Norwegian Wood

The book is my second Murakami book and my first Murakami novel and it was a surprisingly good read. It mainly deals about love and mental illness but it also has the 3 Ss which I think is usually found in most good novels I’ve read: sex, suicide and sadness.

I think it’s strange but I have to say it, the story was overwhelmingly sad for me but it was also one of the best things about it. It was a kind of sadness that was cold and distant, which was also evident in Toru’s nostalgic narrative (the novel is told in Toru’s POV). The story is very character driven: each character has sadness that stems out from their loneliness and as the story progresses, they (Toru, Naoko, Midori and Reiko) try (yet unsuccessfully) to reach out to others. It is a love story essentially but it’s not even romantic. But reading it made me think of the question: “when does love become a responsibility?”

The novel also explores the sense of loss (which I think grounds this on reality) where each character finds that relationships (friendship, romantic, familial) end up being complicated by personal limitations, unrealistic expectations, unacknowledged suffering and circumstances surrounding those involved.

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A conversation between Midori and Toru has not left me since.

“Do you think you weren’t loved enough?” She tilted her head and looked at me. Then she gave a sharp, little nod. “Somewhere between ‘not enough’ and ‘not at all.’ I was always hungry for love. Just once, I wanted to know what it was like to get my fill of it – to be fed so much love I couldn’t take it anymore. Just once. But they never gave that to me. Never, not once. If I tried to cuddle up and beg for something they’d just shove me away and yell at me. ‘No! That costs too much!’ It’s all I ever heard. So I made up my mind I was going to find someone who would love me unconditionally three hundred and sixty-five days of a year. I was still in elementary school at the time – fifth or sixth grade – but I made up my mind once and for all.”

“Wow,” I said. “And did your search pay off?”

“That’s the hard part,” said Midori. She watched the rising smoke for a while, thinking. “I guess I’ve been waiting so long I’m looking for perfection. That makes it tough.”

“Waiting for the perfect love?”

 “No, even I know better than that. I’m looking for selfishness. Perfect selfishness. Like, say I tell you I want to eat a 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 looking for.”

“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 times in a girl’s life when things like that are incredibly important.”

“Things like throwing the strawberry shortcake out the window?”

“Exactly. And when you do it, I want the man to apologize to me. ‘Now I see, Midori. What a fool I’ve been! I should have known 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? Cheesecake?”

“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. Not that anyone can understand me, though.” Midori gave her head a little shake against my shoulder. “For a certain kind of person, love begins from something tiny or silly. From something like that or it doesn’t begin at all.”

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Seriously, I think Midori could be my animal spirit. Despite Toru narrating the novel, I could not find myself relating to him but with Midori it’s a different story. I recommend the book, but if you’re looking for that steady kilig factor and Twilight-esque angst you’d expect in most love stories, then I’m sorry this is not for you

She’s letting out her feelings. The scary thing is not being able to do that. When your feelings build up and harden and die inside, then you’re in big trouble.
—     Norwegian Wood (Haruki Murakami.)

It was as if I were writing letters to hold together the pieces of my crumbling life.
—     Haruki Murakami (Norwegian Wood)

Don’t get impatient. Even if things are so tangled up you can’t do anything, don’t get desperate or blow a fuse and start yanking on one particular thread before its ready to come undone. You have to realize it’s going to be a long process and that you’ll work on the things, slowly, one a at a time.
—     Haruki Murakami (Norwegian Wood)

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