It’s becoming a motif here that I feel like I need to apologize for not already having been familiar with a particular author. It’s like, what was the point of that major in English (not to mention an entire childhood spent inside of various books) if I haven’t even read any ______? And then to write about what I’ve just read, I feel that I need to be completely familiar with that author’s work, rep, etc. and that it then must be the most brilliant critique (or whatever) ever.
Dear everybody, I am sorry for all of my reading sins. I’m sorry for the subpar writing I have done. I’m sorry for the Murakami I have failed to read. I will try to do better. Help me show your love. Amen.
I read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle on a trip to DC. Reading while traveling is really the best. With a book this good, the time just flies by, and you don’t care that you have waited half an hour at the Metro station for your ride. You really don’t! And if your hosts need to study, since this is a last minute trip, you can offer to just disappear into the corner of their apartment with said book. Eating alone at an airport cafe is fine too when you have a book along, since it provides you with both a way to avoid the awkward feeling of trying to keep yourself company while waiting for the food to arrive and a way to avoid eye contact with any other solo fellow travelers who are hankering for awkward conversation.
Have I convinced you yet about the benefits of bringing a book with you on a trip? Fine, then let me convince you to bring this one. It’s big. It’s complex. It’s about love, death, national memory, World War II, sex, responsibility, and dreams, and it’s not Gravity’s Rainbow. All through it, you just have this sense of trust in both the author and his protagonist. You know everything will be okay for both the people in the book and the reader. Reading this is like being outside and someone is flying a kite. I don’t usually dogear the parts of a book I like, but I did it on this one.
The only thing is that the pace shifts. For maybe about the first two-thirds, you’re following Toru Okada quite closely, day to day and hour to hour. Then, after he meets Nutmeg and Cinnamon Akasaka, you’re not as close. The pace picks up and things happen almost too quickly, and it just wasn’t as deeply felt, or at least I didn’t think it was. I think that’s one of the things that can happen with big books – the world of the book gets built really fastidiously and beautifully, and then it feels like the author tries to fit in too much plot too close to the end. Maybe that’s just me or my pace of reading, or maybe it has to do with the various changes and elided chapters in the English translation.
Anyway, you should definitely read this book. It’s beautiful, it’s visceral, and you can trust it. I’m not sure why I end up urging others to read all the books I read, but it’s probably because I want to discuss them with someone. And because I think it’s impossible to have read too many books.