Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Norwegian Wood Read-Along Week 3: Return of the Midori (score by John Williams)

Midori and Toru go out for drinks (at 2 p.m.), and she lets him in on a couple of her latest fantasies. Fantasy #1: Toru undresses her tenderly, like a mother undresses a child (concerning), and then proceeds to corrupt her as she protests delicately (oh hai, rape fantasy). Fantasy #2: She and Toru are kidnapped by pirates and tied together NAKED (naturally) with only 1 hour between them and a long walk off a short plank (1 hour to live? Conveniently naked? Only one thing to do, I suppose.).

Toru's go-to response to these confessions is, "Oh, brother" . . . because that's how teenage boys talk. No. WRONG. That is NOT how teenage boys talk . . . that is how Winnie the Pooh talks.

But Toru grew on me through these three chapters. When he assumes care of Midori's terminally ill father so she can take a sanity break, it's a brief glimpse of how borderline wonderful he is when he's not thinking of himself. He helps the man pee in a jar! He spoon feeds him! He talks to him about Euripides! In short, I have no idea who he is anymore.

One thing that made me give him suspicious face was when he lied to Hatsumi (WHO ALSO KILLS HERSELF WHY HATSUMI WHY?!) about how Kizuki died. I can't think of any good reason why he would do that, unless he didn't want to elicit her pity.

Speaking of Hatsumi (WILL EVERYONE PLEASE STOP COMMITTING SUICIDE YOU'RE MAKING ME SAD), she also brings out Toru's inner tubby bear when she explains that all she wants is to get married and have kids and that Nagasawa will grow to want those things if she just waits long enough.

Maybe this is all Toru can say when a woman in his life announces something so ridiculous that a more elaborate response just won't do. In that case, wisely played, sir. Please accept this jar of honey and my humble apology.

Another sign that Toru is growing into a healthy boy and swimming away from the suicide rip tide everyone else seems to be floundering in is this uncharacteristically mature statement, written in a letter to Naoko:
"Two and a half years have gone by since it happened, and Kizuki is still seventeen years old. Not that this means my memory of him has faded. The things that his death gave rise to are still there, bright and clear, inside me, some of them even clearer than when they were new. . . . Part of what Kizuki and I shared when we were sixteen and seventeen has already vanished, and no amount of crying is going to bring that back." (p. 218)
And then Toru and Midori team up to summarize the whole depressing point of this novel (the context is porn, but isn't it always?):
"'They just keep doing the same things,' I said.
'Well, what else can they do? We all just keep doing the same things.'" (p. 225)
Everyone seems to be stuck in a vicious cycle that goes something like this: angst, sadness, tiny happy moment, depression, selfishness, suicide. Maybe Midori and Toru will be the enlightened two who break away from that permanent rain cloud.

I'm sure if we tried hard enough, we could make a pretty good case for why this novel is a thinly veiled adaptation of The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh . . . with more than one Eeyore.


  1. Now I want to re-read Norwegian Wood but picture all the characters as various Winnie the Pooh characters. I can already hear Toru's lines in Pooh's voice.

  2. As the Crowe Flies and ReadsJanuary 25, 2012 at 6:33 AM

    Is it bad that I've enjoyed reading everybody's posts far more than I enjoyed reading the actual book? 

    I agree that being in the hospital with Midori's father really ddid humanize and round out Toru--those were the only scenes in the book where I really felt any affection toward him at all. 

  3. HAHA your review is too funny - I agree with "crowe".  The reviews are much more fun to read than the book itself :)  This book's no fun because *everyone* is Eeyore, and then we have a sad Winnie the Pooh who has his one-liner for everything.  Oh brother.

  4. Yes. Just yes. Also, yay Toru swimming towards happiness- I know everyone hates him, but I just want him to be happy and all like functioning and stuff!

  5. I don't *hate* him...I just grow weary of his wallowing. ; )

  6. I don't *hate* him...I just grow weary of his wallowing. ; )

  7. And I always thought ONE Eeyore was too many. Serves me right for being too hard on that poor, depressed donkey and his little red balloon. But that's what Midori is for, right? She's our Tigger. Slightly manic, a little unbalanced, but still a hell of a good time.

  8. If we're better at writing than Murakami, then where is all our PRESTIGE?

  9. It would be a far better book, don't you think?

    I'm expecting a stern phone call from Disney's legal department any minute now...

  10. With a single phrase, you have eliminated any need to review anything else: "the context is porn (but isn't it always?)" One more blog off the list of things to read.

  11. WINNIE THE POOH. I am not going to be endlessly impressed because you made those graphics. My graphics extend only to birthday hats.

    I like that this is tagged 'MORE suicide.' Because that's kind of what each chapter should be called.

  12. A mention of PORN on the INTERNET!

    Alert the authorities.

  13. Toru is growing on me, too!  Yay character development!  

    Also, Midori is the good-kind-of-crazy.  The other characters, not so much.

  14. I'm sorry to have offended you. My sarcastic tone was meant to convey the absurdity of the context, which was, in fact, a discussion of pornography by two of the novel's main characters.

    That being said, I fully support and respect your decision to discontinue reading the thoughts I post to this blog. My humor is sometimes irreverent, and I have no plans to change what is essentially my personality. As long as my conservative, Christian, right-wing parents continue to read and appreciate my posts, I think I can sleep well at night.

  15. InRussetShadows With
    a single passive aggressive internet comment, you have eliminated any need to
    worry about your (optimistically anticipated) absence from this blog's comment
    area. One more hyper-offendable twat off the list of pointless comments the
    people that enjoy this blog will have to read.

    p.s. Sincere thanks for your generous commitment to never return… as it would
    have been oh so bothersome to have had to remember your screen name in order to
    facilitate instantly skip over any future comments from you without undertaking
    the complete waste of time required to read them.

  16. But those birthday hats are MAJESTIC.

  17. I changed my mind about Toru. If he is growing on me, it's the way a parasitic fungi grows on a tree...AND KILLS IT.