I’ve been putting off reading this book for awhile. Usually, any book that is over 300 pages puts me off. I had a bad experience reading Stephen King’s “IT” when I was a high school student. The experience made me extremely suspicious of books that start well and go on for a long time. [As a writer, my suspicion is that the author started writing the book without any clear sense where they were going…thus, they tend to wander without any satisfying conclusion.]
The book is strange — even by Haruki Murakami standards.
For me, the elements that make Murakami’s stories work are the main characters — the not-so-odd, kind of normal, but the end odd, slightly aloof characters that occupy the stable center of a bizarre world. They make his books oh-so plausible.
I like what one reviewer said on Goodreads about Murkami, “Basically, he’s awesome.”
Basically? Basically yes. So what else is there to write?
I read the first chapter of the book as a short story in “The Elephant Vanishes” and it works really well as a short story — a bizarre adventure into the back alley of a neighborhood that has deep, dark secrets. If you don’t want to tackle the 600 page beast, at the very least read the short story.
The book was a revelation — perhaps because it’s surrealism seems so realistic. Is it possible that something surrealistic can be so very realistic? It’s not so much that Murakami is able to make the surrealistic realistic, but rather that he exposes the lunacy of what we take as the normal and everyday.
The scenes depicting the brutality of the second World War struck an especially intense cord with me. In some ways, the intense violence of the war and the comfortable world of 1990s Japan couldn’t be further apart — but they are connected by the absurdities that proliferate in both.
In many ways — ways I cannot even begin to put into words — these absurdities are the most accurate descriptions of evil I have come across.
Again, back to the main character — he is the perfect main character, strange but practical and level-headed, he is open to the bizarre but also wants to make things concrete. He is me! Or at least, I think he is me.
Does it all tie together in the end? Of course it does. The book kind of ends in Nagasaki. And the author speaking through the main character asks, “Why Nagasaki?”
Indeed, why Nagasaki? Because I’m from Nagasaki, Mr. Wind Up Bird. It’s all connected in the end. Even this review.