A Wild Sheep Chase

( 64 )

Overview

A marvelous hybrid of mythology and mystery, A Wild Sheep Chase is the extraordinary literary thriller that launched Haruki Murakami’s international reputation.

It begins simply enough: A twenty-something advertising executive receives a postcard from a friend, and casually appropriates the image for an insurance company’s advertisement. What he doesn’t realize is that included in the pastoral scene is a mutant sheep with a star on its back, and in using this photo he has ...

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A Wild Sheep Chase

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Overview

A marvelous hybrid of mythology and mystery, A Wild Sheep Chase is the extraordinary literary thriller that launched Haruki Murakami’s international reputation.

It begins simply enough: A twenty-something advertising executive receives a postcard from a friend, and casually appropriates the image for an insurance company’s advertisement. What he doesn’t realize is that included in the pastoral scene is a mutant sheep with a star on its back, and in using this photo he has unwittingly captured the attention of a man in black who offers a menacing ultimatum: find the sheep or face dire consequences. Thus begins a surreal and elaborate quest that takes our hero from the urban haunts of Tokyo to the remote and snowy mountains of northern Japan, where he confronts not only the mythological sheep, but the confines of tradition and the demons deep within himself. Quirky and utterly captivating, A Wild Sheep Chase is Murakami at his astounding best.

Modern Japanese fiction will not be seen in the same light again. The American debut of Japan's premier contemporary writer introduces a fresh, irreverent tale with a 30-year-old modern-day hero.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Murakami is a mythmaker for the millennium, a wiseacre wiseman.” –New York Times Book Review

"A delight . . . equal parts screwball comedy, detective story, and heroic quest." –USA Today

“A witty adventure . . . a piece of verbal anarchy . . . a labyrinthine mystery from start to finish.” –San Francisco Chronicle

"Marvelously engaging, at turns witty, dry, wicked, even loopy. Reading A Wild Sheep Chase is like spending a splendidly foul weekend with the Four Raymonds–Chandler, Carver, Massey, and Queneau."–Frederick Barthelme

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Immensely popular in Japan, the author's first novel to be published here is a comic combination of disparate styles: a mock-hardboiled mystery, a metaphysical speculation and an ironic first-person account of an impossible quest. The narrator is a modern Japanese yuppie: divorced, in a mildly exciting relationship and a much less exciting job as an ad copywriter, he lives unexceptionally until a photograph throws his life into chaos. The snapshot, which he uses to illustrate a newsletter, shows a field of sheep with one unique crossbreed, and the picture is special enough to have attracted the attention of both the nomadic friend who sent it to him and a right-wing Mr. Big who, moribund, wants the source found before he dies. The Boss's henchman, a sleek, scary majordomo, gives the narrator one month to track it down, and the story that ensues is a postmodern detective novel in which dreams, hallucinations and a wild imagination are more important than actual clues. With the help of a fluid, slangy translation, Murakami emerges as a wholly original talent. $30,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates. (Oct.)
Library Journal
This novel, the American debut of a popular contemporary Japanese writer, will have a familiar ring to Western ears. The narrative moves adroitly through mystery, fable, pensive realism, and modernist absurdity to tell the tale--at least on the surface--of a Japanese man caught up in a puzzling quest for a somewhat mystical sheep. The spare style echoes Raymond Carver, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler, with matter-of-fact absurdities reminiscent of John Irving and, in less inspired moments, Tom Robbins. While the climax of the story is somewhat unrewarding, many readers will enjoy being pulled along by the playful and engaging style and fluid structure. Interesting as an example of current Japanese writing and as an unusually hip and irreverent look at contemporary Japanese society, this would be a nice addition to larger fiction collections.-- Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll., N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375718946
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/9/2002
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 83,910
  • Lexile: 740L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Haruki Murakami

Born in Kyoto, Japan, in 1949, Haruki Murakami grew up in Kobe and now lives near Tokyo. The most recent of his many honors is the Yomiuri Literary Prize, whose previous recipients include Yukio Mishima, Kenzaburo Oe, and Kobo Abe. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages.

Biography

The The story of how Haruki Murakami decided to become a novelist says a lot about his work, because it is as strange and culturally diffuse as the works he writes. While watching a baseball game in Toyko in 1978 between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp, Murakami witnessed an American hit a double. At the crack of the bat, Murakami -- who had never had any ambition to write because he assumed he didn't have the talent -- decided that he should begin a novel. He then started his first book, in the night hours after work.

