There is something fairy-taleish about the situation
- Tengo, the prince, has to rescue the beautiful woman from a sort of castle.
- Aomame, the princess, brushes her hair a 100 times a night, like Rapunzel
- Ushikawa is the monster who separates them.
The crow has been showing up around Tengo’s apartment for the whole book, regularly enough that I think it qualifies as potentially significant. I haven’t mentioned it because I don’t know what to make of it. Here are some thoughts:
- The titular bird of the Wind Up Bird Chronicle may be the mystical force that pushes Toru’s world forward (in his words it “winds the wind of [his and Kumiko’s] little world)
- Kafka of Kafka on the Shore is named after the Czech word for crow and his interlocutor is named crow.
- So is the crow keeping tabs on the characters? Checking up on them? Paying a strange sort of social call?
Similarities Between Ushikawa, Aomame, and Tengo:
- When Fuka-Eri gazes at Ushikawa, the dark clod of earth in him melts and he can feel both warmth and pain.
- Ushikawa’s wife was older than him by seven years (810). Tengo’s girlfriend was also older than he was
- Ushikawa figures that Tengo doesn’t need much an apartment to be happy—like himself (811).
- When Ushikawa realizes that there are two moons in the sky he has a reaction that is very similar to the one Aomame had: he is perfectly fine, it is the world that has gone crazy. He has to find out why.
Differences between Ushikawa and Tengo/Aomame
- Ushikawa thinks “But I do need to show the world what I’m capable of” (804). Compare this with Komatsu’s desire to find out something new and serve it up to the world, and while you’re at it, contrast it with Tengo and Aomame’s lack of ambition (in Aomame’s case she seems to want to leave no trace on the world).
- The way the characters react to the moon is an interesting way to highlight their divergent personalities; Tengo was confused because there was no longer any cause or effect, Aomame felt that it was harder to plan for the future when you didn’t know the rules, and Ushikawa needs to figure out why things are different. I suppose the remainder of the book will have some indications as to which of these views is the strongest.
These details may not be significant but they have the texture of something that is.
… Is masterful. We are still wrapping our heads around the timeline when Ushikawa reappears on the slide and we have to make a few guesses: Did Ushikawa follow Tengo to the slide again or did he come by himself? If he came by himself, why? Why wouldn’t he follow Tengo? Could he be setting a trap for Aomame? She follows him back to Tengo’s apartment building, but we don’t know if Ushikawa noticed that she was following him or if he got any pictures of her. If he noticed that she went up to his apartment but that Tengo wasn’t there, he could surmise that Tengo and she weren’t in cahoots. And then Tengo isn’t home—where could he be?
The description of Aomame’s consciousness on 817 is vintage Murakami; what her mind is actually working on is like a porpoise that sinks between the surface of her awareness; once in awhile it surfaces for air, so she knows it is still there, but it disappears back beneath the surface quickly. That Murakami feels no need to stick with any of these metaphors or develop it is part and parcel to his style. There is no grand metaphor, like the White Whale or The Trial, to drive his characters; they use what they’ve got, when they’ve got it, and move on.
There’s also some comedy, as when Aomame tells the ruthless bodyguard who’s been assigned to protect her that the man he’s protecting her from has tracked her via a man Aomame hasn’t met since she was ten and who is nevertheless the father of her baby. Whether or not we follow along with the plot is a test of Murakami’s skill as a storyteller.
I wanted to skip ahead to his chapters and see what happens from Ushikawa’s perspective, but just then Tengo gets the call about his father… and has to go back to the cat town.
As for the events in the cat town…
- One of the nurses puts her hands together to pay her respects to the dead. Is that what we are doing when we pray? Or are we praying for the people we know, or for the future? Or towards some universal god or substance, in the way that Aomame thinks about God? Or for all three?
- If Tengo’s father was an NHK collector till the bitter end, he’s almost like the Furies in the Oresteia, but instead of demanding vengeance based on blood relationships he demands that people pay their NHK subscription fees.
- The legal aspects of his father dying were also well captured. THL once mentioned to me that there is a very bureaucratic aspect to death, and I remembered that reading over the section with the lawyer and the funeral director. I also liked Tengo’s response to getting his father’s postal account: “It felt like being handed a pile of damp, heavy blankets. If possible, he would rather not have it. But he couldn’t say this” (835).
- His father took great pains to refer to Tengo has his “legal heir” and not son, though this would also mean that Tengo’s mother was dead.
- Also, it could have been some projection of his father knocking on the doors; previously I’d thought that the NHK collector was some sort of cosmic representative, a functionary of karma. If we think of god as a father figure it more or less adds up, don’t it?
- And speaking of observations that support the theories of the “delegation from Vienna” The photo is interesting; the father never showed it to Tengo, for reasons unknown. The woman, presumably Tengo’s mother, reminds Tengo of his older girlfriend.
 The female gaze emasculates a male character; I wonder what feminists would make of this.
 Another good example is Tengo feeling like his head is full of frozen lettuce on page 827. Murakami stops, lingers on this strange little thought as a groggy person just awakened from sleep might, and then gets on with business.
 Come to think of it, Tengo’s been pretty lazy about tracking down his mother, though I’ll cut him some slack given the events in the past few months of his life.
 Nabokov’s epithet, I believe.