Themes: / fantasy / sheep / surreal thriller /
It begins simply enough: A twenty-something advertising executive receives a postcard from a friend, and casually appropriates the image for an insurance company’s advertisement. What he doesn’t realize is that included in the pastoral scene is a mutant sheep with a star on its back, and in using this photo he has unwittingly captured the attention of a man in black who offers a menacing ultimatum: find the sheep or face dire consequences. Thus begins a surreal and elaborate quest that takes our hero from the urban haunts of Tokyo to the remote and snowy mountains of northern Japan, where he confronts not only the mythological sheep, but the confines of tradition and the demons deep within himself.
In Haruki Murakami’s seductive novel A Wild Sheep Chase, Murakami spins a yarn (see what I did there) around such issues as personal identity and the meaning of life. Sound complicated? No not really… well maybe a little, but it all depends on how deep you want to dive and how long you wish to hold your breath. Do you need to be a trained philosopher and English/lit major to decipher the subtle beauty of this novel? No, but it doesn’t hurt either.
Murakami’s ability to word-paint vivid autumn colors through brushed scenery of green grass and sunburnt leaves only pales to his talent of sketching his wintered black and white landscapes of rain soaked city nights and the lonely dark of death. For the most part, I was rolling along really enjoying the ride. When I reached the end, everything shifted and the true weight of what this story is about settled deep around me like an endless snow. Lulling, dulling, and soothing the reader until who we are is reflected in a grimy mirror. The I becomes you, the you becomes we, the we becomes… a sheep?
Here’s all you need to know. Don’t get hung up on the whole “A sheep inside of me” thing or the uncountable mentions of a “dead whale’s penis,” just go with the flow and ride the tide. Permit the current to carry you along and let loose your anchor and just drift.
Rupert Degas acting as narrator is brilliant. Let me say this again. Rupert Degas as narrator is brilliant. I haven’t heard a reader narrate something so clean and true since I listened to Frank Muller narrate All Quiet on the Western Front or I Heard the Owl Call My Name. Rupert Degas delivers a reading that sooths the ear while making Murakami’s narrative dance like maple leaves in a September breeze.
If you can’t tell, I found this to be a damn fine book. I enjoyed the subtle layering of philosophy and critical theory. I found the narrative captivating once I “let go.” Hmmm, might this be a reflection of life? Is life better consumed if one can let go from time to time with the understanding that time itself is an unanswered question of experienced interpretation? Maybe… Maybe so maybe no but still, this was a pleasure to read.
Posted by Casey Hampton.