If you're waiting for a connection between the double and the epiphany, there isn't one. It's often that way in Murakami's fiction, where cultures blend and seemingly incongruous, inexplicable events move the story forward. People disappear or transform as quickly as the worlds around them, and the result is a dreamlike atmosphere that blends mystery, magic realism and sci-fi while remaining unmistakably distinct from all three.

Murakami was brought up in a suburb of Kobe by parents who were teachers of Japanese literature; but the literature of his parents did not interest him and he read mostly American authors, listened to American jazz and watched American shows. For this reason, though his books are set in Japan and originally written in Japanese, they do not seem terribly foreign to English speakers. South of the Border, West of the Sun's title derives from a Nat King Cole song; and you're as likely to find a reference to McDonald's, Cutty Sark or F. Scott Fitzgerald as you are to anything Japanese.

Murakami began his career with the coming-of-age novels Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973, but he hit his stride with A Wild Sheep Chase, a novel about a twentysomething ad executive who is drawn into the quest for an elusive, mutant sheep. The novel appeared in the U.S. seven years after its 1982 publication, introducing American audiences to this unclassifiable author. It contained many of the traits that mark Murakami's novels: a solitary male protagonist who drifts just outside society; first-person narration; and philosophical passages nestled within outlandish, unconventional plots. An admiring New York Times Book Review called Murakami a "mythmaker for the millennium."

The author's commercial breakthrough in Japan had come with the publication of Norwegian Wood in 1987, which sold two million copies. The story of a man who becomes involved with his best friend's girlfriend after the friend's suicide, it stands alone as the author's most straightforward, realistic work. Murakami acknowledges the book's impact on his career, and stands behind it; but he is also aware that it represented a departure from the surreal books that had made him a "cult" author with a modest following. "After Norwegian Wood, I have not written any purely realistic novels," Murakami said in a 2001 publisher's interview, "and have no intention of writing any more at this time."

Murakami's return to surrealism with Dance Dance Dance (the sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase), however, did not slow his career growth. Further translations of his work and publication of his stories in the New Yorker assured a growing following in the States, where his best known (and, to some, his best) work is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which appeared here in 1997. It's a masterful work that draws together all of the themes Murakami had been exploring in his fiction up until then: modern ennui, the unpredictability of relationships, a haunting backdrop of Japanese history.

In addition to his sublime and profoundly strange short stories and novels (Sputnik Sweetheart; Kafka on the Shore; Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, etc.), Murakami has made occasional forays into nonfiction -- most notably with Underground, a compilation of interviews with victims of the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, and his 2008 memoir of the New York City Marathon, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. He has also translated several works by American authors into Japanese, including title by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Carver, and John Irving.

Good To Know

Murakami owned a small jazz bar in Tokyo for seven years after college, an experience that he enjoyed and called upon when creating the main character of South of the Border, West of the Sun, who also owns a Tokyo jazz bar.

Murakami's first three novels, -- Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball 1973, and A Wild Sheep Chase -- comprise The Trilogy of the Rat.

His most often cited influences are Raymond Chandler, Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan.

Murakami told an interviewer from Publishers Weekly in 1991 that he considers his first two novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973 "weak," and was not eager to have them translated into English. The translations were published, but are not available in the U.S. Third novel A Wild Sheep Chase was "the first book where I could feel a kind of sensation, the joy of telling a story. When you read a good story, you just keep reading. When I write a good story, I just keep writing."

Daniel Handler, aka children's author Lemony Snicket, is a vocal fan of Murakami's who once wrote a review/paean to the author in the Village Voice entitled "I Love Murakami." "Haruki Murakami is our greatest living practitioner of fiction," he wrote. "....The novels aren't afraid to pull tricks usually banned from serious fiction: They are suspenseful, corny, spooky, and hilarious; they're airplane reading, but when you're through you spend the rest of the flight, the rest of the month, rethinking life."

Murakami has taught at Princeton University, where he wrote most of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and Tufts University. The twin disasters of a gas attack on the Tokyo subway and the Kobe earthquake in 1995 drew the author back to Japan from the United States.

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    1. Hometown:
      Tokyo, Japan
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 12, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Kyoto, Japan
    1. Education:
      Waseda University, 1973
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Part One
November 25, 1970

1
Wednesday Afternoon Picnic

It was a short one-paragraph item in the morning edition. A friend rang me up and read it to me. Nothing special. Something a rookie reporter fresh out of college might've written for practice.

The date, a street corner, a person driving a truck, a pedestrian, a casualty, an investigation of possible negligence.

Sounded like one of those poems on the inner flap of a magazine.

"Where's the funeral?" I asked.

"You got me," he said. "Did she even have family?"

Of course she had a family.

