October 25, 2012

Norwegian Wood

One of the driving forces for booking my ticket to Japan without work or much of a plan, as well creating these goals, was my friend Mark Danielewski. Over a series of breakfasts this Summer, he told me about a similar adventure he had taken to Paris shortly after graduating college. He said he read the entire works of Shakespeare and it stuck with me that not everything related to my trip had to be about the place. This was a time to better myself. One thing I have always wished was that I was more of was a reader, specifically of fiction. So I set goal 57: 3 books, 3 authors, 3 months. And they are:

Kurt Vonnegut: I have been told many times how much I would love his work.
Haruki Murakami: Perhaps Japan's most famous and celebrated modern author, made sense to read while I was here.
Mark Danielewski: That should be self-explanatory.

Today I finished Murakami's Norwegian Wood. Taylor has been urging me to read it for years, so that is was where I began my literary adventure.
Ill give you a moment to judge the cover
Here's my two sentence plot summary.

Coming of age story narrated by Toru Watanabe, a college freshman in Tokyo during the 1960s. Watanabe learns about love and death as well as
the relationship between the two through first hand experiences and must discover that love is not defined by eternal commitment. 

I don't read for pleasure, and while I was enjoying the read, I would have just as much enjoyed a movie as well as the time it would have saved me. But about halfway through the book I realized I had been thinking about the characters and settings throughout the days and that I had completely synthesized them in my head. A book is a blueprint created by an author that allows a reader to construct images in his/her mind. Pretty great sentence, right? Thanks, I read.

So yes, the second half of the book flew by and I finished it in one sitting while traveling back to Tokyo. Murakami dealt with the death of his characters in a very interesting way in that he skips the initial reactions, instead focusing on the real emotions that come with love and loss. The same is true for the explicit sex scenes. This allows both the characters and the readers experience the real emotional core of an event, rather than getting caught up in their immediate feelings.

Chapter 11 begins "Reiko wrote to me several times after Naoko's Death." Until this point, the reader was not aware that Naoko was even on the verge of death, but the jump between Chapter 10 and 11 implies that Watanabe has already gone through the initial emotion of finding that his love has killed herself. As a reader, I was shocked only for a moment, but since Murakami does not write about her death, I quickly moved on to the deeper feelings and thoughts. For a story about young people losing their closest friends, it's interesting that it's not about young emotion.

And now that I've given away the biggest piece of the plot, I recommend you go read it!

There was a passage in the book that hit me like a ton of bricks (which is a simile, I know that because I read books now). Reiko, who was a piano teacher, has this to say about one of her students:
They’re blessed with this marvelous talent, but they can’t make the effort to systemize it. They end up squandering it in little bits and pieces...They can’t take it any further...Because they won’t put in the effort. Because they haven’t had the discipline pounded into them. They’ve been spoiled. They have just enough talent, so they’ve been able to play things well without any effort...they lose out on a certain element required for character building...
This is why I know only the first half of 100 piano pieces. Not necessarily the message of the book, but it's what I took from it.



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