A Wild Sheep Chase

Wow,  it’s been a long time. After I wrote the last entry, I got a full-time job at a publishing house and I just stopped updating (not that I updated that much before…). Anyway, in case you didn’t know, it is one day before Christmas Break, and everyone is on vacation (which means I have no work to do), so I have time to update.

I’ve stopped reading works by Sagan (it was about time) and now I’ve been broadening my horizons. I just finished A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami, so I feel the need to write a review.

A Wild Sheep Chase was published 1982, but wasn’t translated into English until 1989 by Koshansha International Ltd. I’m reviewing the 2002 version translated by Alfred Birnbaum and published by Random House, Inc. This is the final book in the Murakami “Trilogy of the Rat” – the other books being Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973.

**As an aside – if you do happen to get your hands on Hear the Wind Sing or Pinball, 1973, DO NOT LET THEM GO! These books were also translated by Koshansha International Ltd but only a couple hundred copies were printed so, as you can imagine,  it’s almost impossible to find a copy. If you do find one, they are really expensive. I actually did find some copies, but they cost $250! Can you image? My goodness!**

A Wild Sheep Chase is narrated by a thirty-year-old advertising executive who lives a jaded and passionless life. His wife just left him and he has lost his drive to do anymore copyediting work, so he lives day-to-day reminiscing about his past and letting life flow around him. All of this changes when a mysterious man in a suit arrives at his office and tells him that he needs to stop production of a brochure that has a photo of a bunch of sheep on a mountain.

From there the real “chase” begins and what was once a story about a man and his past becomes a mystery, suspense story with subtle hints of magic and mythology. Turns out one of the sheep in the photo has some special powers and our protagonist has to go to remote parts of Japan in order to find this sheep and the man who originally sent him the photo. Also, to make the matter more grave, he only has one month to find the sheep.

The story isn’t as thrilling as it sounds, but I would recommend it. In fact, the first 200 pages are pretty outstanding. The prose is simple and to the point, but there is a certain poetry about it that makes you want to keep reading. It’s very isolating and simple, but makes you think about the way in which humans perceive their lives. Another added factor to the isolation that the book makes you feel is the fact that none of the characters have names – everyone has an identity, or something that separates them, but there are no formal names. I am pretty sure this is a technique the author is using and he blatantly addresses it in one of the chapters in order to show the reason we don names on people and things. Pretty interesting, but again very distant. The narrator has a tendency to make a pretty poignant observation and then write it off as if it meant nothing, which basically encompasses the entire tone of the book.

“We finished our packing and had intercourse, then went out and saw a movie. In the movie there were a lot of men and women having intercourse too. Nothing wrong with watching others having intercourse, after all.”

Something to note, although I thoroughly enjoyed the book, it was one of those books in which I felt more pleasure while reading than when I finished the actual book. The process of reading was so much fun that I didn’t want it to stop, but once it did stop I didn’t feel as content with it as I did reading it. It’s not one of those books where you finish feeling like you accomplished something, rather you feel like you are lacking something. There has to be something to that, but I’m not quite sure what that means…

Overall, read it! There is actually a sequel to this book, Dance, Dance, Dance. So, I’m pretty sure I’m going to check it out. Otherwise, enjoy the holiday and since I have vacation for the next week, I’ll be sure to update a couple of times before the New Year!

Oh, and for Christmas Cheer go to: www.twitter.com/andreafsper

Click on the picture and prepare to smile. Or feel awkward and weirded out. Whichever happens first.

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