I called the police department to track down her family's address and telephone number, after which I gave them a call to get details of the funeral.

Her family lived in an old quarter of Tokyo. I got out my map and marked the block in red. There were subway and train and bus lines everywhere, overlapping like some misshapen spiderweb, the whole area a maze of narrow streets and drainage canals.

The day of the funeral, I took a streetcar from Waseda. I got off near the end of the line. The map proved about as helpful as a globe would have been. I ended up buying pack after pack of cigarettes, asking directions each time.

It was a wood-frame house with a brown board fence around it. A small yard, with an abandoned ceramic brazier filled with standing rainwater. The ground was dark and damp.

She'd left home when she was sixteen. Which may have been the reason why the funeral was so somber. Only family present, nearly everyone older. It was presided over by her older brother, barely thirty, or maybe it was her brother-in-law.

Her father, a shortish man in his mid-fifties, wore a black armband of mourning. He stood by the entrance and scarcely moved. Reminded me of a street washed clean after a downpour.

On leaving, I lowered my head in silence, and he lowered his head in return, without a word.

I met her in autumn nine years ago, when I was twenty and she was seventeen.

There was a small coffee shop near the university where I hung out with friends. It wasn't much of anything, but it offered certain constants: hard rock and bad coffee.

She'd always be sitting in the same spot, elbows planted on the table, reading. With her glasses—which resembled orthodontia—and skinny hands, she seemed somehow endearing. Always her coffee would be cold, always her ashtray full of cigarette butts.

The only thing that changed was the book. One time it'd be Mickey Spillane, another time Kenzaburo Oe, another time Allen Ginsberg. Didn't matter what it was, as long as it was a book. The students who drifted in and out of the place would lend her books, and she'd read them clean through, cover to cover. Devour them, like so many ears of corn. In those days, people lent out books as a matter of course, so she never wanted for anything to read.

Those were the days of the Doors, the Stones, the Byrds, Deep Purple, and the Moody Blues. The air was alive, even as everything seemed poised on the verge of collapse, waiting for a push.

She and I would trade books, talk endlessly, drink cheap whiskey, engage in unremarkable sex. You know, the stuff of everyday. Meanwhile, the curtain was creaking down on the shambles of the sixties.

I forget her name.

I could pull out the obituary, but what difference would it make now. I've forgotten her name.

Suppose I meet up with old friends and mid-swing the conversation turns to her. No one ever remembers her name either. Say, back then there was this girl who'd sleep with anyone, you know, what's-her-face, the name escapes me, but I slept with her lots of times, wonder what she's doing now, be funny to run into her on the street.

"Back then, there was this girl who'd sleep with anyone." That's her name.

Of course, strictly speaking, she didn't sleep with just anyone. She had standards.

Still, the fact of the matter is, as any cursory examination of the evidence would suffice to show, that she was quite willing to sleep with almost any guy.

Once, and only once, I asked her about these standards of hers.

"Well, if you must know . . . ," she began. A pensive thirty seconds went by. "It's not like anybody will do. Sometimes the whole idea turns me off. But you know, maybe I want to find out about a lot of different people. Or maybe that's how my world comes together for me."

"By sleeping with someone?"

"Uh-huh."

It was my turn to think things over.

"So tell me, has it helped you make sense of things?"

"A little," she said.

From the winter through the summer I hardly saw her. The university was blockaded and shut down on several occasions, and in any case, I was going through some personal problems of my own.

When I visited the coffee shop again the next autumn, the clientele had completely changed, and she was the only face I recognized. Hard rock was playing as before, but the excitement in the air had vanished. Only she and the bad coffee were the same. I plunked down in the chair opposite her, and we talked about the old crowd.

Most of the guys had dropped out, one had committed suicide, one had buried his tracks. Talk like that.

"What've you been up to this past year?" she asked me.

"Different things," I said.

"Wiser for it?"

"A little."

That night, I slept with her for the first time.

About her background I know almost nothing. What I do know, someone may have told me; maybe it was she herself when we were in bed together. Her first year of high school she had a big falling out with her father and flew the coop (and high school too). I'm pretty sure that's the story. Exactly where she lived, what she did to get by, nobody knew.

She would sit in some rock-music café all day long, drink cup after cup of coffee, chain-smoke, and leaf through books, waiting for someone to come along to foot her coffee and cigarette bills (no mean sum for us types in those days), then typically end up sleeping with the guy.

There. That's everything I know about her.

