Norwegian Wood (1-4)


Howdee folks! I'm like the lil' engine that could, steadily moving along with this ole' readalong.  I must say, I can definitely see why Mr. Murakami has a steadfast following.  His writing is exquisite.   Truly stunning.  And I realize that this is a translation and most translations are never as lovely as the original voice, which leads me to believe that this man must be a GENIUS when it comes to writing in his native tongue. 

I wasn't expecting the story to volley back and forth between Experience and Time Periods as often as it does, though.  I cannot tell if it's because of this that I have yet to connect with anyone, or if it's because of the translation?  Our narrator opens having a quasi-emotional-panic attack on a plan and he's about forty something?  This leads to flashback.  Of his childhood and of his college years. 

Watanabe, our main guy, has an emotional break whilst remembering the suicide of his childhood friend, Kizuki.  Kizuki left behind an awkward emptiness in the friendship between Watanabe and Naoka (Kizuki's girlfriend).  I suppose what we're observing is the effect of this suicide on both Watnabe and Naoka, as each are emotionally stunted. 

Naoka is in emotional turmoil, withdrawn form Life.  Watnabe is also withdrawn, but still interacts with Life.  We spend more time with Watnabe as the narrative is told from his point of view.  After his Big Moment with Naoka (1), he ends upchillin' in a dorm, not really caring one way or another what happens, but seems to be going through the motions of Life.  Sure, he's still hanging out with this interesting cat named Nagasawa who is a Big Cheese on campus. Those two will go hit the bars looking for one-night stands.  I like that Naoka feels a bit dirty after these escapades.  It shows he's looking for something but maybe hasn't identified it yet.

And maybe that's the premise of this novel: the quest for something when you don't believe in anything.

There's some beautiful passages though.  I've definitely tagged a handful:

"There was only one thing for me to do when I started my new life in the dorm: stop taking everything so seriously; establish a proper distance between myself and everything else. Forget about green-felt pool tables and red N-360's and white flowers on school desks; about smoke rishing from tall crematorium smokestacks, and chunky paperweights in poice interrorgation rooms. It seemed to work at first, I tried hard to forget, but there remained inside me a vague knot-of-air-kind of thing. And as time went by, the knot began to take on a clear and simple form, a form that I am able toput into words, like this:
Death exists, not as the opposite but as a part of life." (25)

- Death is feared by most.  Can I say most? Are there people who truly don't fear death? After all, there must be a difference between accepting death and not fearing it, yes? Murakami nailed Death perfectly.  Don't we think of it as an Other.  An end?  An extended existence that leads to non-existence.  The moment we begin breath we head toward death, but does that mean it's an end.  And also, is Murakami implying here that Nothing is the opposite of Life, if Death isn't?

"The better I got to know Nagasawa, the stranger he seemed. I had met a lot of strange people in my day, but none as strange as Nagasawa. He was a far more voracious reader than I, but he made it a rule never to touch a book by a ny author who had not been dead at least thirty years. "That's the only kind of book I can trust," he said.

"It's not that I don't believe in contemporary literature," he added, "but I don't want to waste valuable time reading any book that has not had the baptism of time.  Life is too short." (30)

- Isn't that a brilliant way of referring to aged literature? Warm squishy feelings activated. And it gets better!!!

"That's why I read them. If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. That's the world of hicks and slobs. Real people would be ashamed of themselves doing that.  Haven't you noticed, Watanabe? You and I are the only real ones in the dorm. The other guys are crap." (31)

- Okay, although I think it's an easy pretentious slope to begin thinking one is better than others based on what one reads, I do like the ultimate point that Nagasawa is making which is if everyone is reading the same drivel then there are no new thoughts.  We should be inspired to read what hasn't been read.   Because there IS a difference between reading Twilight(2) and reading Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain (3).  

"That's the kind of death that frightens me. The shadow of death slowly, slowly eats away at teh region of life, and before you know it everything's dark and you can't see, and the people around you think of you as more dead than alive. I hate that. I couldn't stand it." (77)

- Once again, Isolation and Otherness told in such lyrical prose.  Man, I wish I could read this is its native language.  Is it Death frightens us or is it Non-Existence.  Do we consider the difference?

(1) If you've read this far then you REALLY don't care about spoilers.  For the sake of my memory lacking years from now with this review, they did it.
(2) Poor Stephanie Meyer, why do we always pick on you?  Because you're sparkly of course!
(3) I seriously want to read The Magic Mountain.  Has anyone read it?  It seems as if it's the-go-to-book for look at me, i'm all brilliant and a smarypants.  Why why why? 


  1. I so agree about the writing- I was copying out paragraphs of the stuff, and I was barely even awake, so it's gotta be good! We must learn Japanese really really well, and then read it in its original form. Also, I love "If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking" Because I don't think it's necessarily a snobbery thing, but more of an originality of thought thing that comes from different (reading) experiences. Although, since there are many of us reading Norwegian Wood all at once, I probably shouldn't say that... ;)

  2. Blasted Thomas Mann and his smart books of smartness.

    Ok, "Naoka is in emotional turmoil, withdrawn form Life. Watnabe is also withdrawn, but still interacts with Life. We spend more time with Watnabe as the narrative is told from his point of view."

    Awesome point. This is why I've been enjoying doing readalongs. Because people bring up stuff I totally don't think about and then it's like "ah-HA! I am now deriving more from this book!"

    I like Nagasawa. But then, I like almost all the secondary characters. Except, of course, for Naoko.

  3. I have a lot of those same passages highlighted!

    Another favorite of mine is from Nagasawa - "you’re surrounded by endless possibilities, one of the hardest things you can do is pass them up." (p34)

    Also, I like what you said about Death being a sort of Other. There's a lot of "otherness" in this book.

  4. If Nagasawa wasn't such a dog...yep, I would hit that.

    And now, I must try to say something intelligent to make up for that line above (which I totally meant, by the way). I wonder if everyone who is touched by death at a young age grows up with that shadow hanging over them, that understanding that death is not just something that happens to you when you're old and done living your life.

    I did have an acquaintance who killed himself when he was in junior high. And another classmate in my school was hit by a car while riding his bike, and died. I barely knew them, but their deaths shook me anyway. So now I'm trying to imagine how it would feel if it was my best friend. It would NOT be easy to recover from that.

    But, as Alice said in a comment on another blog, I also tend to feel like people should get over trauma easily because I've always been able to. I don't condone wallowing. I'm more of a Midori, I suppose. Except I don't play the guitar, poorly or otherwise.

  5. What a thoughtful post! I'm afraid I was more obsessed with smaller details and I didn't do a very good job with the big picture stuff.

  6. I'd also love to know what this book sounds like in the original. The tone must be different, as it always is with different languages, but it's hard to imagine how. Also, I'd really like to reread it, but I'm kind of scared to because the first time I read it it left me crying for the rest of the day. No other book to date has had quite the same effect on me.


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