Norwegian Wood

I once had a girl or should I say she once had me.


I have been throwing around the idea of reading Haruki Murakami for a while now. I don’t know what held me back. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to be disappointed. I’ve heard a lot of talk about him and most of the books I’ve read based purely on anonymous forum chatter have never lived up to expectation.

But as the story goes, my internship boss gave me a gift card to an independent bookstore next door. I saw Norwegian Wood and decided to give it a chance.

The book was not at all what I thought it would be, but I think I mean that in a good way. The writing style was completely unexpected, simple and charmingly modern. This is how it’s described:

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.

I took it with me on my trip to the UK, a convenient companion on those crowded Tube rides and long, quiet train travels. I blazed through it. The funny thing was that I kept thinking about Norwegian Wood even after I finished. About the author, about the song, about the whole story.

I never thought of the Beatles song, Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) as a particularly sad or especially interesting song. I always liked it well enough, but that was the extent of it. Halfway through the book, I gave the song another listen. Murakami must have titled it this way for a reason, right?

When I listen to the song now, it gives me chills. The book has completely altered the music for me. The song, after finishing the book, fits perfectly into the story. It’s hard to describe and it sounds strange, but it’s true. For me at least.

I remember feeling everything the author wanted me to feel, everything from the dark nostalgia at its beginning to the abandoned chill of the very last page. Murakami captures this blank sort of emptiness that is difficult to put into words. So difficult, in fact, that it’s rarely done well.

There is something hauntingly sad about the song that I felt when I read the book. I can’t think of other words. A sadness of something lost or that never was. Something like that.

There were points in the novel that made me shiver. I literally shivered, right there in my seat. The stranger sitting next to me must have noticed because he looked up from his newspaper and snuck a glance at my book. The compartment wasn’t particularly chilly, either. In fact, it was a little stuffy. But I shivered! It wasn’t a scared sort of shiver or even a cold shiver. If anything, it was a short, sad sort of motion– gone quickly, as if it never happened.

Even now, I don’t know if I can say I really liked the book. It’s the best-selling book in Japan, especially among the Japanese youth. The more I think about it, the more I see what I think they see in it. It keeps circling in my mind. I start off with the impression that I didn’t really like the book. Then one day, I love it. The next, I change my mind and call it so-so. It probably isn’t one of my favorites and it wouldn’t necessarily come to mind as a book recommendation. But it hits me more and more. I realize that I’m still thinking about it and that has to mean something. It was a solid book. It surprised me and kept my interest. I can’t ask more from a book than that.

I don’t know if I will ever come to any fixed conclusions about my feelings toward it. It made some sort of impression, though I’m not sure how to feel about that either. Maybe that’s the point.

And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown
So I lit a fire, isn’t it good, Norwegian wood?


About Booki
"Somewhere man must know that self-perception is the most frightening of all human observations. He must know that when a man faces himself, he is looking into an abyss."

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