Books essentially are time capsules. A writer can commune with us from any time period and from any locale. Stories transcend space and time. Sometimes without rhyme or reason. That is the case with Haruki Murakami’s excellent 1994 novel “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.”
This is quite possibly the trippiest tale I have ever read. It’s pure magic. I was fully engaged throughout, despite its momentous length of over 600 pages. You need that many words to visit strange aliens, clairvoyant prostitutes, uncomfortably seductive teen girls (okay, I could do without sexualizing under-aged kids), and flashbacks to Japanese people invading the Chinese in Manchuria and the tragedies resulting from such a campaign. Those sections were a beautiful history lesson in themselves. Chronicles is a perfect marriage between historical fact and paranormal fantasy.
I often feel as though Murakami is the literary equivalent to Wong Kar Wai’s filmmaking. You are presented with a premise, but you really don’t know where you’re going to end up. There might be a structure, but it’s layered with so many colors you didn’t even know existed and unexpected twists and turns of the prophetic kind, that by the time you reach the end, you are left in wonder. Seriously, I thought I had just spent hours in someone’s head high off of shrooms or acid (t was lovely, because I’ve been trying to train myself in lucid dreaming). However, this would be a really difficult book to adapt onto the screen. It’s surreal, dips in and out of different time frames, and relies on metaphors that take a moment to decipher. It would take a highly imaginative filmmaker courageous enough to step out of the three-act Hollywood structure and instead approach it like the canvas of an impressionist painter. They would have to understand art and art theory to turn Murakami’s words into images on the screen. And the use of sound design and music would have to be so meticulously orchestrated, more so than any other film, in order to pull the audience into a dream state. In fact, the film would have to hypnotize the audience in order to be a successful adaptation. I reckon very few movies have ever done so.
Kudos to Jay Rubin’s translation, which was done in collaboration with the author. It flowed well and taught me a thing or two about writing.
Bottom line: I love this weird book.
I’m a new book blogger, so I’m still narrowing down the scope on the types of books I want to include in my editorial calendar. I briefly toyed with the idea of only promoting writers who are women of color, but soon realized that that would mean limitations on some of the stories I already love and have taught me in my career. Also, reviewers tend to stick with upcoming releases, and rightfully so. There’s an economic need to stay with the times, and if I’ve learned anything in the entertainment industry, it’s that there’s a thirst for current events to be reflected in our arts. But – let’s face it – I’m going to dip a few posts into the well of literature and movies conceptualized way before our crazy times to give you a sense of what storytelling means to me. So while I’ll be on the hunt for new releases, expect that I will do what all books and movies do: take you to the past, or take you to a place far far away…
Now, if one day I could do what The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle did to me, I shall call myself lucky.
Also published on Medium.