Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Norwegian Wood Read-Along Week 4: Can I open my eyes now?

All month, I have been striving to appreciate this book. I was the stylishly dressed egg teetering on the narrow wall of tolerance . . . but these last two chapters were the comically oversized boxing glove that delivered the fatal blow.

Me, in happier times.
I will now address my comments to Toru, because he is the reason I rage.

Toru! I made a lot of excuses for your behavior, and you made me wish I had never met you. I thought this was a turning point, when you told off Kizuki's ghost:
"Unlike you, I've chosen to live---and to live the best I know how. Sure, it was hard for you. What the hell, it's hard for me. Really hard. . . . I'm just going to keep on getting stronger. I'm going to mature. I'm going to be an adult. Because that's what I have to do. I always used to think I'd like to stay seventeen or eighteen if I could. But not anymore. I'm not a teenager anymore. I've got a sense of responsibility now. I'm not the same guy I was when we used to hang out together. I'm twenty now. And I have to pay the price to go on living." (p. 248)
Yes to all of the above . . . if only you actually meant any of it. Alas, you pledged your eternal allegiance to a woman who doesn't even love you enough to STAY ALIVE. And Midori was the most tragic casualty of that false sense of responsibility. She was your best chance at a healthy relationship. Don't you think it would have been nice to date a girl who could be trusted near a razor blade? Wouldn't you rather spend your days talking about cookies and kissing in the rain than talking about death and NOT kissing in a sanatorium? DO YOU HAVE ANY SELF-RESPECT AT ALL?

You didn't listen to me, but I hoped you would at least listen to yourself:
"I loved Midori, and I was happy that she had come back to me. The two of us could make it, that was certain. As Midori herself had said, she was a real, live girl with blood in her veins." (p. 267)
But no. Tell me, why do you say these things that sound reasoned and healthy and then DO THE EXACT OPPOSITE?

Your biggest reason for not pursuing this relationship with Midori was that you didn't know how to break the news to Naoko. Well, surprise, Naoko wasn't really thinking about you. She was practicing her rope-tying skills and picking out a tree. Then you were so upset by her death (are you sure you didn't see it coming? DUDE, WE ALL SAW IT COMING) that you left town and slept outdoors and had a pity party for a solid month. And when you chose to run away, you lost Midori again . . . because she DOES have self-respect.

After that, I thought surely you had made all the terrible decisions you could make. I mean, with only four pages left, what else could you do to provoke my wrath?
"We went inside and closed the curtains. Then, in the darkened room, Reiko and I sought out each other's bodies as if it were the most natural thing in the world for us to do." (p. 290)

I give up.

**NOTE: I made a new friend last weekend (Hi, Tommy!) who used to teach Norwegian Wood for a college course. He has posted some essay topics and discussion questions on his blog, and I plan to read them as soon as I can look at the book without screaming. They live here: http://accordprogression.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/conversation-peace-norwegian-wood-by-haruki-murakami/**


  1. Holy shit, madam. I have to start commenting right now as of reading the first paragraph, because I am CRYING from laughing so hard. I think it's the swing...with the caption..and....omg. That was amazing. And I thank you.

    *reads the rest*

    Ok, I thought he DID end up with Midori though. Did that not happen? Did he just have GrossSex with Reiko and then the Midori thing went away and he went back to writing things while petting his cat Seagull?


  2. Actually yes! I was sooort of pissed off about the whole 'I love Midori but have an obligation to Naoko, and oh whoops, Naoko's dead now; but still I can't just LET MYSELF BE HAPPY!' I was actually pissed off for the whole moping camping trip. I don't know what to think about it though, because on the one hand I'm like 'Dude! That was totally convenient!' but that's a pretty cold thing to say about this girl he sort-of-loves-but-is-more-obligated-to. So I dunno!

    And oh the crazy sex. Wrong. Although I would totes do it with Reiko because she's sort of amazing (although she would hate it because, hey! She's not a lesbian!)

  3. HAHAHAHA I love your posts so much!  This readalong's been mucho fun because of your wise insight and I'm glad that I got to meet you through this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad, book.  I kept giving Toru slack until the very end - until that Toru/Reiko part.  Whyyyyy.
    Anyway - I look forward to your other non-Norwegian Wood posts :)

  4. "She was practicing her rope-tying skills and picking out a tree."
    I'm sorry about your blinding rage, but I thought it was a pretty good book!

    Maybe next time we will have an agreement-party about something!

  5. As the Crowe Flies and ReadsJanuary 31, 2012 at 4:03 PM

     Lawd, but I love reading your comments.  Toru passion with Reiko just didn't' compute for me and thank goodness Midori chucked him (as i prefer to believe).

  6. When I read your comment, I was standing in the laundromat grinning like an idiot at my phone. People around me were concerned.

    I think he probably did end up with Midori at the end. Honestly, everything after "the scene" is a little hazy for me. I may have blacked out.

    Oh oh! But you reminded me of something I thought about while I was reading. I was wondering if the Japanese word for "seagull" is more pleasant as far as cat names go, and I just looked it up now. It's "kamome." So, no, not that much better.

  7. I felt terrible, too, but the first thing I thought when Naoko died was, "Well, that takes care of that." And then when he didn't have the same reaction of relief that I had, I was indignant.

  8. Bless you for calling my insight "wise." I will treasure that for always.

    And I will always remember that Norwegian Wood brought us all together in our shared frustration (except for Brooks and Laura, of course...those weirdos).

  9. I feel like the whole beach-sleeping, ever-weeping nomadic period was necessary as a way to show Toru's mourning process (hey,it's better than him writing letters to Naoko after she's dead and then... I don't know... feeding them to his cat?  Or something.)  

    And I kind of loved the part when Toru met that random guy on the beach who tried to empathize by talking about the death of his mom and then Toru is all I DONT GIVE A CRAP ABOUT YOUR MOM, NAOKO HAD BEAUTIFUL FLESH AND NOW IT"S GONE, OKAY?  That part just really spoke to how selfish grief can be, and because of this I'm not that mad at him for taking off without considering Midori.  But I am very very mad on Midori's behalf for the Reiko sex scene.  Unnecessary and gross.  (Did anyone else keep thinking about how she told his neighbor she was his aunt?  Uncalled for.)

    So... sorry I wrote a short novel in your comment form!  Whoops.  

    I hope you're going to participate in Alice's Woman in White readalong, too!

  10. I'm glad you liked it! I was really grateful for you and Laura because if we had all unequivocally hated the book, the discussion would have been less informative for all of us. The hate spiral could have taken us down very quickly.

  11. Yes, AT LEAST Murakami let us choose our own ending...and no one can stop us from believing that Toru lived a loveless existence because he didn't appreciate Midori. So there.

  12. It WAS pretty true to life as far as mourning goes. Everyone copes differently, and it's not hard to believe that he would choose to run away and deal with his emotions where no one he knows can witness his girlish weeping.

    I sometimes have to remind myself that people do stupid things, and a novel full of characters who do what I want them to do wouldn't be a very good novel. But I reserve the right to berate fictional characters for their terrible decisions...because it makes me feel wise and superior.

    YES WOMAN IN WHITE! I only wish we didn't have to wait until April.

  13. REST TIME IS NEEDED BETWEEN READALONGS. I'm not writin' those damn posts every month.

  14. I started cracking up at that as well and then I felt bad cos it's probably a bad thing to laugh at someone (even fictional) committing suicide. But I can't help picture her walking around going "Hmm I don't know about this tree. I mean, the branches are high enough but it doesn't have that special something". So I'm going to hell


  16. I'm almost finished with a book!