About 80% of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles.
I had taken a long break from Murakami after South of the Border… but I was itching for something fun, surreal, immersive, even cozy, accessible and easy to read.
And it worked for a while, but… let’s go in order.
If I understand correctly, this particular novel started as installments in some magazine or newspaper, then published as three separate books, as Murakami was writing them. Perhaps this explains why it’s so not tight, compared to Wonderland and the previous novels.
Even Jay Rubin (he’s a die-hard) seems to admit the book’s got flaws, and that’s despite him having a much higher opinion of it than I currently have. Mind, the English translation was actually cut on the publisher’s request (some pretty big things were left on the cutting room’s floor, BTW), but Rubin claims that in his opinion there are still parts of the book that don’t add anything to it (apparently the whole of Malta and Creta Kano)
Wind-Up is currently regarded as one of Murakami’s finest works, and I’ll be damned if I can say why just yet. I coukl see flashes of what I liked in his previous novels, and just as much, I’d say almost about half the book doesn’t work all that well.
I’m dumbfounded that apparently it is recommended as an entry point to Murakami, it’s not anywhere near as enjoyable as Wonderland, Norwegian Wood, A Wild Sheep Chase or Dance Dance Dance.
There were two occasions in which I have been this close to drop it: the prep work was laid down by re-use of elements and themes from previous novels, which bloomed when I started getting sick of Murakami indulging in his sexual fantasies.
The other one was the second of those historical flashbacks that Rubin seems to think are among the best part of the book.
TL;DR anybody’s planning to pick up their first Murakami’s book should IMO stay away from Wind-Up Bird.
And anybody who started with Wind-Up and wasn’t quite enthusiastic should probably read the earlier novels if they’re interested in giving this author another chance.