Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, 1987 (Jay Rubin’s English translation)
Published by Vintage
First line: “I was 37 then, strapped in my seat as the huge 747 plunged through dense cloud cover on approach to Hamburg airport.”
Book Rx: For quiet or nostalgic moods.
I love The Beatles but hadn’t heard of ‘Norwegian Wood’ before. After reading this book I Google-d the song and was surprised that it sounded different from their other songs. It’s played on a sitar and, for some reason, the lyrics’ imagery struck me as eerie.
She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere
So I looked around and I noticed there wasn’t a chair
In a way, I thought the book had the same unsettling feeling too. It’s a story about Toru Watanabe and the women in his life: Naoko, his dead best friend’s girlfriend; Midori, a random girl Toru meets while having an omelette at a restaurant; and Reiko, Naoko’s guitar-teaching, chain-smoking roommate at Ami Hostel. One whom he’s in complicated love with, one who brings him back down to earth, and one who helps him piece things together.
‘Norwegian Wood’ is always the first Murakami book I recommend to people. I love how he uses clear, simple language to describe the everyday, and how food always seems to feature in important scenes.
– “Mushroom omelette and green pea salad”
– “A neat pile of fish bones”
– “I used to dream about sukiyaki – just stuffing myself with beef and green onions and noodles and roasted tofu and greens.”
I love to eat, and reading Murakami always makes me hungry.