So. #LARMonth. All I have to say is a big, fat LOL. Why I ever thought I was going to finish not one, but THREE full-sized books, in the space of a month is beyond me. But as frustrating as it is, not meeting my goal, I guess it’s better that I shoot high and land lower than aim low in the first place and … end up not reading at all? Or maybe I just need to stop being so dang ambitious and just accept the reality that I, however much I wish otherwise, just don’t have the sort of time to read more than a novel or two every month. Or maybe I just need to crack down on my time management and actually READ instead of mindlessly drifting through the web, window-shopping for clothes I don’t actually need.
But anyway, no more crying over spilled milk. I did at least complete ONE book last month: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. This is my first Murakami in a while, and to be honest I wasn’t sure how well I was going to receive it. Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know about my love-hate relationship with Murakami. (The books, not the author.) Even after all these years, I still regarded Murakami with a wary eye. For all my frustrations with his style, my biggest gripe has been with his protagonists—his tortured, angst-ridden protagonists with their fistfuls of insecurities. While I’m not at all against characters with inner struggles and turmoils, I can only take so much before I feel the overwhelming urge to reach into the pages of the book, grab the protagonist squarely by the shoulders, and violently shake them out of their pity party. But to my great surprise—and, frankly, relief—the protagonist of Wind-Up Bird had none of the emotional hang-ups I was expecting. He has his faults, certainly, but Toru is even-keeled. Bland at times, I’ll admit, and perhaps deluded. But … normal. And normal is a good thing every now and then. Refreshing too, when Murakami is concerned.
I’m still not sure if I like the book or not. The story itself was interesting, what with all the bizarre encounters with bizarre characters, all the excursions into a parallel dream world, all the philosophical musings on the nature of relationships, life and death, etc. One scene in particular stuck with me. It’s a flashback of Toru’s first date with his girlfriend—now wife—Kumiko. While at the aquarium, Toru suffers a panic attack in the jellyfish exhibit, and they leave. While Toru calms himself down outside, Kumiko reflects:
What we see before us is just one tiny part of the world. We get into the habit of thinking, This is the world, but that’s not true at all. The real world is in a much darker and deeper place than this, and most of it is occupied by jellyfish and things. We just happen to forget all that. Two-thirds of the earth’s surface is ocean, and all we can see of it with the naked eye is the surface: the skin. We hardly know anything about what’s underneath the skin.
I think Kumiko was reflecting on life, and how we often forget how much of life is actually full of things that scare and confuse us, but I couldn’t help but also see this as a reflection on human nature. (Or rather, on being human. Or being human with other humans.) When we meet someone, and bond with someone, we think over time that we’ve figured them out, that we know them completely. But in reality, that’s not the case. We don’t really know them, not as intimately as we think. All we know about them is what we’ve been able to observe through our senses. We don’t actually know what goes on figuratively beneath their skin.
Emotionally, however, the book left me wanting. I thought at first that it might have been the lack of closure at the end, but looking back I think it’s because I couldn’t find anything to care about. I didn’t care about the characters—save for Toru’s pet cat, and weirdly enough the titular wind-up bird—didn’t care about what was going on in their lives, didn’t really relate to any of them. I was actually relieved when I finished the book, not because of any conflicts resolved, but because I WAS FINALLY DONE WITH THE DANG BOOK OMG.
All in all, Wind-Up Bird was an all-right reunion with Murakami. I did enjoy it more than most of his other books, but I think this will be my last Murakami for a while. Maybe ever. (I should just stop with this book, right? I clearly don’t enjoy his work. I honestly don’t know why I keep on insisting on trying one more book, one more book. NO 1Q84 I WILL NOT READ YOU STOP TAUNTING ME FROM MY READING LIST ALL ONE THOUSAND PAGES OF YOU MY GOSH ONE THOUSAND PAGES THAT’S REASON ENOUGH TO NOT READ YOU.)
Actually, I think I will stop reading Murakami from now on. Someone please hold me to that. Please? MY FUTURE SELF THANKS YOU IN ADVANCE.
Okay, sleep deprivation kicking in liek whoa. I’ll end this while I’m still lucid. Somewhat.