For my 32nd (well, a bit belatedly), I decided to treat myself to my Harvill Secker luxury limited centenary edition of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I was disappointed with 1Q84, but now I feel that I’m back with Murakami at his finest.
There seems to be a pattern to Murakami plots: the dull, monotonous life of an everyman/woman is suddenly interrupted by a series of strange happenings. Toru Okada in this book is a typical Murakami protagonist: he listens to good music, is well-organized, has these idiosyncrasies… For example, when he’s stressed, he does some ironing to unwind! (…exactly the opposite of my idea of relaxation) He has broken down the task of ironing a shirt into 12 distinct phases, starting with the outer surface of the collar and ending with the left hand-cuff, and follows them as if performing a ritual in order to clear his mind. I love how Murakami characters are pragmatic and at peace with mundane tasks. More Murakamesque stuff: his cat disappears and while searching for it, he discovers a blind alley at the back of the row of houses, and he gets mysterious telephone calls. Weirdness proceeds exponentially in Murakami books; just as you start thinking “now how’s he going to get out of that?” the character gets into an even weirder situation. This gives his novels an almost esoteric quality. On pages 29-30, for example, Toru explains to his wife that many horses die on days when there’s a full moon. Apparently an approaching full moon totally disrupts their brain waves and they start having all sorts of ailments. And on full-moon nights, vets who specialize in horses have a very busy time.
Among Murakami’s books, this one also has the best title in my opinion. It’s named after this unidentified bird that cries with a mechanical coo, perched on a tree branch near Toru’s house. Toru likes to say that it “winds the spring of the world” – what a lovely idea. The wind-up bird is featured on the very elegant, minimalist cover.
Too bad I have to leave all this loveliness and get back to research now.