Adam's Reviews > Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
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's review
Aug 11, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: 1970-present, prose
Read from August 11 to 14, 2012

Amazingly cliched. Really, I mean that literally. I am amazed by how cliched this book manages to be. Its characters, their psychological profiles, the story, much of the prose, the settings, etc. form a parade of gigantic, for-fuck's-sake-really cliches. The worst offender, perhaps, is Midori, a character who manages to make every other manic pixie dream girl in existence seem well-drawn in comparison. Our narrator is a literature student who reads a lot, name-drops every other word, hangs out in jazz coffee shops, goes to movies late at night, and wanders around thinking about a girl. So they're not just cliches. They're boring cliches. All cliches are boring, so I guess I mean that these are boring even in comparison to other cliches.

But wait! There are campus novel cliches, too. Dorms are populated by... the same characters dorms are populated by in every other campus novel/movie/whatever. Particularly long passages and full conversations about how much and what to guys in college jerk off are, at best, comparable to similar things in the atrocious Tom Wolfe novel I Am Charlotte Simmons, albeit more true-to-life. And that's just the start of the god-awful sex writing in this novel.

There are numerous candidates here for the Bad Sex award. And not all are excused by pointing out that the narrator of the novel is a male college student. All the female characters' sexuality is written woefully, and unless we're meant to regard the narrator as somewhat unreliable, reporting their attitudes and remarks incorrectly, that's all on Murakami. The 'highlight' of all this is the narrator and Midori's trip to a porn theatre to watch an S&M flick, during which Midori remarks on all sorts of stuff, but none more memorable than a detailed question/description about/of how weird it is that all the guys in the theatre's dicks stand to attention during the movie, and how weird it is to be surrounded by so many erect dicks. Midori remains an MPDG throughout the novel. Any and all moments in which she appears to take on some depth reveal themselves to be... not moments in which she takes on some depth.

I should remind you that I'm saying all this having very recently read and liked two John Updike novels, so you know this stuff is especially cringe-worthy. Even when it's played for laughs.

I don't even get this book's popularity as a chronicle of youth's uncertainties and follies, and its treatment of suicide and mental illness is almost juvenile. Some reviewer compared this to Garden State, which is a fucking awful movie, worse even than this book, and that's one of the most accurate comparisons I've seen made.

I won't let this turn me off reading Kafka on the Shore or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, as others have warned me that this is a weak work by Murakami's standards, and I understand Murakami himself is a bit puzzled by this book's popularity, and doesn't think it really representative of him as a writer. And I sort of get why people like this novel, but its flaws are far too great for me to forgive.

What really boggles the mind is that this is a far more popular and well-regarded work than the other Murakami novel I've read, After Dark, which was pretty good, very spare and atmospheric, and just blatantly better than this thing.
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07/10/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Ani (new)

Ani "Our narrator is a literature student who reads a lot, name-drops every other word, hangs out in jazz coffee shops, goes to movies late at night, and wanders around thinking about a girl."

Hey, sounds like you! :D

message 2: by Adam (new) - rated it 1 star

Adam More fuel for my self-loathing.

message 3: by Sean (new) - rated it 1 star

Sean i just finished this and said it was the literary equivalent to a lifetime movie but garden state is maybe even more accurate

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