human being. Gee. I needed to know that. I officially change my "thumb" ranking to almost true disappointment. I don't know why, but there's still a small part of me I guess that liked it, and maybe that's the point of the whole book.