From the autumn of that year on into the spring of the next, once a week on Tuesday nights, she'd drop in at my apartment outside Mitaka. She'd put away whatever simple dinner I cooked, fill my ashtrays, and have sex with me with the radio tuned full blast to an FEN rock program. Waking up Wednesday mornings, we'd go for a walk through the woods to the ICU campus and have lunch in the dining hall. In the afternoon, we'd have a weak cup of coffee in the student lounge, and if the weather was good, we'd stretch out on the grass and gaze up at the sky.

Our Wednesday afternoon picnic, she called it.

"Everytime we come here, I feel like we're on a picnic."

"Really? A picnic?"

"Well, the grounds go on and on, everyone looks so happy . . ."

She sat up and fumbled through a few matches before lighting a cigarette.

"The sun climbs high in the sky, then starts down. People come, then go. The time breezes by. That's like a picnic, isn't it?"

I was twenty-one at the time, about to turn twenty-two. No prospect of graduating soon, and yet no reason to quit school. Caught in the most curiously depressing circumstances. For months I'd been stuck, unable to take one step in any new direction. The world kept moving on; I alone was at a standstill. In the autumn, everything took on a desolate cast, the colors swiftly fading before my eyes. The sunlight, the smell of the grass, the faintest patter of rain, everything got on my nerves.

How many times did I dream of catching a train at night? Always the same dream. A nightliner stuffy with cigarette smoke and toilet stink. So crowded there was hardly standing room. The seats all caked with vomit. It was all I could do to get up and leave the train at the station. But it was not a station at all. Only an open field, with not a house light anywhere. No stationmaster, no clock, no timetable, no nothing—so went the dream.

I still remember that eerie afternoon. The twenty-fifth of November. Gingko leaves brought down by heavy rains had turned the footpaths into dry riverbeds of gold. She and I were out for a walk, hands in our pockets. Not a sound to be heard except for the crunch of the leaves under our feet and the piercing cries of the birds.

"Just what is it you're brooding over?" she blurted out all of a sudden.

"Nothing really," I said.

She kept walking a bit before sitting down by the side of the path and taking a drag on her cigarette.

"You always have bad dreams?"

"I often have bad dreams. Generally, trauma about vending machines eating my change."

She laughed and put her hand on my knee, but then took it away again.

"You don't want to talk about it, do you?"

"Not today. I'm having trouble talking."

She flicked her half-smoked cigarette to the dirt and carefully ground it out with her shoe. "You can't bring yourself to say what you'd really like to say, isn't that what you mean?"

"I don't know," I said.

Two birds flew off from nearby and were swallowed up into the cloudless sky. We watched them until they were out of sight. Then she began drawing indecipherable patterns in the dirt with a twig.

"Sometimes I get real lonely sleeping with you."

"I'm sorry I make you feel that way," I said.

"It's not your fault. It's not like you're thinking of some other girl when we're having sex. What difference would that make anyway? It's just that—" She stopped mid-sentence and slowly drew three straight lines on the ground. "Oh, I don't know."

"You know, I never meant to shut you out," I broke in after a moment. "I don't understand what gets into me. I'm trying my damnedest to figure it out. I don't want to blow things out of proportion, but I don't want to pretend they're not there. It takes time."

"How much time?"

"Who knows? Maybe a year, maybe ten."

She tossed the twig to the ground and stood up, brushing the dry bits of grass from her coat. "Ten years? C'mon, isn't that like forever?"

"Maybe," I said.

We walked through the woods to the ICU campus, sat down in the student lounge, and munched on hot dogs. It was two in the afternoon, and Yukio Mishima's picture kept flashing on the lounge TV. The volume control was broken so we could hardly make out what was being said, but it didn't matter to us one way or the other. A student got up on a chair and tried fooling with the volume, but eventually he gave up and wandered off.

"I want you," I said.

"Okay," she said.

So we thrust our hands back into our coat pockets and slowly walked back to the apartment.

I woke up to find her sobbing softly, her slender body trembling under the covers. I turned on the heater and checked the clock. Two in the morning. A startlingly white moon shone in the middle of the sky.

I waited for her to stop crying before putting the kettle on for tea. One teabag for the both of us. No sugar, no lemon, just plain hot tea. Then lighting up two cigarettes, I handed one to her. She inhaled and spat out the smoke, three times in rapid succession, before she broke down coughing.

"Tell me, have you ever thought of killing me?" she asked.

"You?"

"Yeah."

"Why're you asking me such a thing?"

Her cigarette still at her lips, she rubbed her eyelid with her fingertip.

"No special reason."

"No, never," I said.

"Honest?"

"Honest. Why would I want to kill you?"

"Oh, I guess you're right," she said. "I thought for a second there that maybe it wouldn't be so bad to get murdered by someone. Like when I'm sound asleep."

