Norwegian Wood Group Read: Week 3 ( Chapters 8-11 )

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Norwegian Wood Group Read: Week 3 ( Chapters 8-11 )

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Maio 10, 2010, 7:23 am

This is the home-stretch! This will begin Sat the 15th.

Maio 11, 2010, 12:14 pm

Finished this morning. Not sure if I liked it. Need to think about it for awhile.

Editado: Maio 12, 2010, 12:03 pm

I had just finished my conclusions to the last chapters when my database connection failed and all was gone... Okay, once more.

WARNING, this contains spoilers for all the remaining chapters:

At first I suspected that Midori was just another one to load the weight of all her personal problems on Toru's small shoulders. But then I figured that this is not the case. She wants to share and she wants him to open up just as she did to him. Her methods - acting all offended and cutting him off - may seem childish, but we shouldn't forget how young she is. And she is 'normal', 'alive' - she makes mistakes, she is human. She sees that he has issues and she wants to shake him back to life, but she can't reach him. I liked her a lot.

Whereas I found Toru's way of dealing with the events that directly affected him (the suicides ) quite painful to watch. The whole story is written from his perspective, yet we don't learn much about his feelings. He listens and watches, it seems without judging, without much of a reaction at all.
Someone dies - he goes into seclusion. But can he feel sadness and desperation or is he all numb inside? The chapter with Midori’s father was interesting, as both he and Toru couldn’t communicate with others for different reasons, yet they got along with each other quite well.

I found the last scene confusing and am not sure how to interprete it. Will Toru find his way out of his isolation or is he lost forever?

I'd say that all the sex is a metaphor for the ability to open up, to communicate. 'Real' sex is denied when there is a communication blockade on the side of the refuser (Naoko towards Toru, Toru towards Midori). Pressure builds up, but real relief is not possible.

Only when dealing with Reiko (when love is not involved) communication (and sex) become possible. I liked it that Toru actively sought Reiko's advice and when she left him, he seemed to feel better. And that's why the ending confuses me.

I should re-read the first pages of the book, maybe they give some hints.

Maio 14, 2010, 5:48 pm

It's almost Saturday...I've been puzzling over the triangles in this book and hope somebody can explain them. I'm thinking of relationships here.

#1: In Chapter 2, we learn that Naoko and Kizuki have known each other all ther lives and move into a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship early in adolescence. Toru and Kuzuki are best friends and the three of them spend most of their time together.

#2: Chapter 6...Toru goes to visit Naoko in the sanatorium. He's intercepted by her roommate Reiko and the three of them happily spend all their time together.

#3: Chapter 8 (and some earlier references), Toru's rich friend Nagasawa includes him on his big date with Hatsumi to the expensive restaurant.

Are these three-way relationships significant in any way that I'm missing? Or does it just show that Toru is a good guy that makes other people feel comfortable around him?

>3 Deern:: Deern, re: the ending. I kind of like that Murakami left it open-ended. Being the eternal optimist, I choose the ending that has Toru in a state of momentary confusion. He has been through all the stages of grief (and then some) in the short time since Naoko's death and he went from euphoria back to his "normal" state of detachment in a snap leaving us to wonder if he was heading for his own insanity or (my choice) to a future happiness with the wacky Midori. The fact that she didn't hang up on him gives me hope.

Maio 14, 2010, 7:57 pm

I just finished the book. I don't know. I did not think that any of the triangle relationships were healthy. And I really felt like Reiko took advantage of people. Not that that was the impression that the author necessarily wanted to give, but I did feel that way. Even at the end.

I am with you on optimistically thinking that Midori and Toru ended up together.

Maio 16, 2010, 3:14 pm

I finished the book today and was very pleased with it. Murakami has crafted some terrific characters here, (Midori being my favorite). They can be frustrating and annoying at times, like people we know. I felt like smacking Toru on a few occasions, but then he would turn around and make a very endearing, heartfelt move. I have read several of his books and there has been very little sex in any of them, so I believe that sex is a major figure in this particular story, for a reason.

