Sunday, September 07, 2008

the third last book I read

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.

Bloke hangs out with some teenage friends in orthodox coming-of-age stylee. Bloke's closest friend commits suicide. Bloke has brief sexual encounter with late best friend's girlfriend. Girlfriend goes mad and is confined to institution. Bloke mopes a bit. Another young girl at university develops largely inexplicable interest in bloke, pursues him in quirky fashion. Bloke mopes a bit more, visits object of largely inexplicable obsession in mental institution, has crisis of indecision, mopes. Institutionalised object of largely inexplicable obsession tops herself. Bloke has further crisis of indecision, has to decide whether to pursue other girl or continue moping career indefinitely. Betting ends!

On a more serious note: this is the novel which made Murakami a superstar in his native Japan, and forced hime to go and live in Europe and the USA for several years to get away from the madness. This is only the second Murakami that I've read, but the similarities and differences between this one and the previous one, A Wild Sheep Chase, are instructive. The similarities are many: a general air of surreality, and a slight feeling that actual real people don't behave quite like this, a mild obsession with women's ears and mysterious forested locations. The differences are many too, though: Norwegian Wood is much more linear and less bizarre, more of an orthodox love story (Christ knows what A Wild Sheep Chase was actually about, good though it was).

You can see why this was the Murakami novel that sold millions, but at the same time you might feel, having read some books more typical of his unique style, that something has been lost in the process. You might also say that I should read a few more to justify coming to such a conclusion, and you'd probably be right. I'll get back to you.

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