Norwegian wood

“Norwegian wood” was a phenomenon amongst my peers few years ago, when everyone started to read it, and everyone seemed to think that they immediately possessed some kind of admirable intellect if they claimed they’d read the book. I always try to stay away from trends. That’s why I made it clear to myself that I was not going to read that book. Until few years have gone and one day I just happened to come to it out of curiosity.

Unlike the impression I got from some other reviews that the book talks about a society where young people are put in impasse by their own twisted minds of loneliness, and keep finding excuses for sleeping around. After reading it, to me, that kind of description is not convincing. In shorter words, “Norwegian wood” IS NOT ABOUT SEX. Surely there are a number of sex scenes throughout the book, but underneath that superficial impression is humanity trying to be expressed. And in addition, sexual desires described in the book is still somewhat the naïve feelings of very young people who have just started exploring themselves, it is far from a porn novel.

The young Watanabe, the protagonist, was trying nothing but living the most sincere life that he knew how to, despite all the dramas that happened to his most loved ones. As long as I see it is far from a rotten life. And sex should not be associated with degradation in moral standard, in any case. Sex, after all, is just a physical activity; it is neutral, like money, good or bad is how we use them. I did, at some points, not agree with what Watanabe did, however. Like I was disappointed when he expressed his love to Midori, despite my hope that Naoko is his and his only, love. Or like I just knew it at the end that he was gonna do it with Reiko, I even felt like avoiding reading that part so that it wouldn’t ruin my impression about him. But with all the dramas that happened to them, I find me in no position to judge his acts. It must be hard enough for him to only keep on living; yes, living itself is the hardest battle already.

Though the book’s setting is Japan in the late 60s, which I am not familiar with at all, I still feel some sense of connection with the characters. Maybe because I am at the same age as them? Coincidently enough, I came across this sentence “Another two Sundays and I would be 20 years old” when I was actually 2 Sundays before my 20th birthday. Though we don’t share same experiences of life, maybe we share the feelings of 20 years old people who have just been expelled from the teenage world, but still confused about and not yet welcome by the adult life.

Midori may not be my most favourite character of all, but I was really impressed with her reasoning why Watanabe should choose her. “I’m a real, live girl, with real, live blood gushing through my veins. You’re holding me in your arms and I’m telling you that I love you. I’m ready to do anything you tell me to do. I may be a little bit mad, but I’m a good girl, and honest, and I work hard, I’m kind of cute, I have 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? If you don’t take me, I’ll end up going somewhere else.” Wow… what a bargain huh? I like the way she simplifies things to solve problems from the root. Unfortunately, with love, we can never simplify it enough no matter how much we want to.

And I like Reiko’s philosophies at the end of the book. I mean, they are just so true, but we hardly stop to think about them seriously.
All of us (by which I mean all of us, both normal and not-so-normal) are imperfect human beings living in an imperfect world”,
Despite your best efforts, people are going to be hurt when it’s time for them to be hurt”,
and “Death exists, not as the opposite but as a part of life. By living our lives, we nurture death.”

I can’t tell you whether you should read the book, I even can’t tell if I like it. However, one thing I can be sure of is that Murakami is a really talented writer. The way he describes things so delicately and creatively, the way he brings readers to surprise after surprise, and the way he tells jokes that makes it humourous even in the most desperate situations, make me feel reading the book wasn’t at all a waste of time. In fact, I think I should read more serious literature like this after indulging myself in chick flick books for so long bigsmile.

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