The Book Cook Look Club is a small Australian based book club combining three much-loved activities: reading, cooking and films. Declan, a member of the club, will be recapping his experience each month right here on The Nerd Daily!
BOOK | One person selects a book for everyone to read over the next month.
COOK | The book selector hosts a dinner party with a themed meal related to the book.
LOOK | We compare the film adaptation to its source material.
The book for February was chosen by Cassie – probably one of the fastest readers I know. So naturally, she selected a book which most of the group struggled to get through in time: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. Since there is no film adaptation for this book, we unfortunately had to skip this part of the discussion.
At around 600 pages long, it’s not an easy read for those who like to take books slowly and if I’m being completely honest, I was already absorbed in another one of Murakami’s books, 1Q84. Because of this, I reasoned that if I was able to turn the conversation into a comparison of the two then it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t completely commit to the set book.
The night began with Cassie serving up a gorgeous meal of pork miso ramen soup, a traditional Japanese dish. As we tucked into dinner, Cassie launched us into an explanation of why she chose the book.
She started off with her undying love for Murakami’s writing, especially the recounts of World War II from Japan’s perspective decades after it ended; a perspective that Western audiences don’t hear about too often. She was also fascinated by Murakami’s knack for finding the meaning in routine activities.
Alec and Scott were less forgiving of this, blaming it for being the reason they lost interest in the book. For them, the plot was slow and confusing. To be fair, I don’t think either of them made it very far into the book before giving up.
During this back-and-forth, I was sitting quietly on the sidelines waiting to turn the conversation from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle to Murakami’s writing style in general. And so from my bag, I withdrew 1Q84.
“Routine is what defines a lot of Murakami’s characters, but 1Q84 uses this to suggest that some strange mix of existentialism and fatalism exists. In this book some special few people can transcend the human experience, develop strange powers, and perceive hidden secrets of life. Meanwhile, everyone else is just a background character with no excitement or variation in their lives,” I said, trying to sound smart.
“It would appear that in instances such as this, some people are moving towards a fixed destiny, while others live day-to-day with no real purpose.”
This segue into surrealism and postmodernism arrived just in time for dessert – coffee jelly with cream (yes, this is apparently traditionally Japanese, to my surprise and ignorance). Some divisive opinions rose to the surface at this point.
With Alec arguing against surrealism’s lack of logical answers, and Scott hating on postmodernism’s ambiguity, they dominated the conversation for a little while. Alec revealed to us the deep frustration he feels when books don’t give clear-cut answers to the questions they throw at the reader.
Cassie and I managed to regain some ground in defence of contemporary literature. We argued that in reality, there are big questions in our life that we never figure out the answers to, and others where the only answers are imperfect. Postmodern literature aims to reflect this.
In Murakami’s 1Q84, do we ever find out who the Little People really are? Or the meaning of the two moons in the sky? Or what an air chrysalis really is? No, the book doesn’t give us these answers. It gives us half-answers, or tiny hints dropped every now and then. This might frustrate the Alec’s of the world, but if you don’t mind having a lot of questions left open-ended for you to think about in your own time, then I would certainly recommend adding Murakami to your reading list.
Do you enjoy reading works by Murakami? Let us know in the comments below!