A Wild Sheep Chase.
Last weekend I finished A Wild Sheep Chase, an earlier Haruki Murakami novel in which you can see the glimmers of him beginning to come fully into his style (as will be seen in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles and Kafka on the Shore, both of which I highly recommend).
I began reading Murakami with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles at the recommendation of Sonika, and since then, it’s been a bit difficult to go back to some of his shorter (under 300 pages) books, such as Sputnik Sweetheart and South of the Border, West of the Sun because they just feel so… short. To a Murakami novel, 300 pages is just getting started. While this might seem excessive, Murakami is not drawn to long, descriptive passages of prose or unnecessary adjectives. Rather, everything in a Murakami work is building upon itself and the first few hundred pages are just laying the groundwork.
This will make perfect sense to people who have ever run long distances, as Murakami does, and I once did: once you start running a fair amount, the first 2-3 miles become a warm-up, and only then do you fully get into the groove.
The funny thing about a write-up on a Murakami book is it’s ridiculously futile to attempt to give a synopsis. Murakami plots make no sense outside of the world of each book and sound inane rather than intriguing. Instead, it is easier to talk about the act of reading his books itself.
My experience reading a Murakami book is always the same: I’ll be reading along for the aforementioned first several hundred pages thinking, “Well, this is a nice story, but I’m not really sure where it’s going, but it’s not bad, so I’ll keep reading.” And then, there is a moment wherein I am suddenly hooked and cannot put the book down.
Sometimes this moment is a passage that hits me- although my passage my not be another reader’s passage (and I know this happens to other readers too- see my brother’s post on this passage for him in Kafka), and sometimes it happens without me even realizing it.
The first passage that struck me in A Wild Sheep Chase was the anonymous narrator remembering a conversation with his now ex-wife:
[Him] “But I’m the one who’s been sleeping with you. I pretty much know every inch of your body. What’s there to be ashamed of at this late date?”
“Body cells replace themselves every month. Even at this very moment,” she said, thrusting a skinny back of her hand before my eyes. “Most of what you think you know about me is nothing more than memories.”
And after that, the next 150 pages had me held captive.