January 31, 2012

Norwegian Wood, Goodbye

[warning: spoilers ahead]

Going into the final chapters of Norwegian Wood, I was optimistic that Murakami would wrap things up well and leave me feeling fulfilled.

And then the first sentence of chapter eleven ruined that small, fleeting hope.  Why, Naoko, why?  Actually, I know why.  From the perspective of character arc, Toru would never have progressed past his irrational love for Naoko if she had been around to haunt him:
I still loved Naoko.  Bent and twisted as that love might be, I did love her.  Somewhere inside me, there was still preserved a broad, open space, untouched, for Naoko and no one else (267).  
Let's be honest here: Naoko never really took on her own personality as a character, but instead acted as a sounding board for Toru's desires and guilt.  She was doomed from the start.

Still, though, I was hoping for one of these:


Unfortunately, Naoko is gone and Toru is left to lament to anyone who will listen that her "beautiful flesh" is gone, too.  (Can't he mourn something else about her?  Sure, she was pretty to look at, but can't he find one other redeeming quality to miss about her?  No?  Okay then.)

Before Toru learns of Naoko's death, he has a few shining moments of happiness with Midori in Tokyo.  Murakami has succeeded in making Midori the only truly likeable character in Norwegian Wood, and I was glad to get another chance at levity before the rest of the novel came crashing down.  In fact, Midori's presence in a scene actually makes me like Toru more, perhaps because she has no problem making fun of him:
So now I see you coming back with our drinks--walking and thinking.  I was hoping you'd trip, but you didn't. [...] you're about as sensitive as a steel plate" (253).
Too soon, though, Midori has slipped away and Toru and the reader are left to wander beaches, drinking sake and weeping into the sand.  This is better, though, than what comes next.  Allow me to give you a play-by-play of my reaction as I read the last few pages of Norwegian Wood:

Aw, Reiko's back... cooking... singing... cute cat... wha-- No!  No!  My eyes!  My eyes!  

It's as if Murakami just knew that he had precious few pages to make this novel more twisted than it already was.  The word wrinkle will forever be seared on my brain.

In better news, Alice is going to host a readalong of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins soon!


I'm hopeful that a novel written in 1859 will not have quite so many disturbing sex scenes.

I do plan to gather my thoughts on Norwegian Wood as a whole into a semi-serious review sometime in the next few weeks, but I think for a bit I need a break from Murakami.

12 comments:

  1. "Sure, she was pretty to look at, but can't he find one other redeeming quality to miss about her?"

    Oooh good point. Also THAT GIF. Oh, Laura Linney. You are so wonderful.

    I just...ugh, this whole book. It took me ages to read the last 20 pages because I hated almost all of them. Something about this book does not resound in me WHATSOEVER. But..er...I'm sure it does for other people (like Laura) and huzzah for that.

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    1. I read the last two chapters in a blur because I actually liked the direction it was going in, but then Bad Things happened and I gave up.

      Yet I'm still definitely glad I read it.

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  2. It's true, I am resounded (resounded in? Resounded on? Whatevs!) I like Reiko too! Or... at least I did before the disturbing sex. I need to both discuss it, and never think about it again. SO WEIRD!

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    1. I know! It's especially gross when I think about how two pages before they were pretending to be related... Blech.

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  3. "Aw, Reiko's back... cooking... singing... cute cat... wha-- No! No! My eyes! My eyes!" - YES. EXACTLY THIS. Why, Murakami, why?!

    Midori's note to Toru was the best part - she's silly and sassy, but she knows when she could do better.

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    1. Agreed. I loved Midori's letter to Toru--she's so honest and is very emotionally mature in comparison with the other characters.

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  4. I think it's funny that just about all of us were all "WTF?!" on the Reiko/Toru sexy time!

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    1. I think it would be weird if we weren't all freaked out by it... I wish I could somehow see what my face looked like while I read that scene. It must have been terrifying.

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  5. Yes, yes, and more yes. I'm super-sad about the readalong being over because now I won't have everybody's pithy comments to look forward to. That's been the best thing about this book. (which I didn't hate, but it left me wondering things about the Japanese if this is such a cultural touchstone for them)

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    1. I loved this readalong, even though I didn't end up loving the book. I'll miss these weekly posts, too. Normally I post mostly-serious reviews, so these readalong posts have been kind of freeing.

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  6. If Norwegian Wood is the reason I know you, then I will forever be grateful to Norwegian Wood. :)

    My FAVORITE part of the whole book was when Midori said this: "I wish I had fallen in love with someone a little more handsome, of course. But I didn't. I fell in love with *you*!" She's a special lady.

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  7. Murakami may make me want to throw things sometimes, but he sure knows how to bring people together!

    Midori definitely stole the scene. Well, all the scenes, really. Even the ones she wasn't in.

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