Norwegian Wood

At the recommendation of a buddy (The same who recommended reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being) I picked up Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood which was written back in ’87 and translated from Japanese into English in 2000.

This is another novel that I was spellbound by and finished over the course of a week. It is a simple tale spanning the life of a young man as he enters college. It deals with friendship, death, loss, life, and of course, love in its many masks. Murakami fashions Toru Watanabe, the main character, in such a way that anyone can relate to him and his thoughts and feelings. His (Watanabe’s) style is akin to Holden Caulfield’s from Catcher in the Rye – something that the author coyly alludes to mid-novel that I found amusing. Where Holden came across as a loner and an outcast from society, berating those around him (the phonies), Watanabe is gentle and while still a loner, is seen as more stoic and reflective, if a bit of an outcast.

One of the issues that young Watanabe must deal with is death. He learns that

Death exists, not as the opposite but as a part of life.

Something that I think we can all agree with, and have come to similar conclusions of on our own. This theory, though, applies not only to the loss of life, but to the loss of many things in this life, be they physical or psychological.

Another portion of the novel touches on depression and loss;

April ended and May came along, but May was even worse than April. In the deepening spring of May, I had no choice but to recognize the trembling of my heart. It usually happened as the sun was going down. In the pale evening gloom, when the soft fragrance of magnolias hung in the air, my heart would swell without warning, and tremble, and lurch with a stab of pain. I would try clamping my eyes shut and gritting my teeth, and wait for it to pass. And it would pass – but slowly, taking its own time, and leaving a dull ache behind.

We cannot rush getting over something (someone) being lost to us. It does indeed pass, slowly, and on its own terms, and usually leaves a dull ache behind. I’m not sure how the masses deal with loss and despair, but I know that I tend to address it, deal with it, and either move along, or accept that whatever it was that I’d lost, or that had affected me to such a degree is now a part of me. Something that can’t be forgotten, or ‘gotten over’ or ‘moved on from’, but is rather now part of what makes me me. It is that intangible knot buried deep within, no longer raw and jagged as it once was, but there none the less; a dull ache. After a while, that ache fades and is forgotten most of the time, but as with Watanabe, there are certain triggers or tremors that remind us of that which has become a part of us.

This particular passage struck me because of the line I would try clamping my eyes shut and gritting my teeth, and wait for it to pass. I remember a time when I was going through what was the toughest challenge I’d faced at that point in my life, and feeling just that way. I can still vividly remember going outside on a frigid December morning at the office, and unbuttoning my coat against the cold, letting the wind knife its icy fingers into me just to feel something other than the pain and loss of the situation. I challenged nature and my body to challenge me back, ‘gritting my teeth’ if you will, and letting time take its course.

One of my favorite passages from the book touches on a peripheral character, describing her beauty and elegance on that particular night. How she has her own special draw and attraction;

Her small gold earrings caught the light as the taxi swayed. Her midnight blue dress seemed to have been made to match the darkness of the cab. Every now and then her thinly daubed, beautifully formed lips would quiver slightly as if she had caught herself on the verge of talking to herself. Watching her, I could see why Nagasawa had chosen her as his special companion. There were any number of women more beautiful than Hatsumi, and Nagasawa could have made any of them his. But Hatsumi had some quality that could send a tremor through your heart. It was nothing forceful. The power she exerted was a subtle thing, but it called forth deep resonances. I watched her all the way to Shibuya, and wondered, without ever finding an answer, what this emotional reverberation I was feeling could be.

The passage as a whole is fairly remarkable; you get a feeling of how the rest of the novel is written as well as the author’s ability to portray emotions – both subtle and apparent – in merely a few lines. The latter half of the final sentence sums up how new love feels. Rarely is one’s deeper attraction to someone obvious, rather, it is something new and churning within us that can’t quite be pinpointed – subtle, elegant, alluring.

At the complete opposite end of the spectrum, is a passage where one of the characters is describing herself and some of her wonderful traits;

…I may be a little crazy, but I’m a good kid, and honest, and I work hard, I’m kinda cute, I’ve got nice boobs, I’m a good cook, and my father left me a trust fund. I mean, I’m a real bargain, don’t you think?

I sure think so. And that’s what makes this novel so spectacular. Murakami is able to paint the spectrum of emotions and situations. On one hand, we have the earlier passage, outlining a subtle attraction, one that is shrouded and seen as if through rose colored lenses, another that is perfectly tangible and makes sense at a completely different (logical) level. One can understand the love of both characters, be they simultaneous or disparate.

At any rate. I recommend picking up a copy of Norwegian Wood at your local bookstore and having a read. Also, if you know any good, honest, hard working, cute girls with nice boobs who are a little crazy, AND can cause an emotional reverberation within me, send them my way.


The Alaskan


4 Responses to “Norwegian Wood”

  1. Sam Says:

    I didn’t end up reading the whole post as I have not read this particular Murakami and I don’t want to have too much of it given away, but I see that you’re starting a rather marvelous reading trend here.

    A friend of mine gave me “Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World” a long time ago for my birthday and I had one of those experiences where I think ‘why do I even bother trying to write when there are books like this out there.’ I felt the same way about “Wind-Up Bird Chronicles” which was similarly amazing and riveting.

    So yeah. I guess my advice would be to continue on the Murakamis. You won’t be disappointed.

  2. mrod Says:

    Your usage of ‘rose colored lenses’ phrasing made me chuckle because it made me think of the current edition’s book design (I’m a book designophile) where the two purplish circles on the cover are positioned to appear as if they are colored eye glasses resting low on her bridge and she’s peering over it.

    I like the parellel you draw between the particular passage in the novel and when you let the cold winds awaken you. I’m really glad you liked this novel–I hope it helps in some way.

  3. Eyelid Surgery Says:

    ‘~” I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives great information :;;

  4. ροχαλητο θεραπεια Says:

    Excellent beat ! I would like to apprentice whilst you amend your site, how can i subscribe for a weblog website?

    The account helped me a applicable deal. I have been
    tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered vibrant clear concept

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: