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by Gemma Webster
You know that feeling when you are on a roller coaster and it is dropping and dropping and you think your body can’t possibly take it if it drops any further, like your insides might crush into each other, forming new parts never seen before, too full of blood in all the wrong places? For me that is the feeling of falling in love.
Maybe I should say that I fall in love all the time, with people, with things. For example, this summer, I fell pretty hard for the moon through a telescope and for a boa constrictor at a gator rescue. But I fall in love with books most of all. Books can change your life; Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle changed mine.
After graduating from college, I found myself wandering the stacks of the Longmont library, waiting for something to grab me. I had been catching up on missed classics for the previous several years. I bought Austen, Fitzgerald, and Dickens by the armload from Borders. All had been rereleased and were a uniform size and had complimentary matching cover art. My bookshelves were looking really orderly, safe, and “well read.” I was worried that this was all there was.
The hardcover spine of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle features a cosine curve. The title is printed in a circle, and its colors move from black to blood red, pausing in between at gray, blue, orange that rainbows into yellow then white. The other side of the curve bleeds into red. When you get closer, you see and feel the raised paint of gears and spirals, as if some clever spy had been by with magic ink to add a layer.
The story inside is as beautiful and clever as the cover. I’m not even certain I could tell you exactly what happens. A man loses a cat and a woman; he eats spaghetti; he irons shirts. He sits in the bottom of a dry well, in the pitch black of dark, watching the stars overhead. That moment has haunted my imagination ever since. I’m still trying to find a well that I can sit in for a few days. If you know of one, I’d be willing to bribe you for this information.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is absurd in the best ways, and it made me fall in love with reading again. I got lost inside this book, and I wanted to stay lost—or maybe go on my own adventure seeking the lost Malta Kano. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is still one of the most playful books I have ever read. I learned about a Manchurian zoo in World War II, I salivated over noodle dishes, and I soared on that roller coaster feeling.
This post is part of our annual Lit Matters series, in which writers and readers express why supporting and elevating literary arts—the mission of Lighthouse Writers Workshop— is important to them. If you agree, consider supporting Lighthouse on Colorado Gives Day. Mark your calendar for December 8 or schedule your gift now. Thank you!
Gemma Webster is a longtime member of the Lighthouse Writers Workshop, now in her second year of the Book Project. When she isn’t working on her novel or reading or letting dogs out of doors, she contributes to the speculative fiction blog FictionUnbound.com and tweets @gemmaweb.