After a month of reading this book (always before I get to sleep), I finally conquered Murakami. Conquering in the sense that many ideas from his other works became more familiar to me.
First, what I like about the author is that he understands women -- actions and overall psyche. The theme about the complexity in the mind of a woman appeared both in Norwegian Wood and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. For instance, in one of the passages, May Kasahara pointed out how girls just like to be mean for no reason at all. Just like that: the mood for nothing. I know many women understand this and Murakami spelled it out for us.
Anyhow, I'm not going to give a review of the book. It would take me hours to summarize the plot of the 600-page novel. But what I need to say is that the feeling of loneliness never leaves me when I read Murakami's work. It's how he presents his characters as ordinary people -- so ordinary that it makes you ask if there's ever a meaning to our fleeting existence. This inner self is just too chaotic, too complex to understand.. and yet there's the outer world that demands order and normalcy from us.
I am sure there's Toru Okada or May Kasahara in any one of us. For instance, my understanding of the self was expounded by May Kasahara. I could relate about her grim views of the world and her preference to see ducks than people as they come "flapping through the air and land on the ice, but their feet slide and they fall over. It's like a TV comedy!". Ah, that happiness that arise not from being with people but from observing nature -- from seeing creatures who do not know us or couldn't care less about us! Like May Kasahara, I do wonder what ducks think "deep down inside, about ice and stuff."
But you can't know everything. You are placed in this world to know people which is almost impossible to do. As May Kasahara pointed in this question:
"Is it possible, in the final analysis, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another?
We can invest enormous time and energy in serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close can we come to that person's essence? We convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone?"
I share her skepticism. I also share her confusions about the future:
"So you're going to stay here a while longer?", I asked
"I think so. I might want to go back to school after enough time goes by. Or I might not. I might just get married -- no not really" She smiled with a while puff of breath. "But anyhow, I'll stay for now. I need more time to think. About what I want to do, where I want to go. I want to take time and think about those things."
"Tell me, Mr. Wind Up Bird, did you think about those kind of things when you were my age?"
"Hmm. Maybe not. I must have thought about them a little bit, but I don't really remember thinking about things as seriously as you do. I guess I just figured if I went for a living in the usual way, things would kind of work themselves out all right. But they didn't, did they? Unfortunately."
It was a good one month read. I must admit that the middle chapter about historical parts bored me a bit. I also thought that the ending of the complex plot was not as "neat" as Marquez's (of course Murakami is never comparable to Marquez). BUT! I'd like to commend Murakami for bringing up that inexplicable loneliness n every one of us, even those who are "living in the usual way" like Toru Okada.
And so, I'll end this post with few of my favorite quotes from the book:
"I'd be smiling and chatting away, and my mind would be floating around somewhere else, like a balloon with a broken string."
"Here's what I think, Mr. Wind-Up Bird," said May Kasahara. "Everybody's born with some different thing at the core of their existence. And that thing, whatever it is, becomes like a heat source that runs each person from the inside. I have one too, of course. Like everybody else. But sometimes it gets out of hand. It swells or shrinks inside me, and it shakes me up. What I'd really like to do is find a way to communicate that feeling to another person. But I can't seem to do it. They just don't get it. Of course, the problem could be that I'm not explaining it very well, but I think it's because they're not listening very well. They pretend to be listening, but they're not, really. So I get worked up sometimes, and I do some crazy things."
"To know one’s own state is not a simple matter. One cannot look directly at one’s own face with one’s own eyes, for example. One has no choice but to look at one’s reflection in the mirror. Through experience, we come to believe that the image is correct, but that is all."
"It's not that either one is better," he said. After a brief coughing fit, he spat a glob of phlegm onto a tissue and studied it closely before crumpling the tissue and throwing it into a wastebasket. "It's not a question of better or worse. The point is, not to resist the flow. You go up when you're supposed to go up and down when you're supposed to go down. When you're supposed to go up, find the highest tower and climb to the top. When you're supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom. When there is no flow, stay still. If you resist the flow, everything dries up. If everything dries up, the world is darkness. 'I am he and/ He is me:/ Spring nightfall.' Abandon the self, and there you are."