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

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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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5 thoughts on “The #winditup2013 Read-Along Update: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Book Two)”

  1. I love your prediction for the feline Noboru. I just didn’t want him to end up like one of the cats in Kafka on the Shore. Not a good outcome for those kitties.

    I know a little more about the cheek mark now in book three, but still not the entire answer. It intrigues me though.

    Kumiko’s letter is so structured and formal for a woman who has lived with him for so long. There doesn’t seem to be any closeness between them. Not sure if there ever was. Her letter alludes to them being somewhat less formal but it’s hard to say. Does she even exist in the real world??

    1. There was the prediction that the cat wouldn’t be back, unless there was a major change, so I thought maybe the cat’s gone for good. The cheek mark is puzzling; I haven’t started Book Three yet. That’s true about Kumiko’s letter, but it didn’t strike me as that different from all of the other characters’ formal manners of speaking. Does she exist? Well, SOMEONE picked up the dry cleaning!

  2. When I first read this book (my first Murakami) I was so confused! Now I know you just have to take it as it comes and enjoy what you’re reading. I’m not sure how much you’re enjoying this book. It made me a Murakami fan. 🙂

Would love to have you comment!