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A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel

A Wild Sheep Chase - Alfred Birnbaum, Haruki Murakami some of Goodreads.com most active reviewers, writers, and commentators are declining to do a write-up for Wild Sheep Chase, and perhaps that isn't coincidental. it's a hard work to characterize, being the Norwegian Wood formula but not fully developed; being Rat #1 and Rat #2 (Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball, 1973) but with a little extra development.

for example, Wind and Pinball go like this

I know a man named Rat.

We were drinking together. Four beers drunk and eating peanuts. The baseball game was playing on the television. Outside it was summer, 1967. We argued about class.

"I gotta get a motorcycle, spin out near the construction sites," said the Rat.

There are places we knew from last summer, kicking it out with Yamashita, who knew all the good beaches 'cause he was a surfer.

whereas Sheep Chase is a bit more developed

There have got to be nice hideouts in the mountains, way deep in. Back in 1834 the area was settled by some farmers, who shot deer and bear, and sold the skins for extra income. Then came modern times and a train route was rooted out. So when the door bell chimed, ding, in my thirty-third year, I realized it sounded exactly like the tone of my high school warning bell, which was a coincidence I didn't notice until now.

*(these aren't actual quotes, just illustrating the greater cohesion/paragraphing of Sheep Chase vs. the first two small Murakami books)

yet everything is here

hypersexuality / mysterious sheep-person / odd quest / talk about sex / sexual talent / cigarettes / beer / cigarttes / beer / pasta / mysterious hotel

Murakami creates a dream-like montage, in a somewhat surreal, De Chirico setting of abandonment and listlessness. it's a portrait of Japan without imperial ambitions or its own military, obsession with Western metrosexual culture but no real sentiments about politics or wars in the outside world.

compared to Norwegian Wood, it isn't the exact multibillion-copies sold blockbuster of pure realism and 60s awakening sexuality vs. political student demonstrations. but it isn't quite the three sentence paragraphs of Pinball or Wind.

a curious "bridging work" between early and mature Murakami. (Norwegian Wood is where he became hyper popular. I still remember researching out one of the few hundred copies existing in the U.S. at an academic library of this book; an old hardcover dusty with a postmodern cover. now instead, of course murakami is never out of print, and paperbooks galore every third bookstore if not more)


if this book were written by anybody else, i'd give it five stars for its surrealistic/dreamlike montage. knowing its Murakami, I can't help but compare to the pure blockbuster of Wood or mature HM, so give it 4.5

since if you are reading this you are reading all my Murakami reviews, I will note that I was lying. M Choi is my real name.