Norweigan Wood: A Sexy Tale

   

I only very recently learned about Haruki Murakami, which is scandalous on a number of counts, not the least being he is a Big. Deal. The Guardian describes him as “among the world’s greatest living novelists,” friends who worked at book shops report his books “flying” off shelves, and colleagues who don’t read – ever – know of his work. So. There you have it, self-proclaimed “reader” that I am, I can still be blind to bestselling and award winning sensations. Of course now that I have read Norwegian Wood I’ve started to see Murakami’s name all over the place – in The Globe and Mail this morning! It all makes me wonder what other brilliant novels are hiding in plain sight, obscured by my dedication to all things Can lit and my haphazard method for choosing what to read. All this to say I’m glad I morphed a category of 10-10-12 to allow for books recommended. It now becomes incumbent upon you to look after the breadth of my reading…

In any case, the book itself: I wanted very much to like Norwegian Wood. It had all sorts of things a good novel might have – sex, sadness, suicide (take that alliteration snobs!). For awhile I thought it might be the overwhelming sadness of the story that kept me from fully committing to the narrative, but by the end of the book I’d realized that I just didn’t believe the protagonist, Toru. Despite first person narration, I never felt like I had a good explanation for why Toru felt or acted the way he did. The emotional thrust of the narrative are Toru’s relationships with Naoko  and Midori, but I was never convinced that Toru felt much of anything for either of them, despite his claims to the reader and to the women that he loved them. 

That said, the novel has some great sexy scenes (and so the basis for the recommendation) that I’d reread if they weren’t also pretty sad. Speaking of, the novel does sadness very well, which feels like an odd thing to praise a novel for, but there you have it. A sadness born of the unwitting loneliness of all three characters who try, mostly unsuccessfully, to reach out to other people, only to find that relationships of all sorts are complicated by unrealistic or unacknowledged expectations, personal limitations, and the ambient circumstances of lives led. I suppose on the metatextual level I found the narrative itself a lonely one – reaching out to this reader, but finding another instance where feeling cannot be adequately conveyed and so reasonably shared.

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Filed under 100 Books of 2011, Book I'll Forget I Read, Fiction, Prize Winner

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