10 January 2012

Norwegian Wood Readalong

I've never participated in a readalong before, but I rather obnoxiously commented on the posts for everybody who participated in the Help! I Haven't Read The Help Readalong, sponsored by Reading Rambo. This month she's sponsoring a new one for Haruki Murakmi's Norwegian Wood, which nobody doubts will be a more elevated selection.  However, my book just arrived at the bookshop yesterday and the first posting deadline is today, so I am a little behind.  Woe is I. But I will buck up, suck it up, and give it the ol' college try (and any other cliche you can think of that is suitable).  I've already missed out on the introductory post, in which we are to elaborate on our feelings of reading Murakami: to sum up, a little bit intimidated because I've read two of his books before and one of them kicked my ass & I didn't finish it, and the other was slim and dreamlike and carried me along on its gentle current. Which one will Norwegian Wood resemble, or will it be something entirely its own?

Okey-dokey.  Here are my almighty thoughts about chapters one through four two.  In a readalong, I'm not sure which is more important: finishing the reading and posting late, or posting on time what you've had the chance to read. I'm erring on the side of the latter for this week until informed otherwise.

I'm not sure if it's a cultural difference or what, but the conversation between Toru and Naoko seems completely stilted.  The relationship itself and the way they interact feel natural, but any verbal exchange leaves me feeling dissatisfied.  On the other hand, the same dream-like quality that I liked about After Dark seems to be developing here, and I'm all for that.

I love the meditation on memory and clarity at the end of chapter one: it's almost like a prose version of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle: the closer in time he is to Naoko, the less clear she seems, and conversely, "the more the memories of Naoko inside me fade, the more deeply I am able to understand her." Maybe it's just the old physics nerd in me resurfacing, but I was completely drawn to the last two paragraphs in the chapter.

Cicadas--who knew that they were in Japan?  Of the four places I've lived in the US (MA, NC, MS, and WI), I have only ever known them in MS.  I wouldn't have expected them to show up in Japan, what with the wildly divergent climates.

Boys' dormitories--I guess that's a cross-culture disgusting thing.  I was an RA in college and had to make several, ahem, official visits to the boys' dorms after hours and they were always appaling.  I love Murakami's description of mattresses here: "sweat-impregnated pads would give off odors beyond redemption." So true, so true.

National anthem--"until pebbles turn to boulders" seemed like the phrase should be reversed to me until I looked up the rest of the lyrics online.  Now I suppose I just find it creepy, because if it were "boulders turn to pebbles," then it's just a really long time on a geologic time scale.  But waiting for pebbles to turn to boulders is not going to happen, ever. And then I had the irreverent thought that it would be a better national anthem for North Korea. And then I realized that I don't really want to inspect too closely the words of my own national anthem and I left it alone.

And how 'bout that suicide, eh? Can't wait to move on 'cause in retrospect it makes the convo in chapter one a little less stilted.

Shoot, this makes me feel stoopid.  Can't wait to read everybody else's response so that I can learn better how to do this.  'Til next time, y'all.


  1. Obnoxiously commented- it wasn't obnoxious, it was awesome, as long as you were saying mean things about The Help! I like that you've only read two chapters (I mean- naughty! You didn't follow the rules etc) because at that point yesterday I was kind of like 'oooh, revelation!' and then it totally picked up from there so, yeah, expect great things! (Well, I thought they were great anyway!) Also, boys are gross and national anthems are weird (except the English one, which is BORING and all monarchist and uck).

  2. Great book, and completely different from everything else in the Murakami canon. I hope you enjoy it.

    By the way, the cicadas in Japan are insane. Way louder than in America.

  3. You can talk about WHICHEVER CHAPTERS YOU WANT. So long as they aren't past what we're supposed to have read. Spoilers and all.

    "I love the meditation on memory and clarity at the end of chapter one: it's almost like a prose version of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle: the closer in time he is to Naoko, the less clear she seems."

    Daaaaaamn, madam. That's good. I enjoy that observation inDEED.

    And yeeah, I was lazy and didn't look up the rest of the Japanese national anthem, but I kind of assumed it was a "We're super-awesome" kind of thing like most national anthems. I guess I'll go check them out now.

  4. Now I'm the one obnoxiously commenting on the readalong without reading the book...because I loved your comments. (And this quote -- "sweat-impregnated pads would give off odors beyond redemption." -- fabulous!!)

    So right about national anthems.

  5. It does actually get better! But yeah, pretty great so far.

  6. On the national anthem - the other English translation just gives a glimpse of the lyrics (and a slightly different translation) - "Yon pebbled shores" and "reigns eternal"

  7. I think the fact that you read only two chapters allowed you to make EVEN BETTER observations about the subtext. It may benefit the rest of us if you continue to be behind in your reading.

  8. I completely read this thinking of The Wind-up Bird Chronicles...which made me a bit confused. Norwegian Wood was my introduction to Murakami and I loved it, but actually it is probably my least favourite so far.

    Am intrigued as to which one you gave up on?

  9. Who knew that Japanese cicadas were so much more intense than Mississippi ones?

    lucybird, the one I gave up on was Wind-Up Bird Chronicles.

    Audra, I hope you keep those comments coming!

  10. I'm a slacker and didn't even think to look up the anthem. And that mattress? Ewww. I'm so glad that I'm not a boy.

  11. Well now.....do your eight or so years in Wisconsin count for naught??

  12. Oops, didn't mean to leave out wisconsin. i've gone back to modify.

  13. Something about the image (and the sound I imagined) of the cicadas crunching underfoot gives me the heebie-jeebies.

    Yes, boys being gross in dorms is definitely universal. I think that's why I like Storm Trooper so much--he's hygienic!

    Hope you enjoy the next few chapters!


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