Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (1987, 296 pages, translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin, 2000)

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My Other Posts on Murakami

Japanese Literature on the Reading Life

I am developing quite a fondness and admiration for the work of Haruki Murakami.   Murakami (1949-) is for sure the best known outside of the country Japanese novelist writing today.   Perhaps he is not regarded with the reverence that Kenzaburo Oe is (winner Nobel Prize 1994) but millions of people world wide are devouring his books.   So far I have read (in this order), After Dark,  Dance, Dance, Dance, South of the Border West of the Sun, Sputnik Sweet Heart, and The Wild Bird Chronicles.    So far I think the scenes set in WWII in The Wild Bird Chronicles are the most masterfully written of his work and I think Sputnik Sweet Heart is the most fun of the works.   That is until I read Norwegian Wood.  There are common themes and artifacts in all of these works.   I have posted on them in my other  posts on his novels so I will just post briefly on Norwegian Wood.   

Norwegian Wood was Murakami's first multi-million copy book.   A lot of people say it is their favorite of his works.   I liked it a really lot also.   It kept my attention throughout.   I felt I came to know the lead characters and I felt sympathy for them.   I have said before (and explained this is not a derogatory label) I see Murakami as kind of writing bookish boys fantasy books.   Norwegian Wood, set in the 1960s and full of American and British pop culture references and well as references to serious novels (Japanese and Western) read by the college student male character is for sure a fantasy book, among other things, for bookish boys and the men they become.    To give a bit of an example a beautiful female friend of the male character constantly talks to him about sex (but he will not get involved with that with her as he has a girl friend of sorts) and tells him she really wishes she had a way to learn about oral sex.   A very erotically described 13 year old lesbian seduces a woman who has never had a same sex encounter in a vivid passage.    In a bookish boys' book the male lead does not have an adult world job (the lead is college student in the 1960s), beautiful women throw themselves at him (Murakami is very good at describing women) and he sees through the corruption of the world of grown ups.    Norwegian Wood  lacks the magic realism element found in some of his other works.    

Obviously I really enjoy reading the work of Murakami.   I think I will read Wild Sheep Chase for my next of his works next as it  is a prequel to Dance, Dance, Dance.     There are deep themes about loneliness etc that are part of all of his novels but this is a book you can enjoy without a lot of heavy thinking.   If it were made faithfully into a movie it would be x rated and some would scream over the scenes with the 13 year old lesbian.

Mel u


Michelle Fluttering Butterflies said...

I LOVED Norwegian Wood! I just heart Haruki Murakami in general though :) Hope you enjoy Wild Sheep Chase!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Loved your thoughts on this one. I've only read After Dark, but plan to read more of Murakami's books soon.

Anonymous said...

Good review, Norwegian Wood was the first Murakami I read and it's probably my sentimental favorite (although I think that Wind-Up Bird is probably a better overall book). Think you'll enjoy A Wild Sheep Chase. As I've just finished reading Dance, Dance, Dance, I'm considering rereading Sheep Chase to fill myself in on some details.

Suko said...

This has been on my TBR list for quite some time. Great review! You continue to astound me with all your reading/reviewing.

Bethany said...

Yay! Glad you got round to this! As you know from my own review, I really enjoyed this. And yes, it's being made into a film (and I know the Japanese actor to play Watanabe and he'll be great!)

Mel u said...

Clover-thanks check back for my post on it soon

Diane-thanks -will look forward to reading your thoughts as you read more Murakami

peterkarnas-thanks-it is hard not to like Norwegian Wood-

Bethany-I hope I get to see the film one day-do you have a link to pics of the stars in the film?

Mel u said...

Suko-this is a fun book

Mark David said...

Yes I loved this book! My favorite Murakami. There are some explicit scenes and an air of melancholy runs throughout the story, but the book really is beautiful as a whole :)

karlo said...

I also recommend Murakami's Hardbroiled Wonderland and the End of the World, my favorite in his oeuvre (along with the Wind-Up Bird Chronicles). I particularly liked the detective novel aura and the ingenious use of alternate chapters in Hardbroiled Wonderland.

@parridhlantern said...

Did love this one & enjoyed your post on it, am currently reading Pinball 1973, whilst waiting for 1q84 to arrive here.

froso said...

I loved the book, but the last paragraph confused me!
Can someone, please tell me what happened in the end?
If you don't want to reveal it to people who haven't read it yet, please answer
"everything o.k" or "not o.k."
Thank you