Sunday, May 16, 2010

'The Wind-up Bird Chronicle' Discussion - Book Three (JLit Read-along)

Japanese Literature 

A day late but welcome to the discussion of Book Three, the third, and last, part of our 3-month read-along, of Haruki Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Book Three: The Birdcatcher (October 1984 to December 1985) takes us from page 339 up to the end, page 607 in the Vintage trade paperback, both the US and UK editions.  For more information about the book, please refer to The Wind-up Bird Chronicle - Book One Discussion post.

Please feel free to discuss any of the questions below that interest you, or bring up any other questions or comments that you have about Book Three in particular, or the story as a whole. Anyone is welcome to join in the discussion whether they've been reading along, or have read the book some time previously. However, for anyone who has not yet read to the end of the book, please be aware that the questions and comments may contain spoilers.

Discussion Questions

First some general questions:

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (Swedish)What did you think of Book Three? Were you surprised by anything that happened?

Do you have any favourite passages, or scenes, from Book Three?

What did you think of the new characters that were introduced in Book Three?

Overall, what do you think of the translation? 

How does The Wind-up Bird Chronicle compare to other Murakami books or stories that you've read?

Or, if this was your first experience with Murakami, will you read more?

The following questions were taken and adapted from The Wind-up Bird Chronicle: A Reader's Guide by Matthew Strecher:

What role does Cinnamon play in the story?

Who is the "man without a face" in the unconscious hotel?

How do the narratives concerning Japan's past history impact on the present narrative of Toru and Kumiko?

What do you think the wind-up bird represents? Is the bird "fate," or perhaps just a bad luck charm? Is it possible to read it in a more positive light? Toru offers two possible interpretations - one in which the bird "winds the springs of the world," and another in which it presages doom. Which reading is more accurate?

The following discussion questions taken and adapted from the Random House Readers' Group Reading Guide:

In The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Toru’s first-person narrative is interspersed with oral history and dialogue as well as a few passages from other points of view. Why do you think that Murakami chose to structure the book in this way and chose these uses of perspective? How important are these other lives which are woven into the story and what effect to they have on the protagonist?

At the end of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Toru still believes the mysterious underworld, accessible only from the well, to be real. Do you find the ending satisfactory? How does it affect your overall picture and comprehension of the story?

(Your question here...)

I'm still reading, with a little bit more to go, but I am quite sad that it is coming to an end.  I've very much enjoyed revisiting this epic tale of Murakami's and look forward to continuing my Murakami journey.  Thank you to everyone who read along and joined in the discussions.  I hope you enjoyed it!  I'll be back soon to comment myself, and in the meantime, here are also a couple interesting bits of Wind-up Bird related news.

A new special edition of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle has recently come out from Harvill Secker to celebrate "100 years of quality international writing". Mine just arrived on Friday and looks so pretty on my Murakami shelf!

And did you know that there will be a live production of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle?  I can't imagine how they will bring this story to the stage but would very much love to see it!  If anyone gets a chance to see it, please do report back.

For more on this book, or any of Murakami's other titles, check out Exorcising Ghosts,  a Murakami site with links to many online reviews, and other resources in English.

The following have shared their thoughts on The Wind-up Bird Chronicle:
We Be Reading (Book One)
We Be Reading (Book Two)
We Be Reading (Book Three)
Polishing Mud Balls (Book One)
Dolce Bellezza (review)
su[shu] (review)
If you have posted about Book Three on your own blog, or the book as a whole, please leave a link in the comments and I'll add it here.
Previous posts:
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Discussion - Book One
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Discussion - Book Two

The Makioka SistersAlso a reminder that the next book will be The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki. An Austen-esque story of sisters in post-war Japan.  I loved this book when I first read it a few years ago and hope you'll consider joining us in reading it.

The story is divided into 3 'books' with each section at approximately 150 to 200 pages. We'll be looking at one book a month so it's easily something you could add in to your other reading plans for the summer months. The schedule is as follows:

Book One - July 15th, 2010
Book Two - August 15th, 2010
Book Three - September 15th, 2010

For more information on the Japanese Literature Read-along schedule, please visit the Japanese Literature Read-along page.

The small print:  Links in this post to Amazon (including book cover) or The Book Depository contain my Associates or Affiliates ID respectively.  Purchases made via these links earn me a very small commission.  For more information please visit my About Page.


  1. I wish I'd known that you were going to read Makioka Sisters! I've been working on it steadily for two months and I still have the last part to go. So I think it will be great for the group -- it's a lot all on my own!

  2. This was my first Murakami and I'll definitely try him again!

    After the second section, I felt that there were things unresolved and was glad that there was a third book. However, now that I've read the third book, I'm not sure I wouldn't have been happier without it. With new characters and random tangents, not much was wrapped up except for Toru and Kumiko's story line. I did like the direction that May Kasahara's story took but didn't really understand the point of Mamiya's work camp story.

