February 24, 2012

Sitzbook: "Tokio Blues - Norwegian Wood"

The Good and The Not-So-Good, Together At Last In One Convenient, Hand-Held Place:
This is the second Murakami book that I've read, and I must say that the people who really get into him may be onto something. A few years ago Lucy loaned me Kafka on the Shore, a book which was engaging, entertaining, and even --with its magical realism-- mystical. I got this book (apparently just called Norwegian Wood in Japanese and English) in 2010 while in Spain (hence the Spanish spelling of "Tokyo" in the title) and had been meaning to read it ever since. It didn't disappoint, but it did take me longer than I imagined it would.

Perhaps it was because for at least the first half of the book, I read it all while on the exercise bike in our house. Or perhaps it was the weird-flavored Spanish vocabulary used in the book to refer to all kinds of everyday nouns (I still prefer Spanish books published in Latin America for that reason). Or maybe I just turned into a slow reader for this particular book. Who knows. What I did notice, though, was that it was hard to define what the book was about.

And that's fine. It's also a testament to Murakami's writing, even in translation, that I can read hundreds and hundreds of pages that just describe how a college guy longs after his dead friend's ex-girlfriend. In fact, the more I think about it, the focus on emotion and mental processes, coupled with the lack of concrete action on every page --which, again, is not a bad thing-- almost made me fear that something completely awful was going to happen to all of the protagonists. The book does deal with depression and suicide in some places, and maybe that just made me afraid that if I kept reading, Murakami would kill off all the characters he'd spend so many pages getting me to sympathize and empathize with.

I won't tell you how the book ends, obviously, but I can say that I really tend to like books that don't let you know how things are going to turn out until the very end. In this book's case, that's almost literally the very last sentence, and I can't think of any other book that kept me hanging on in suspense for so long except Catch-22. It's therefore no coincidence that I've long recommended that book, nor is it a coincidence that I'll also be recommending this book, especially for people who've never read Murakami.

Should I Read It?
What? Seriously? Didn't you just read that last sentence? Thanks a lot, Invisible Questioner. Way to kill the nice, wrapped-up way in which I'd concluded this review!

Have a good weekend.

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