"I'm afraid I'm not the killer type."

"Oh?"

"As far as I know."

She laughed. She put her cigarette out, drank down the rest of her tea, then lit up again.

"I'm going to live to be twenty-five," she said, "then die."

July, eight years later, she was dead at twenty-six.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 64 )
Rating Distribution

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(37)

4 Star

(17)

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(9)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 64 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The worst of Murakami is still better than most.

    The headline pretty much sums it up. I love Murakami so I liked this book. However, in comparison with his other works, I found this one a bit scattered and affected. I wouldn't recommend this book if it's your first Murakami-you might get discouraged; instead, try: Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood, Sputnik Sweetheart (a good starter book), or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 27, 2011

    Great ending

    I would recommend this book because it draws you in in the beginning so as you read it gest more and more interesting.I really like the author's style which is very discriptive, that mekes it easy to understand.Overall the sory is not the best but it also teaches you that when you find somethin that gets your attention to hold on to the and which is the best part of it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2001

    A Wonderous Follow Up

    This book is, unbeknownst to most readers of the English edition, actually the third book in a serious, the first two being 'Listen to the Sound of the Wind' and 'Pinball in 1973.' However, I do not believe these have been translated into English yet. Hopefully they will be soon. As I haven't read this book in English, I cannot comment on the translation, but I know that this is a fabulous book to follow up the first two and surpasses them. The main character has such a deep soul in a shallow world, and so lonely. I cannot wait to read the next in the series, 'Dance, Dance, Dance.'

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2014

    Good and as expected strange (-:

    As with other of his works, this is not an author I could recommend easily; books written in the first person, with deep descriptions, stopping to go over the biography of almost every character the main actor speaks with, characters that may seem important dropping with their part unresolved, and the story morphing into others as the book progresses can pose a challenge. Now, if you are looking to start on him, this may be the easiest of his books to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2013

    Mystery

    This book was interesting for me, new setting in modern day Japan
    Witty descriptions, thoughtful writing, it held my attention all the way through
    I am hoping to read more from this unusual author

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2013

    Awesome

    Great read by the master of the surreal

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2013

    Favorite

    Book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2012

    Great novel

    One of best books I've read

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  • Posted January 21, 2012

    Excellent!

    Murikam's sense of humor really comes out in this book. I love the dialogue and the visual perspective I get from his books. Makes me wish I could read Japanese so nothing was lost in the translation.

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  • Posted November 19, 2011

    What is all the hype about?

    I was really looking forward to reading this book. As an avid reader I was lured to the promise of suspense and mystery. I could not have been more disappointed. I found the characters boring and lacking depth. Having discussed my thoughts with other readers I was assured it would get better the more I read. I found it actually hard to read due to the fact that I was so bored by the story and lack of dimension to the characters and storyline. Maybe I just don't "get" Murakami's writing style or maybe this book just wasn't what I wanted it to be. Again, I really wanted to like this book but just found it flat.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 19, 2011

    Fantastic

    Love all murakami, this is one of my favorites

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    Compelling

    This book is not an easy read. But then which Murakami is? I do believe I have to go back and reread it to understand it better, but it is marvellously written, the story is sad, compelling, the characters, once again, absorbing and the mysticism is not missing either. A great, great read, with a style so magnificent that your heart aches. I love the way Murakami builds up a magical, surreal world, that at the same time seems inexplicably real and tangible. It is so good to read writers who can truly show how their thoughts turn.
    I recommend it to everyone who likes good fiction.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2006

    A Novel Not To Be Forgotten

    The story itself is interesting and unique. The way it's told is beautiful and believe me, you don't want to stop reading once you start it. The thoughts behind everything is profound. Confused between reality and his own imagination, the protagonist either can't or sub-consciously doesn't want to make connection between his own existence and the real world. There is also an obvious lack of his real emotion in his relationships with his wife and girl friend. Why? Murakami did an excellent job making us think what we usually neglect. How do we identify ourselves? Do we need to? What's reality and what's our imagination?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2005

    Makes you want more!

    This book really sent me on a wild sheep chase! I havent been more caught up in a book since Angels & Demons. Haruki Murakami really makes me think beyond reality with this book. They way he uses the characters and the sitution and events is jaw dropping. I haven't read norwegian wood yet even though i have the book.So I reading up on the reviews. I recommened this book and Dance Dance Dance!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2001

    Outstanding

    Desceptively simple. The novel whispers into the mind's ear. Funny. Fantastical. Marvel at Murakami's style.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2000

    Untamed facscination

    An intriguing and different story of Japanese magic-realism. Just go with the groove and have a fun read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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