    I'm not sure what to think of the Akasakas either. I never really connected with them emotionally the way I did with the Kanos.

  3. I've finished reading this a few days ago. I decided to read it in one go instead of one part every month, because I tend to want to continue if I'm enjoying a book. Which was the definitely the case with this. It was so unputdownable.

    I love that Harvill Secker cover! Too late to get it, though!

    To answer your questions, my favourites passages are here and here.

    I don't think I was surprised by anything that happened just because everything that Murakami writes is quite unexpected, so the whole element of surprise thing is something that I already expect. I know, that sounds confusing. But it's very ironic, isn't it?

    I liked the translation. I'm assuming it captures the voice of Murakami well (though I wouldn't know, really), but I felt it had the "Japanese literature" vibe to it, a certain feel that I also see in books by other Japanese authors, which I can't really explain very well. A narrative voice that's often simplistic but at the same time philosophical and profound, one that's enthusiastically conversational but also very subdued.

    I've only read one other Murakami (Kafka on the Shore), and how I compare the two, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle seems to be tied more tightly together. I still don't see the point exactly, but somewhow this one made a little more sense. There were also less boring parts here. Though both were very enjoyable. I don't know if I'll want to read all of Murakami's books, but I do want to read Norwegian Wood. I enjoy him a lot while reading but he's not someone I "crave" to read afterwards. Don't know why that is.

  4. I'm still processing what Cinnamon's role was, or who the man without a face was. There are many possibilities and I'm not sure I've hit the right ones. I also don't know what exactly the wind-up bird signifies. Waiting for someone else to pipe up and enlighten me. I'm still baffled by so many things. I somehow understand but don't know how to explain it.

    But I did find the ending satisfactory because Kumiko was brought back.

  5. Great questions. I've have so many things going on in my head right now as I just finished the book. Who knows what I'll ask for book three's update? It will be weird for sure.


    Decided to vanquish this book last night, and thus feel like crap this morning, as I finally put it down around 2:40.

    I was really, really disappointed by the ending, to be completely honest. However, it is very possible it's because, since I've read the book throughout probably the course of three weeks or so, that I've forgotten parallels that might make things make more sense.

    But there seemed so many unanswered questions, so many tangents that, while badass, didn't seem necessar whatsoever. I didn't need know about Boris the Manskinner, why he was so manipulative, why Mamiya "can't" kill him. I see nowhere how this really advances anything.

    And as for Mr. honda warning of water... Seems pretty inane. He's never in danger of water except at the end, but is in a billion other places. I get the feeling the story grew beyond what Murakami could sew up there at the end.

    Who/what is the Hollow Man. He's badass, but he could have easily been any other vague enigmatic character. Why not Water Man, or Fiber Man, or Random Guy, etc etc. Also, the book seems to make such a deal of emphasizing "DON'T BE HOLLOW!" and yet at the pivotal end, he's saved by this guy/thing. It feels rather silly.

    There's about a dozen other instances of this sort of feeling of missed opportunity, to me. It feels that Malta and Creta are simply replaced by Nutmeg and Cinnamon, and Malta and Creta cease to really mean anything at the end.

    The final gripe I'll leave is the Deus Ex Machina ending of Cinnamon just -gasp!- magically knowing, after being gone weeks (as every character does for no reason throughout the book), he knows juuuuuuuuuuust in time to go rescue Toru from the water. Complete garbage. Just let Toru's newly badass self climb out of the well. It doesn't at allllll fit Cinnamon's tight, effecient, planned, controlling nature to just dash off and become a ridiculously basic super hero and pull him out of the water. "I woke up at Nutmeg's house," I believe is the exact line of the chapter.

    I am angry about this book. But, that is only because of my own desire to have read an absolutely ridiculously stunning masterpiece. I

    Finally, all the actions of the characters remaining seem stupid. Kumiko goes and kills Noboru and doesn't try whatsoever to hide it? Why? She knows how the life support works. Why not unplug it, see he's dead, stroll out, and... do something important. And when she decides to kill him and stay and admit to guilt, which is a cool way to go, she then just gets off on some kind of horse crap, utterly undercutting, utterly ridiculous "one year in prison for killing the most important man in Japan, plus some probation or something." Sigh.

    The book boils down to absolute genius from time to time, monotony often, and an absolute dismal failure of an ending. It is, however, about an A- in my book. It's an absolute powerhouse of a book. I am just very disappointed at some of the choices Murakami made. It seems like he painted the most genius picture in the world, and then just kept adding things until it was a jumbled mess. Still brilliant, but a jumbled brilliant mess.



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