Norwegian Wood Group Read: Week 3 ( Chapters 8-11 )
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WARNING, this contains spoilers for all the remaining chapters:
At first I suspected that Midori was just another one to load the weight of all her personal problems on Toru's small shoulders. But then I figured that this is not the case. She wants to share and she wants him to open up just as she did to him. Her methods - acting all offended and cutting him off - may seem childish, but we shouldn't forget how young she is. And she is 'normal', 'alive' - she makes mistakes, she is human. She sees that he has issues and she wants to shake him back to life, but she can't reach him. I liked her a lot.
Whereas I found Toru's way of dealing with the events that directly affected him (the suicides ) quite painful to watch. The whole story is written from his perspective, yet we don't learn much about his feelings. He listens and watches, it seems without judging, without much of a reaction at all.
Someone dies - he goes into seclusion. But can he feel sadness and desperation or is he all numb inside? The chapter with Midori’s father was interesting, as both he and Toru couldn’t communicate with others for different reasons, yet they got along with each other quite well.
I found the last scene confusing and am not sure how to interprete it. Will Toru find his way out of his isolation or is he lost forever?
I'd say that all the sex is a metaphor for the ability to open up, to communicate. 'Real' sex is denied when there is a communication blockade on the side of the refuser (Naoko towards Toru, Toru towards Midori). Pressure builds up, but real relief is not possible.
Only when dealing with Reiko (when love is not involved) communication (and sex) become possible. I liked it that Toru actively sought Reiko's advice and when she left him, he seemed to feel better. And that's why the ending confuses me.
I should re-read the first pages of the book, maybe they give some hints.
#1: In Chapter 2, we learn that Naoko and Kizuki have known each other all ther lives and move into a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship early in adolescence. Toru and Kuzuki are best friends and the three of them spend most of their time together.
#2: Chapter 6...Toru goes to visit Naoko in the sanatorium. He's intercepted by her roommate Reiko and the three of them happily spend all their time together.
#3: Chapter 8 (and some earlier references), Toru's rich friend Nagasawa includes him on his big date with Hatsumi to the expensive restaurant.
Are these three-way relationships significant in any way that I'm missing? Or does it just show that Toru is a good guy that makes other people feel comfortable around him?
>3 Deern:: Deern, re: the ending. I kind of like that Murakami left it open-ended. Being the eternal optimist, I choose the ending that has Toru in a state of momentary confusion. He has been through all the stages of grief (and then some) in the short time since Naoko's death and he went from euphoria back to his "normal" state of detachment in a snap leaving us to wonder if he was heading for his own insanity or (my choice) to a future happiness with the wacky Midori. The fact that she didn't hang up on him gives me hope.
I am with you on optimistically thinking that Midori and Toru ended up together.
Deern- I love your thoughts on what the sexual relationships with these characters, meant to you. I think that's very plausible. I know there are other readers who did not care for Reiko but I liked her and I think them having sex at the end was something both of them desperately needed.
I thought the ending worked well and yes I'm optimistic too, that Toru and Midori end up together but it also had to show that Toru had some more healing to do.
From what I've heard this is very loosely based on Murakami's own young college years and in the translator's notes, in the copy I have, it is mentioned that Murakami met his wife during that period.
This was a book that started out with a bang and ended up in a whimper. The opening scene on the airplane was so evocative in mood and tone that it dragged me into the story by getting my attention and making me wonder what happened to the lead character to make the hearing of a song bring up such powerful memories. Instead of real drama and emotion I got spoiled teenagers living in a state of prolonged adolescence who were unable to behave like adults and accept responsibilities and consequences. I wouldn't go so far as to say that they were amoral characters but they were close. Midori was a real person and compared to the other spoiled brat characters had some real problems that she handled in a grown up realistic way. Reiko at least had the courage to get out of that sanitarium and start a new life. Toru became the most real to me when he finally went on his grief binge.
Like the rest of you I am optimistic about Toru and Midori. I hope that they became grown up enough to manage life. And apparently Toru did, or there wouldn't have been that beautiful opening scene.
The writing in this book was beautiful. Thank God for this wonderful translator. His work was amazing. Technically Murakami was amazing in this book as well as Kafka, but his characters were unlovable in the extreme and remind me of the majority of people I work with everyday. I will be interested in the future to discuss this book with Japanese acquaintances because I am sure that there are cultural nuances that I missed that might explain some of these spoiled bratty people to me. I also want to know what it is about this book that has made it so important in modern Japan.
Although you can tell that I didn't think much of this particular book Norwegian Wood I did find the writing beautifully done. Even with no story line that created characters I liked I found I had to admire the writing and Murakami's style. It is my opinion that the author and the translator turned this book into more than it should be. That in itself is something amazing.
And I really enjoyed taking part in a group read and seeing how other people found the book. I really like the fact that we can get so many different things out of the same book and have so many different opinions about it. Thank you for organising it Mark!
#4 Donna, I liked your thoughts on the triangles. Toru seems to be an observer in the book, I felt like we found out more about what other characters felt from him observing them than about what Toru felt (as Deern says). Maybe this is somehow linked to the triangles? I had some more solid thoughts about this earlier in the week but I've forgotten what they were.
#6 Mark, it's interesting to know that Murakami based this on his own college years, thank you.
#7&8 I also loved the writing benita. Thanks for the book recommendation, I'll look out for that one. I also have a copy of Mouse or Rat by Umberto Eco which is based on a series of lectures he gave about translation.