Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Norwegian Wood Read-Along: Chapters 5 & 6

Norwegian Wood Read-Along
Chapters 5 & 6

I'm participating on Reading Rambo's Norwegian Wood Read-Along.

Apologies for the rambling nature of what you're about to read.  There was lots of stuff to process in this section and I'm sure I'm leaving out a great deal.  So with that said, let's get going.

We begin with the long-expected letter from Naoko in which she explains the "facility" where she's staying and invites Toru to come and visit her.  Toru, who really seems like he's just happy to have something to do,  hops on the first train in the morning to the Ami Hostel.

In order to reach Naoko, Toru must embark on a Journey that involves a long train ride, a bus and then a short hike deep into the mountains near Kyoto.  (On this trip we see our first reference to a cat which, like ears, is kind of a Murakami hallmark.)  When he arrives he is sent to find the weirdly wrinkled Reiko, who turns out to be Naoko's roommate.

Reiko explains that the situation at the Ami Hostel:
"Well, first I have to tell you about this place," said Reiko, ignoring my question. "The first thing you ought to know is that this is no ordinary 'hospital.' It's not so much for treatment as for convalescence. We do have a few doctors, of course, and they give hourly sessions, but they're just checking people's conditions, taking their temperature and things like that, not administering 'treatments' like in a regular hospital. There are no bars on the windows here, and the gate is always wide open. People enter voluntarily and leave the same way. You have to be suited to that kind on convalescence to be admitted here in the first place. In some cases, people who need specialized therapy end up going to a specialized hospital."
"Just living here is convalescence," she said. "A regular routine, exercise, isolation from the outside world, clean air, quiet. Our farmland makes us pratically self-sufficient; there's no TV or radio. We're like one of those commune places you hear so much about."
 There are two things here that remind me of 1Q84.  There's a part of 1Q84 where Tengo goes to visit his father in a sanatorium  for a bunch of days and it reminded me a lot of this section of Norwegian Wood.  Tengo and Toru both take a long train ride to a remote part of Japan to visit someone in hospital-like situation.  They both end up in a place that feels separated from the outside world and both of them have a strange sexual experience.  Part of this section of 1Q84 was printed in The New Yorker as "Town Of Cats" and Tengo refers to this place as the Town of Cats.  From this point forward, I'm going to refer to the Ami Hostel as the Town of Crazy.

The other thing that reminded me of 1Q84 is the whole communal living/farming thing.  There are two cults in 1Q84 that live out in a remote area and do a lot of farming and are very secretive.  And then a goat dies and the Little People crawl out of the dead goat's mouth and...  well, I wouldn't want to ruin it for anyone.

So anyway, Reiko is weirdly wrinkled and she's got this two-part story about how she got herself to Crazy Town that involves a unnaturally pretty teenager tricking her into some lesbian sexy-time.

We learn more about Naoko and her relationship to Kizuki.  They were together since they were three years old and had found some kind of completeness in each other.  We learn that Naoko's older sister committed suicide at age 17 and that she often considers suicide herself.

“I feel like Kizuki is reaching out for me from the darkness, calling to me, ‘Hey, Naoko, we can’t stay apart.’ When I hear him saying that, I don’t know what to do.”
Look, Naoko is VERY SAD and has TROUBLES but she has Reiko as a sister/mother figure and seems to be doing better.  Tengo gets to understand Naoko better maybe understand new things about himself and most importantly, get snapped out of his funk.

When Tengo comes back from the Town of Crazy he is startled by all the noise and dirt and unappealing people in the Real World..  If someone that's mostly sane finds the real world jarring after a very short stint in the Town of Crazy, how is a more delicate person like Naoko going to survive outside of that insular world?

Finally, hand-jobs.  Murakami loves to bestow hand-jobs on his characters.  Like a benevolent father, Murakami is all "Tengo, you have been a good boy, here's a handy."

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