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The #winditup2013 Read-Along Wrap-Up: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Book Three)

Badge for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle Readalong

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Book Three)
By Haruki Murakami
Translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin
Knopf, 1997
#Winditup2013 Readalong hosted by Ti at Book Chatter

Despite having until May 12th to read the third and final section, I fell behind in this readalong. (May is such a busy month!) To see what others had to say, read Ti’s and others’ thoughts on Book Three of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

In a nutshell, what takes place in Book Three?
In Book Three (The Birdcatcher – October 1984 to December 1985), time seems to stretch out for Toru Okada. Where each of the first two books covered only a period of a few months in Toru’s strangely changed life, Book Three extended out beyond a year, during which Toru is given a new job, one that infuriates his brother-in-law/evil nemesis Noboru Wataya, and brings Toru closer to gaining his missing wife (and his lost life) back. As incomprehensible events seem to spiral more and more out of the narrator’s control, the calmer and more confident he seems to become, possibly because he grasps that if much of what is happening is in his head, not in the real world, he can learn to control what happens in this parallel realm.

Murakami has admitted in the past that he never knows how a story will end when he begins to write it. Based on interviews, this was particularly true with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Do you feel that this technique added something to the story? Or do you feel that it had the opposite effect?
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is one of those books that I could see being annotated throughout with extensive notations and references by fanatic readers. (Maybe it has been?) It was difficult to keep all the seemingly random story threads in my head as I was reading; I should have made notes. It reminded me of ongoing TV series like The X-Files where sometimes a plot line that seemed highly significant trails off into nothing, and some extremely minor incident turns out to be the key to the whole puzzle. Even if it’s true that the seemingly random plot events really were random, I believe the author succeeded in bringing all of his surreal story lines together in the end.

Your turn! What’s your final verdict?
What a long, strange trip it’s been! — That’s how I would sum it up. With each plot digression, introduction of a new character, and self-contained story in Book Three I would think “What the heck does this have to do with anything?” but each snagged my interest and I would get caught up in it, only to have it abruptly dropped. The author isn’t trying to create a world a reader could comfortably sink into; he keeps the story constantly in flux. So if you like mysterious, surreal worlds where anything can and does happen, but you’re never sure why (or whether there’s a reason at all), you will probably like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. If you don’t like to puzzle over events in a novel or wonder what the author’s meaning is, steer clear of this one!
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was the second novel by Haruki Murakami that I’ve read. (The other was Kafka on the Shore.) I still want to read Norwegian Wood and IQ84. When’s the next readalong?

Many thanks to Ti at Book Chatter for hosting the #winditup2013 Read-Along!

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The #winditup2013 Read-Along Update: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Book Two)

Badge for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle Readalong

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Book Two)
By Haruki Murakami
Translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin
Knopf, 1997
#Winditup2013 Readalong hosted by Ti at Book Chatter

I’ve been enjoying the comfortable pace of the #Winditup2013 Readalong with Ti at Book Chatter. We just finished up Book Two, and have until May 12th to read the third and final section. To see what others have to say, read Ti’s and others’ thoughts on Book Two of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

In a nutshell, what takes place in Book Two?
In Book Two (Bird as Prophet – July to October 1984), so much happens that it’s really hard to summarize events. The book starts with the narrator (whose name his almost never used) eating breakfast alone for only the second time in years. His life as he knew it is over – his job is gone, then the cat disappeared, now his wife is gone. Only with these absences does he realize that he doesn’t know who he really is. Mysterious events happen, but he can’t decode the meaning of any of them. He decides that the best way to focus his thoughts and avoid distractions that might be meaningless is to lower himself into the dark depths of a dry well to think. Maybe he is also hoping to have an illuminating experience similar to that described by one of his mysterious visitors, Lieutenant Mamiya, who had been tortured and thrown down into a well to die.

Which part of Book Two did you enjoy the most?
This is a tough question because none of Book Two is really enjoyable in the sense of living vicariously through the characters or feeling happy because something pleasant happens to the characters. I’d say the long conversation between May Kasahara and Toru in her backyard was the part I enjoyed the most because there was a teensy-tiny bit of resolution to one person’s anxiety about life there (May’s). Everything and everybody else is still pretty unresolved and unsettling at this point.

