The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

I decided to read this after I finished Patti Smith’s M Train because of the way she wrote about her experience falling under this book’s spell. I’d heard many good things about it, and was in no ways disappointed. It’s beautifully written and absolutely enchanting.

I don’t really want to talk about the plot, which is interesting, and wandering, and not worth summarizing. There’s a man named Toru Okada, who’s unemployed and bored with life. He has a wife who he loves very much, and they have a cat that’s missing. Things happen. There are fortune tellers with made up names. I learned things about Japanese history that I didn’t know before. It’s all very interesting, and you should read it yourself.

I’m sort of skeptical about how Murakami writes women — they’re always mysterious and sexy and flawed. I enjoy this, but think that if I spent more time staring at this critically it’d bug me. It’s been five years since I read Norwegian Wood, but I remember having a similar reaction to that. Every woman is some sort of femme fatale, which is sort of awesome, but also? Women can do a lot more than that. The women are all fascinating, but not of them seem like real women, or really, like real humans. They’re literary creatures, representing different things for the male protagonist. I’m sure there is a very interesting piece of literary analysis written about this, and if I had JSTOR access/more time I’d go looking. This would bother me more if it wasn’t so beautifully written.

It’s beautiful and enthralling enough to distract me from a lot of my criticism. The prose is just… ugh. Really great.

A lot of the times I’ll find magical realism really grating, cause a lot of the time it feels like literary authors playing around with fantasty without getting dirty and acknowledging the genre. This was great though. It was actual magical realism, where the exact nature of what was going on is never entirely clear, and leaves you with questions.
It’s a really long book, my paperback copy is like six hundred pages, but I didn’t want it to end. I enjoyed everything and wanted it to keep going. I didn’t want to leave behind this world or these characters. It’s really great. You should read it.

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