Reading "Norwegian Wood"

On my sick day, I finished reading Norwegian Wood. I finished it with such gusto... I couldn't believe myself when I had done with it. My friends told me you can't find time to read after you come back exhausted from work. I really thought so... it'd been such a long while since I swallowed a book full, I thought I'd lost interest in reading ever since I started working.

Mom asked me, what's so great about that Japanese author? Well, do you know Murakami took the world by storm? I bet there's not a single teenager who doesn't know Murakami in Japan.

I love his prose, his clean refreshing simplistic style, not mundanely over-describing faces, scenery and expressions like what John Banville did in his book "The Sea". Hauntingly beautiful my foot. No, in Norwegian Wood, Murakami catches the beautiful expressions of solemn nature, the vivid distraughtness of young, insecure love and lays it down in heartfelt, easy tones.
Here's one of the paragraphs I like the most. Let me show to you Murakami's world.

"Eighteen years have gone by, and still I can bring back every detail of that day in the meadow. Washed clean of summer's dust by days of gentle rain, the mountains wore a deep, brilliant green. The October breeze set white fronds of head-high grasses swaying. One long streak of cloud hung pasted across a dome of frozen blue. It almost hurt to look at that far-off sky. A puff of wind swept across the meadow and through her hair before it slipped into the woods to rustle branches and send back snatches of distant barking - a hazy sound that seemed to reach us from the doorway to another world."

See his precise choice of words? A "deep, brilliant green" are the mountains afar... I'd never thought of describing the colour of mountains I so usually see that way. And that horizontal cloud, "pasted across a dome of frozen blue", it's as though you are able to picture the character's memory frozen in the past, with white balls of cotton glued onto blue cardboards like a child's school art project. And his memory, it hurts Watanabe to even think of those days... "it almost hurt to look at that far-off sky".

I'd read many novels about psychotic young girls, like in Prozac Nation and The Bell Jar... but this is the first time I'm seeing it from a non-Western, Japanese perspective. Somehow the settings and their actions (Naoko, Watanabe and Midori) are still Western (Watanabe listens to The Beatles and reads The Great Gatsby), but it's that deep thought, those silent emotions, and their passive actions, that are so clearly Japanese by nature.

I'd never heard the song Norwegian Wood by the Beatles before, cos Dad never mentioned this song to me... I guess it wasn't main-stream then? I thought the lyrics would be something like the book, or the paragraph I'd put down above... lyrics about the clear, azure sky or simple tall woods with rabbits leaping around in the grass... so I went online and checked it to see if I was correct from where Murakami got his inspiration. But to my surprise, it was actually something like this.

"I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me...
She showed me her room, isn't it good, norwegian wood?
She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere,
So I looked around and I noticed there wasn't a chair.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine.
We talked until two and then she said, "It's time for bed"
She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh.
I told her I didn't and crawled off to sleep in the bath

And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown
So I lit a fire, isn't it good, norwegian wood."

I guess Murakami got his inspiration from the first line. The notions of the girl, dangerously inviting yet coyly distancing herself while waiting for the guy to take action. And as he took his time, unsure of what to do, she had already left him for good.
Isn't it good, Norwegian Wood.


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