Joel's Reviews > Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
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's review
Dec 20, 10

bookshelves: personal-collection, 2010, 52-in-2010, translated, compu-text, minus-half-a-star, japan, murakami
Recommended for: college juniors
Read from May 05 to 07, 2010, read count: 1

This is apparently the Murakami book that "everyone" in Japan has read, and disaffected protagonist Toru Watanabe is apparently a Holden Caulfield-esque figure for a lot of Japanese youth. To me, though, the book less reflects Catcher in the Rye than it predicts Zach Braff's Garden State, an ode to a time in life when the big choices seem so big that you don't end up making them at all, and find yourself instead drawn to the safety and comfort of nostalgia and memory.

Though it's set in Japan, and the late '60s, it has a universal emotional current that doesn't feel dated one bit. It's darkly emotional but also surprisingly sexy and funny. Toru is the signature Murakami protagonist, just a few years younger than we're used to seeing him, and the women are given more presence and substance than they were allowed in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, even if they are all a little too eager to jump into bed with Toru, who kind of seems like a loser.

That's even if, and here's really what solidified the connection to Garden State in my mind, Midori, who is a fabulously entertaining character, is also basically a stock manic pixie dream girl, with all the associated hangups and quirks and buried secrets. It works better on the page, since I never wanted to punch her in the face for doing hot dog dances or going on and on about The Shins.

I really wish I'd read this in college, just like I really wish I'd read Catcher in high school, but I still think it plays at any age.
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Quotes Joel Liked

Haruki Murakami
“Don't feel sorry for yourself. Only assholes do that.”
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Reading Progress

05/05/2010 page 93
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Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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Joel not in high school. i read it in february or thereabouts.

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I hate MPDGs and Garden State. This review has me worried I will not like Murakami. I have something of his on the stack; just keeps staying near the bottom though.

Mariel It isn't like Garden State except that feeling of meeting someone new that let's you off the hook to not be the "you" that you are with people you know well.

Joel It's also waaay less... Braff... than Garden State. Murakami is genuine about the things the movie contrives to be about. Also it is nothing like his other books.

Joel cerdiwen, which murakami is in your pile?

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Kafka on the Shore? Something like that?

Joel yeah, that's one of his. i haven't read that one yet but it is one of his more celebrated titles.

Joel at least the movie doesn't look like garden state...

Mariel I want the soundtrack. Jonny Greenwood did it. Cool soundtracks are Garden State-y but this is Radiohead!

message 10: by Joel (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joel i doubt it has songs. it is probably like the There Will Be Blood soundtrack. that's different.

Mariel I liked that soundtrack, anyway. I'm psyched 'cause Radiohead were influenced by Murakami and then he started listening to them while writing. Perfect fit!

Mariel Me too!

Stephen M The bit about hot dog dances and going on about the Shins made me lol.

message 14: by Joel (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joel thanks! glad you enjoyed it. i just noticed you left this comment, obviously.

Méchant Loup every line of this review is grand.

Ailsa "they are all a little too eager to jump into bed with Toru, who kind of seems like a loser" So true. Pretty much every female character in the book wants to get with Toru for no discernible reason. Great review.

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