Deern- I love your thoughts on what the sexual relationships with these characters, meant to you. I think that's very plausible. I know there are other readers who did not care for Reiko but I liked her and I think them having sex at the end was something both of them desperately needed.
I thought the ending worked well and yes I'm optimistic too, that Toru and Midori end up together but it also had to show that Toru had some more healing to do.
From what I've heard this is very loosely based on Murakami's own young college years and in the translator's notes, in the copy I have, it is mentioned that Murakami met his wife during that period.

Maio 17, 2010, 11:30 am

I finished the book last week and have had time to ruminate on it. Prior to this reading I had only read Kafka on the Shore. I rather optimistically put Murakami on my favorite author list based on that novel. That work so fascinated me that I did some reading about Murakami as a person and an author and found him to be as equally fascinating as his novel. Norweigan Wood was not what I expected. In fact it was a totally different kind of book. And I will step out on the limb here and say it was a disappointment for me. I expected a complex plot with all the surrealist appearances of Murakami icons and got none of that. Except for the cat. And the well. I didn't like any of the characters in this book except for Hatsumi.

This was a book that started out with a bang and ended up in a whimper. The opening scene on the airplane was so evocative in mood and tone that it dragged me into the story by getting my attention and making me wonder what happened to the lead character to make the hearing of a song bring up such powerful memories. Instead of real drama and emotion I got spoiled teenagers living in a state of prolonged adolescence who were unable to behave like adults and accept responsibilities and consequences. I wouldn't go so far as to say that they were amoral characters but they were close. Midori was a real person and compared to the other spoiled brat characters had some real problems that she handled in a grown up realistic way. Reiko at least had the courage to get out of that sanitarium and start a new life. Toru became the most real to me when he finally went on his grief binge.

Like the rest of you I am optimistic about Toru and Midori. I hope that they became grown up enough to manage life. And apparently Toru did, or there wouldn't have been that beautiful opening scene.

The writing in this book was beautiful. Thank God for this wonderful translator. His work was amazing. Technically Murakami was amazing in this book as well as Kafka, but his characters were unlovable in the extreme and remind me of the majority of people I work with everyday. I will be interested in the future to discuss this book with Japanese acquaintances because I am sure that there are cultural nuances that I missed that might explain some of these spoiled bratty people to me. I also want to know what it is about this book that has made it so important in modern Japan.

Maio 19, 2010, 1:37 pm

I just ran across a book title that might be of some use in the discussion that we had earlier in this group read about the art of translating books. Why Translation Matters is written by Edith Grossman. Grossman is the woman who translated Gabriel Garcia Marquez books. Some people claim that she made him into the international star that he is today because her translations were so good. The New York Times review of this book is titled "Duet for Two Pens." I thought this was a particularly appropriate titled as the finished work that I read is the result of this duet between the author and the translator.

Although you can tell that I didn't think much of this particular book Norwegian Wood I did find the writing beautifully done. Even with no story line that created characters I liked I found I had to admire the writing and Murakami's style. It is my opinion that the author and the translator turned this book into more than it should be. That in itself is something amazing.

Maio 22, 2010, 2:27 pm

I really enjoyed this book, I finished ahead of schedule because once I hit chapter 6 I didn't want to put it down! Although, given the subject matter, I thought I might find this book quite depressing it didn't have that effect on me. It was very sad in places but also beautiful. I especially felt for Naoko and her family, I can't imagine what it must feel like as a parent to have two of your children commit suicide (were there other children?)

And I really enjoyed taking part in a group read and seeing how other people found the book. I really like the fact that we can get so many different things out of the same book and have so many different opinions about it. Thank you for organising it Mark!

#4 Donna, I liked your thoughts on the triangles. Toru seems to be an observer in the book, I felt like we found out more about what other characters felt from him observing them than about what Toru felt (as Deern says). Maybe this is somehow linked to the triangles? I had some more solid thoughts about this earlier in the week but I've forgotten what they were.

#6 Mark, it's interesting to know that Murakami based this on his own college years, thank you.

#7&8 I also loved the writing benita. Thanks for the book recommendation, I'll look out for that one. I also have a copy of Mouse or Rat by Umberto Eco which is based on a series of lectures he gave about translation.

Maio 22, 2010, 3:06 pm

Heather- So glad you enjoyed it and shared your thoughts with us.

I know this thread is fizzling out and I hope everyone has had a chance to chime in !
I had a great time with it!