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Norwegian Wood

I loved this book. I could picture each scene so clearly; it was more like a movie than a book. I frequently read Norwegian Wood while on the train in Tokyo and happened to be at the exact location Murakami was describing on more than one occasion. I read the part in which the narrator (Watanabe) visit’s Midori’s father in the hospital on my way back from Ochanomizu. I walked past the same hospital he describes from the late 1960s just 10 minutes before. On another day I read about him meeting Midori at Iidabashi at the same moment the train I was on stopped at Iidabashi.

Norwegian Wood has some similarities to Murakami’s other works, but the super strange and supernatural elements are missing. I rather like the super strange in his works, but I also like the omission of the supernatural.

The college scenes at Waseda University always brought a smile to my face as well. Things haven’t changed much, except the students don’t shut down the campus for five months like they did in 1969. Actually, much of this book is timeless. Murakami wrote it in the 1980s, although the setting is the late 1960s. He wouldn’t have to change much to make it fit in fine in 2010 though. Tokyo has changed much in the past forty years, but at the same time, on another level, it hasn’t changed at all.

Here are some quotes I copied while reading. I’ll have a few more in entries over the next month or so.

“Memory is a funny thing. When I was in the scene I hardly paid it any attention. I never stopped to think of it as something that would make a lasting impression, certainly never imagined that 18 years later I would recall it in such detail. I didn’t give a damn about the scenery that day. I was thinking about myself… Scenery was the last thing on my mind.” pp. 2-3

“I have to write things down to feel I fully comprehend them.” p. 4

“I can’t leave anything out. I’ve been doing the same thing every day for ten years, and once I start I do the whole routine unconsciously. If I left something out, I wouldn’t be able to do any of it.” p. 20

“‘What possible use is stuff like that for everyday life?’

‘None at all,’ I said. ‘It may not serve any concrete purpose, but it does give you some kind of training to help you grasp things in general more systematically.'” p. 232

3 Responses to “Norwegian Wood”

  1. 1

    I’ve been reading my 3rd Murakami book 1Q84 and so was naturally drawn to your blog to get “in the mood.” Have you read it? No spoilers please as I’m just a third of the way through. I’ve been googling some of the music and places he has mentioned. Although his writing style in Wind Up Bird Chronicles drove my book club crazy, I craved more and was happy to finally receive my copy of 1Q84 for Christmas. I only wish I could read it in Japanese.

    Your photos and commentary are visually rich and insightful. Thanks for bringing even more life to Murakami’s world.

    I also got a chuckle out of your write up on Amazing Race – “To travel is to live.”

  2. 2

    An additional thought on my previous comment regarding Murakami – perhaps you can tag your photos with the novel in which they may be mentioned!

  3. 3

    I haven’t read 1Q84 yet. It came out while I was in Japan (early 2010 I think), but the English version is fairly new. I’d like to read it in Japanese, but obtaining a copy now that I’m back in the states can be pretty costly so I’ll probably just wait for an English edition at my local library.

    When I was in Denmark this past summer, the apartment I stayed in had a copy of about five Murakami novels. I had read most of them except “A Wild Sheep Chase” which I read on the train from Copenhagen to Oslo. That was another fun Murakami book with some similar themes to his other works.

    I think I have some photos of Nakano in Tokyo that remind me of “Kafka on the Shore” that I will get around to posting one of these days.