Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Caroline vs. Norwegian Wood


After reading Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, a friend suggested I read Norwegian Wood, so I went up to Kinokuniya and picked myself up a copy.  It's set in the late 1960s and references a lot of contemporary music, especially The Beatles; hence the name of the novel.

This book is different from other Murakami books because it has no fantastical elements; it is "just" a love story.  Don't get me wrong, though; Murakami explores some pretty profound emotions, and the end result is a beautifully heartbreaking novel.  Mental health is a central theme, and as someone who deals with anxiety on a daily basis, that really resonated with me.

Here are some passages I liked:
"I straightened up and looked out of the window at the dark clouds hanging over the North Sea, thinking of all I had lost in the course of my life: times gone forever, friends who had died or disappeared, feelings I would never know again."  (p.1)
"The sad truth is that what I could recall in 5 seconds all too soon needed 10, then 30, then a full minute - like shadows lengthening at dusk.  Someday, I suppose, the shadows will be swallowed up in darkness."  (p.4)
"'I can never say what I want to say,' continued Naoko.  'It's been like this for a while now.  I try to say something, but all I get are the wrong words - the wrong words or the exact opposite words from what I mean.  I try to correct myself, and that only makes it worse.  I lose track of what I was trying to say to begin with.  It's like I'm split in two and playing tag with myself.  One half is chasing the other half around this big, fat post.  The other me has the right words, but this me can't catch her.'"  (p.25)
"We cleared the table and sat on the floor, listening to music and drinking the rest of the wine.  She drank two glasses in the time it took me to finish one."  (p.48)
"'How did you like my song?' she asked.  I answered cautiously, 'It was unique and original and very expressive of your personality.'  'Thanks,' she said.  'The theme is that I have nothing.'"  (p.98)
"In his or her own way, everyone I saw before me looked happy.  Whether they were really happy or just looked it, I couldn't tell.  But they did look happy on this pleasant early afternoon in late September, and because of that I felt a kind of loneliness new to me, as if I were the only one here who was not truly part of the scene."  (p.103)
"I focused on that point of light for a long, long time.  It made me think of something like the final pulse of a soul's dying embers.  I wanted to cup my hands over what was left and keep it alive.  I went on watching it the way Jay Gatsby watched that tiny light on the opposite shore night after night."  (p. 149)
"'My parents walked around on tiptoe, afraid of hurting me.  But I knew how disappointed they were.  All of a sudden the daughter they had been so proud of was an ex-mental-patient.  They couldn't even marry me off.'"  (p.155)
"Yes, of course, I told myself, feeling sad: I was in the outside world now."  (p.217)
"'People are strange when you're a stranger.'"  (p.223)
"'I don't mind waiting, but all these guys are staring at my legs.'  'What d'you expect, coming into a men's dorm in such a short skirt?  Of course they're going to stare.'  'Oh, well, it's OK.  I'm wearing really cute panties today - all pink and frilly and lacy.'"  (p.228)
"'OK, so I'm not so smart.  I'm working class.  But it's the working class that keeps the world running, and it's the working classes that get exploited.  What kind of revolution is it that just throws out big words that working-class people can't understand?  What kind of crap social revolution is that?'" (p.234-5)
"We went outside and took a few deep breaths.  This was the first time in my life the outside air of Shinjuku felt healthy to me."  (p.296)
"Reiko continued speaking for a while, but when she realized that I wasn't saying anything, she also fell silent.  Neither of us said a word on the bus."  (p.367-8)

xx, C.

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