Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami

March 13, 2012 § 3 Comments

I don’t remember how long it has been since I last picked a Murakami to read. I’ve got no shortage of them – I’ve got almost the entire collection sitting at home, sans the newest 1Q84 and a couple of other ones. So in fact, I was spoilt for choice, almost, when I decided that I’ve gone Murakami-less for quite long enough, and it was time to revisit this favourite author of mine.

Norwegian Wood was not an easy pick, but it was one I made because of the movie that was made out of it. I had wanted to watch the movie, but like most times, I absolutely refuse watching movies before going into the books themselves. What more, this was Haruki Murakami we were talking about. So Norwegian Wood it was.

I read the Translator’s Note at the end of the book before I read anything else. Jay Rubin said that Murakami felt “shocked and depressed” when his readership skyrocketed after the publication of Norwegian Wood. Suddenly, he was the author to watch, he was the author that everyone had to read. And he retreated overseas because of that unwelcome fame.

It’s interesting for me, really, because of the many book I’ve read from him, this has got to be the least bizarre of them all. And Murakami says the same himself. For him, it was “an adventure, a challenge. I had never written that kind of straight, simple story, and I wanted to test myself”.

I went into this book with that in mind. So it’s fair to say that I wasn’t expecting talking sheeps or weird character names. But after reading one too many Murakami books, I’ve come to expect the unexpected from him, regardless of what he might think of his own work.

There’s just something about the way he writes, about the voice of his protagonist, that somehow lends to the strength of the whole novel. In all his novels, there’s this remarkable feeling of being sucked into the story no matter how unwilling you might be, and it’s simply because you don’t know you’ve been sucked into it, and then suddenly you look up from the pages and realise that you’re in that dark place already.

An adventure though it may be for Murakami, to dwell in the straight and simple without the weird and bizarre, I rather think it was anything but straight and simple. Maybe we should have our own adventures, throw ourselves into new challenges. Who knows where that might bring us?

It’s like I’m split into two and playing tag with myself. One half is chasing the other half around this big, fat post. The other me has the right words, but this me can’t catch her.

I’ve heard someone tell me before, life is actually more bizarre than stories in books or movies. When accidents happen in real life, for example, they happen for no good reason. But when things like that happen in movies or books, it’s almost certain there’s a reason behind it.

And that’s why Murakami’s books are so bizarre. Because even though he’s just writing about life and growing up and choosing girls, he’s writing it just like how it might actually happen to us – suddenly and without warning, and for no reason whatsoever. Things just happen, and we struggle like hell to make sense of it. Murakami feels like genius when telling us stories like these.

I remember feeling like his stories are just so out there, so weird and completely impossible, but at the same time, just so believable that you’d be hard-pressed not to believe that every minute detail written in the book has actually happened somewhere in this world before. I think I finally see why it feels that way. That’s what life feels like sometimes – unbelievable, but real nonetheless.

There were some parts of this book that reminded me of the other books of his that I’ve read.

I would stare at the grains of light suspended in that silent space, struggling to see into my own heart. What di I want? And what did others want from me? But I could never find the answers. Sometimes I would reach out and try to grasp the grains of light, but my fingers touched nothing.

This reminded me of Sputnik Sweetheart. For all intents and purposes, I’m not quite sure why. Could have been the reference to grains of light.

The sky was a fresh-swept blue, with only a trace of white cloud clinging to the dome of heaven like a thin streak of test paint.

This particular line reminded me of Dance Dance Dance, my first Murakami. It’s the absolutely beautiful scenes that he can draw with mere words that attracted me in the first place. He doesn’t do it often, and it doesn’t even feel purposeful. His lines feel like they’ve been put in there simply, like an afterthought. It’s like how we actually look at the sky and see that, oh, what nice weather today. We don’t look up to describe it, it’s just something we do out of habit, out of nature, and when the time is right, we notice what fine weather it is.

It feels effortless.

On Sundays, I didn’t wind my spring.

Reading this book was like winding up the spring, tighter and tighter throughout the book, page by page. Here’s a guy who’s really just trying to live his life as normally as he knows how, and yet it seems that that’s exactly what he can’t do. At the same time, he doesn’t wind his spring on Sundays.

I read this and I think, should I be doing the same thing too? Should I find one day of the week when I don’t wind my spring? Maybe I should. Maybe we all should.

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§ 3 Responses to Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami

  • Aarti says:

    I’ve never read Murakami before, though I know there was a group read of this book a while back on blogosphere. People seemed to have a very mixed reaction, so I’m glad that you thought his writing style was such a strength.

  • Kristen M. says:

    Maybe I’ll read this one next. It seems like it would be a good one to follow Hardboiled Wonderland. I thought that was his most normal that I’ve read so far!

  • JoV says:

    I’m really glad you like it. I just feel the ending is a bit weird that’s all. I like Murakami when he is less “weird”. 🙂

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