Each chapter has a unique title. Which title is your favorite so far?
The Simplest Thing – Revenge in a Sophisticated Form – The Thing in the Guitar Case (Ch. 16)

What is your favorite quote in Book Two? (This quote sums up Book Two, I think!)

Too many things were being left unexplained. The one thing I understood for sure was that I didn’t understand a thing. A dull throbbing started in my head. I couldn’t think anymore. I felt no urge to do anything. I took a sip of lukewarm coffee and went on watching the rain.

Kumiko’s letter is an explanation of why she did what she did, but do you buy it?
As much as I buy anything so far!

Without commenting on Book Three, what do you make of the mark on Toru’s cheek?
I haven’t started Book Three yet, so I’m guessing the mark has something to do with the theme of defilement or else with the mind-body boundary blurring that’s been taking place (where he thinks something happened in “real” life but it only happened in his mind, or thinks he’s having an out-of-body experience but then notices a physical sign.)

For fun, make a prediction on what happened to Noboru the cat. Where is he? What happened to him?
Noboru was lured away by his namesake, Noboru, and is living the high life with catnip, champagne, and caviar in a parallel, anti-Toru universe.

Anything else you want to add?
This middle book was more depressing than Book One, but the fact that it’s turning into a quest to find Komiko (and maybe save humanity) makes me optimistic for a cheerier outlook in Book Three. (May to Toru: “You always look so cool, like no matter what happens, it’s got nothing to do with you, but you’re not really like that. In your own way, you’re out there fighting as hard as you can, even if other people can’t tell by looking at you. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t have gone into the well like that, right?”)

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Have you read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle or another book by Haruki Murakami? Join in the conversation here, on Twitter (#winditup2013), or on Ti’s blog, Book Chatter.

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About a Writer: A Work in Progress by Brad Cotton @BradCott0n

cover image of Work in ProgressIf Toronto author Brad Cotton becomes a famous writer, I’ll be able to say I read his  debut novel, A Work in Progress, before he hit it big. If not, I can still say A Work in Progress is a humorous and thoughtful novel that shows a lot of promise and made me curious about his next book (Boundless).

In A Work in Progress, Danny Bayle is suffering from long-term writer’s block – unable to write anything after publishing a first novel four years earlier.

My name is Danny Bayle, I’m twenty-eight years old, and it’s been four years since I completed my last novel – a novel that earned a unanimous reception from critics in that none of them bothered to read it. Too slim to use as a paperweight, too fat to serve as a fan in hot weather, my book could be considered a domestic success, but only for the reason that my mother kind of liked it.

 Danny has also been depressed because his girlfriend Carah broke up with him after they had been together for five years and took off to live in France. Right around the same time, his grandfather died, and his mother moved to Arizona with her new husband, so Danny’s support system is down to his married best friend Casey and a couple of drinking buddies. At the start of the book, Danny vows to stop wallowing in miserable self-pity and gain some experience that would give him something to write about.

I know the self I present in this book may seem to you immature, even self-absorbed. And while the former might approach the mark a little more than I would like to admit, the latter, I assure you, is not my true nature. I am instead someone beset in life by things like love and guilt and sensitivity. But I was, as you will see, enduring an emotional state that required me to be a little selfish. I regret to say that selfish I was.

A straightforward coming-of-age story presented as a straightforward memoir, A Work in Progress doesn’t throw in postmodern tricks, unreliable narrators, or other literary gimmicks to put a twist on having the main character be a writer. Brad Cotton plays it straight; Danny says he’s going to experience new things, and he does (from one-night stands to making new friends to learning to deal with his grief.) Personally I would have liked more about writing because I’m a sucker for books about writers, but, of course, Danny’s writer’s block means he’s not doing any writing during the course of the story.

With a first-person narrator of about the same age as the author, readers will inevitably wonder how autobiographical the novel is. Not at all, says Brad in this humorous interview/guest post at Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile. If you head over there by April 23, you can enter a giveaway to win an e-book of A Work in Progress.

You may read a longer sample of A Work in Progress at the author’s Web site here.

A Work in ProgressCotton, Brad
Now or Never Publishing
978-1-926942-03-2
234 pp., soft.
$19.95, CAN/US

Disclosure: I received a copy of A Work in Progress from the author for review.

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