I feel like I should be sat here in my huge black-framed hipster glasses sipping from my hipster pumpkin spice latte while I jot down my cool-ass hipster poetry in my leather notebook. That’s what hipsters do, right? I wouldn’t know, as I’m so far from hip that I… use the word ‘hip,’ apparently.
If reading Murakami makes me a hipster, then so be it. At least I’ll be a well-read one 🙂
(Don’t worry, I haven’t gone crazy. The above is for the benefit of certain people who are obviously jealous of my back-catalogue of important literature.)
Warning: strong language and discussions of sex scenes (although it’s Murakami’s fault for making it weird).
Plot summary: When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his
first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki. Immediately
he is transported back almost twenty years to his student days in Tokyo,
adrift in a world of uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and
desire – to a time when an impetuous young woman called Midori marches
into his life and he has to choose between the future and the past.
I’m always apprehensive about beginning a Murakami novel, even though I usually end up really getting into it. I think I expect them to be difficult and demanding with obtuse philosophical essays, but they’re not – they’re actually incredibly accessible. I love how they’re somehow mundane yet whimsical – the story is almost something that could happen in everyday life, but not quite.
I like the normalcy in these books. You hardly ever know what the point of his books are or where the hell it’s going, but it almost doesn’t matter as the journey is so interesting. Most novels only describe the important parts of a character’s day; the events that are relevant to the progression of the plot. It takes a special kind of skill to describe every single unnecessary step taken and yet still make it interesting – Scarlett Thomas pulls it off quite well, but Haruki Murakami is the Master. In this book, the characters decide to go on a short journey… but only after buying those super-necessary and irrelevant train tickets! 🙂
There are obviously themes and suchlike in Norweigan Wood, as I doubt it would be as popular as it has become if it were left only to train-ticket-buying shenanigans. It’s a particular depressing one this time, revolving primarily around loss, death and the process of moving on. Having said that, the novel itself never really seemed to get me down – the characters feature as literative devices only, so it’s not like you get particularly attached. It’s more of a discussion piece about loneliness so I assume the distance between the reader and the characters is intentional to simulate the theme.
I’m looking for selfishness. Perfect selfishness. Like, say I tell you I
want to eat strawberry shortcake. And you stop everything you’re doing
and run out and buy it for me. And you come back out of breath and get
down on your knees and hold this strawberry shortcake out to me. And I
say I don’t want it anymore and throw it out the window. That’s what I’m
“I’m not sure that has anything to do with love,” I said with some amazement.
“It does,” she said. “You just don’t know it. There are time in a girl’s life when things like that are incredibly important.”
“Things like throwing strawberry shortcake out the window?”
And when I do it, I want the man to apologize to me. “Now I see,
Midori. What a fool I have been! I should have known that you would lose
your desire for strawberry shortcake. I have all the intelligence and
sensitivity of a piece of donkey shit. To make it up to you, I’ll go out
and buy you something else. What would you like? Chocolate Mousse?
“So then what?”
“So then I’d give him all the love he deserves for what he’s done.”
“Sounds crazy to me.”
“Well, to me, that’s what love is…”
I’m bored with pretending I know what I’m talking about now, so let’s talk about sex! Gross sex, in particular. I’d forgotten about the odd yet quite graphic sex that features in most of Murakami’s books. It’s just kind of awkward. I didn’t make a note of the Norweigan Wood-specific… uhh… wood, but in 1Q84 there was a particularly memorable section about how ‘he stirred my vagina with his penis like I was a cup of cocoa.’ Awesome. Sign me up for that one :s
So everything was fine – I nuzzled happily into the story, finished it and then made a rookie error. I DID NOT IMMEDIATELY CLOSE THE BOOK. Why do I not learn!? Why do I persist in reading Epilogues and Author’s Notes, even though I know they’re going to irk me? What’s wrong with me!?
‘Haruki Murakami was shocked and depressed to find his normal six-figure readership exploding into the millions…’ Oh, you can fuck right off with that one. It makes you sad that millions of people read your book? How dare you!? Do you know how many aspiring authors would kill just to have the six-figure readership and just how many of those people never even come close? You don’t get to choose that only an elite few get the privilege of reading your precious novel because the rest are clearly too mainstream to understand it!
Alright, I cave. Murakami is clearly a gigantic hipster. And an ass. And no, I won’t link to where you can purchase his book – you might buy it and therefore upset him.