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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Norwegian Wood reaches a close

I had a really enjoyable morning today. So enjoyable in fact, that I never really moved on. I'm still there, in this morning, and in Japan.

Anyone who'd seen me wouldn't have thought I was in Japan. They would have thought I was on my knees in the garden, weeding, covered in mud, getting absolutely drenched by the pouring rain. It was that kind of rain that induces surrender after just a couple of minutes. You're out there attempting to stay semi-dry, trying to make your jacket reach to your ankles, but it's no use. You're getting wetter and wetter, trousers becoming sodden, drips running down your bum, until finally you cast aside the scowl, and burst out laughing, "I couldn't get any wetter if I tried!".

I only gave my capitulation a moment's thought, briefly looking up from the wood-chip path I was clearing and across the yard to the house. I laughed with surprise at the density of the great globules of water that filled the air. A second later, and my eyes were back on the path, my hands, stained red in new leather gloves forced their way under the mat of bark and roots, prizing it from the black plastic strip below.

But as I said, I wasn't there. My weeding was almost unconscious - I was in Japan. I was in Tokyo, following the fortunes of Toru Watanabe as his partner in Kyoto, Naoko, became increasingly ill. I became emotionally involved as Reiko told the horrendous story of how she came to be hospitalised, and I was delighted and enchanted by Midori Kobayashi, a girl I felt I'd known for a long time. I was shocked when news came through of the death, and had to stop for a moment, squatting there in sadness, lost in the rain.

I don't think I've read more than 5 novels in the past 15 years. Perhaps that goes some way towards explaining why I became so involved in Murakami's Norwegian Wood . I've long shied away from it for the simple somewhat silly reason that it was popular. Now I've read it, I feel it has every right to be popular. It's wonderful.

Another reason I've not read it until now is that it's fiction.
'I don't have time for fiction, I only have time for books I can learn from'.
That's what I used to think, but recently, I've been reconsidering. If I think of the few novels that I have read in the past few years, each one takes the form of a vast collection of images, of meanings, of emotions, of relationships. Each one has played an important part in my making sense of certain changes in my life. Given me comfort, offered me advice - just as much as any friend or non-fiction book has done.

And today, listening to Reiko advising Watanabe on how to deal with his relationship dilemma, it struck me how familiar her words were. Don't take life so seriously. Trust. Believe in yourself. If you are being true to yourself, you have nothing to fear.

And Watanabe himself - what an amazing person. To have such insight and awareness at such a young age; incredible. A really likeable, genuine and trustworthy guy, one that were I that way inclined I too might well fall in love with. Meeting someone like that is truly inspiring; we need people like him.

Death appears throughout the novel, and this got me thinking again about what it means to me - you may recall that I was 'studying' death last time I was here on the Welsh Garden Project. One thing I picked up on was that no matter how expected death is, one cannot stop those intense feelings of sadness that accompany the loss of a loved one. If death occurs suddenly and unexpectedly however, the shock can be devastating, moving way beyond any normal sadness and plunging one into a black pit where everyday life ceases to matter. It's something I don't think any amount of thinking can prepare you for.

Sometimes I think about what it will be like when someone close to me dies. I imagine life without that person, and sure enough, the feeling of loss and sadness is all encompassing. I know I'll get through it, but it will be very hard.

This makes me think even more, it is so important that I am happy today, that I am grateful for all I have, that I make sure that those around me know just how much they mean to me (*Twinkle* alone has been the recipient of over 2200 of my emails since I left Japan last summer, that's about one every 2.5 hours ever since I sailed from Osaka!).

Initially, I was a bit shocked by the (multiple) graphic sex scenes. I wasn't expecting them. But then, they were described in such a matter-of-fact tone by the superb narrator, and they were such accurate descriptions of what it really is like to sleep with someone, how people behave, that they ceased to be anything out of the ordinary, and made these relationships all the more real. I didn't dwell on them though. I miss *twinkle's* warmth enough as it is.

Norwegian Wood is the second of Murakami's novels I've read, the first being the superb 'Kafka on the Shore'. I've since added 'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle' to My Next Listen on Audible, so I'll be able to download that in a couple of weeks. (Check out the author's official website here. (I've just kept it on in the background as I like the music!). 

It's now bedtime, and although I came in from the garden some ten hours ago, somehow, a part of me in still there, hands tearing at the weeds in the wood-chip path, rain falling all around, and my head lost in Toru's vivid world so far away.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Jimjamjenny said...

I'm actually rereading Norwegian Wood at the moment. In Japanese though. It was the first book that I ever read in Japanese.
His novels are even better in Japanese. His short stories are pretty damn good too! I have a book of short stories by him カンガルー日和 which I can lend you if you're interested? :)

29/3/08 08:05  
Blogger Joseph said...

Hi JJJ,

yes, I'd love to have a read of those, thank you!

Another thing I've found interesting which I didn't mention above was the translation - several times I'd thought, "But you can't even say that in Japanese! I wonder what the original was...?"

I'll give it a read later in the year, but for now love to read some of his short stories.

:-)

29/3/08 08:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, Norwegian Wood is quite an affecting book. Some of Murakami's writing is beautiful and incredibly insightful in parts. Good read!

29/3/08 12:19  
Anonymous Hummy said...

Many consider The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle his magnum opus, including myself!

31/3/08 05:13  
Blogger Joseph said...

Hummy: coooool! me excited :-)

31/3/08 05:14  
Blogger Jimjamjenny said...

Okay! :)
I have Sputnik sweetheart in Japanese as well, which I would also be happy to lend you, but I figured that short stories would be better seeing as you're only committing yourself to a few pages, not a whole book :)

The wind-up bird chronicle is amazing, I highly reccommend it. Although I haven't tried reading it in Japanese... it is 3 books in Japanese, scary!

31/3/08 08:57  

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