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Reading: Haruki Murakami
06/14/1998 Haruki Murakami: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles

Just finished reading Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, which I picked up at The Village Bookseller, a small, independent bookstore in Kane, Pennsylvania. (The Web site suffers from enormous images, so be warned.)

I thought Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase was an amazing achievement--he has a great touch for slipping serious weirdness into his work. The next one, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, had its moments, but was not (I think) the same achievement that A Wild Sheep Chase is. The one after that, Dance, Dance, Dance, was a significant disappointment. Ostensibly a sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase, Dance is an unsatisfying frappé of some of the characters and themes from the earlier book. Much of Murakami's writing follows several paths to dead ends, ratcheting up the creepiness as the narrator gets closer to the truth. Dance ends up violating the creepy integrity of Sheep Chase, letting the dead ends pile up without getting any closer to anything. Conversely, much pseudo-mysterious arm-waving accompanies the obvious and trivial.

What's interesting about The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles is that some of the themes and obsessions from his other books turn up again--mysteriously deserted hotel with permeable walls, the fading-in-and-out of trances, the Japanese occupation of Mongolia, sheep, etc. The themes from Dance are used much more effectively, and this book is something of a return to form. It seems that he was living in the States when he wrote the weaker books, and I'd heard that he'd moved back to Japan to write this one. I've heard that he's due to have another one out next year, so with luck he's still on form. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles is especially worth picking up if you can get a remaindered copy, as I did. As Harry, the Man with the Snake on his Face said during Scramble Days, "How can you lose?"