Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

I just finished reading 'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle' by Marukami and my head is still reeling from the experience. For me, I think the central theme of the book was how to move from a place of numb indifference to that of real feeling and all the trade-offs associated with that, like a more conscious awareness of your own mortality, pain, etc. . . If you look at how the main character, Mr. Okata (I don't even remember his first name, I think it only gets mentioned once or twice. In fact you barely know anything about him at all, he seems to be merely the emptiest of proxies for the reader) starts off with a sort of simple, natural but dispassionate relationship with his wife, Kumiko, where rather than arguing with her, he checks the calendar and calmly calculates when her period is due and acts accordingly and correctly. . . and then contrast that with his relationship with May Kasahara, who is constantly questioning the unpredictability of life, is an unpredictable character herself, and who actually tries and succeeds at eliciting extreme and real emotions and feelings. You go from really hating her when she covers the well and traps Mr. Okata down there, to totally adoring her through her letters from the wig factory. In fact, it's May Kasahara I think about the most when I reflect on the book.

I loved her letter in which she describes putting rice pudding mix in the microwave and getting macaroni gratin instead when the bell rings. That life is sometimes really like that. That things don't have to make sense and can be ever-changing and why not accept that state of reality as more normal than getting rice pudding in return every time. This part of the book blew my mind a little because I've been having so many thoughts along the same lines recently. Like I really wouldn't be surprised at all to get macaroni gratin; and every once in awhile I find myself in a place/situation/state of being that isn't the usual derivative of the person I consider myself to be, or the decisions I usually make, but I find comfort in it. I tend to find myself thinking, "thank goodness the universe is still a surprise." Even if maybe it's not the most positive place/situation/state of being, I'd rather have some of those highs and lows, and an ever changing, multi-dimensional way of looking at my life instead of one ruled by absolutes and formulaic outcomes. . . right?

At this point I was going to launch into a whole spiel about the trade-offs between knowledge and pain; or self-awareness, feeling and mortality, but I'm afraid I have long-winded, complicated and ever-changing ideas about these concepts and it's way too late in the day for me to get started on them, so I'll save them for another time!

Also, on a more superficial note, reading 'The Wind-UP Bird Chronicle' and 'Kafka on the Shore' has made me want to go to Japan more than ever! If you have any advice on how to score a cheap plane ticket, when to go, etc. let me know.

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