Book Discussion for "Norwegian Wood" by Haruki Murakami

  • April 14, 2013 · 3:00 PM
  • This location is shown only to members

*Note* - You will be able to RSVP for this event the evening of the previous event (RSVPs open 7:00pm on March 10th).

 

Back by popular demand! "Norwegian Wood" was very popular in our first book vote, so I brought it back to see how it would fare - looks like we were all pretty interested, so here we are again. Find your copy asap!

Please bring questions, thoughts, comments - no formal presentations are necessary, but do expect to engage in some active listening and conversation. As always, dissenting opinions and thoughts are welcome, but I do expect participants to be respectful of each other as they express them.

 

Here's a short summary of the book:

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
A first US appearance of a novel originally published in 1987, this crisp portrayal of “flaming youth” in the late 1960s proves one of Murakami’s most appealing—if uncharacteristic—books.

Best known to us as the comic surrealist-symbolist author of such rousing postmodernist fare as A Wild Sheep Chase (1989), Murakami is also a highly intelligent romantic who feels the pangs of his protagonist Toru Watanabe’s insistent sexual and intellectual hungers and renders them with unsparing clarity (the matter-of-fact sexual frankness here seems unusual for a Japanese novel, even a 1987 one).Toru’s narrative of his student years, lived out against a backdrop of ongoing “campus riots,” focuses on the lessons he learns from relationships with several highly individual characters, two of them women he simultaneously loves (or thinks he loves). Mercurial Naoko, who clearly perceives the seeds of her own encroaching madness (“It’s like I’m split in two and playing tag with myself”), continues to tug away at Toru’s emotions even after she enters a sanatorium. Meanwhile, coy fellow student Midori tries to dispel shadows cast by her parents’ painful deaths by fantasizing and simulating—though never actually experiencing—sex with him. Other perspectives on Toru’s hard-won assumption of maturity are offered by older student Nagasawa (“a secret reader of classic novels,” and a compulsive seducer); Naoko’s roommate Reiko, a music teacher (and self-styled interpreter of such Beatles’ songs as the one that provides Murakami’s evocative title) who’s perhaps also her lesbian lover; and the specter of Toru’s boyhood friend Kizuki, a teenaged suicide. There’s a lot of talk about books (particularly Fitzgerald’s and Hesse’s) and other cultural topics, in a blithely discursive and meditative story that’s nevertheless firmly anchored to the here and now by the vibrant immediacy of its closely observed characters and their quite credibly conflicted psyches and libidos. A contemporary equivalent of This Side of Paradise or Vile Bodies, and another solid building-block in one of contemporary fiction’s most energetic and impressive bodies of work.

Now let's get to readin'!

 

Suggested Donation: $2/attendee

As stated in my profile, I'm a broke-ass grad student, and Meetup groups cost money to run (surprise!), so... if you can contribute a buck or two, please do! This increases the likelihood that I can continue this group despite my rotten budget. If you can't, don't sweat it - it wouldn't really be fair to exclude other broke-asses. If there are extra funds from donations over the year (i.e., if the amount collected exceeds the cost of the Meetup, which is $144/year), then I will use the remaining funds for something fun for the group, like drinks/snacks for a holiday get together at the year's end.

A little note on RSVPs:

If you have to cancel (life happens sometimes), please do so at least 24 hours in advance. That way space can be freed up for others who may wish to attend, but for whom there wasn't enough room. RSVPs cannot be changed after 9:00am on the day of the event, so be sure to change your RSVP well in advance of this! Also, if you are on the waiting list and other's change their RSVP to "no", you will be bumped up on the list, so make sure to check your status the day of the event. If you RSVP "yes" and don't show up 3 times (yes, I will be counting!), you will be excluded from future attendance. This is only fair for others who want to attend the meetings.

 

 

 

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  • Liz

    Gave me great new insights into the book, with a diverse range of views, as usual! Valerie did a great job and I really valued everyone's contributions. Turned my feelings about the book from "intriguing" to a new level of appreciation.

    1 · April 15, 2013

    • Liz

      Hmm, I'm detecting a reference to (an)other Murakami book(s). I'd better get reading a few more before I can LOL at that one, Brian!

      1 · April 17, 2013

    • brian b

      Can't "go to the well" too often, where Murakami's concerned! (fwiw: Other Japanese authors I've especially enjoyed include Mishima, Tanizaki and Soseki.)

      April 17, 2013

  • brian b

    Terrific! Makes me want to re-read, 13 years after first (and only) read!

    1 · April 14, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Good discussion. Lots of interesting ideas went around. Valerie did a great job keeping everything on track.

    1 · April 14, 2013

  • Randy W.

    Great job by Valerie as usual!

    1 · April 14, 2013

    • Valerie F.

      Thanks Randy - good to see you again, and I'm glad you were able to come to this discussion!

      April 14, 2013

  • Valerie F.

    What a wonderful discussion! It's always great to hear so many different perspectives and interpretations of a book that you've read. Thanks to everyone who came, and I hope I'll continue to see a mix of new and old faces at our future meetings!

    1 · April 14, 2013

  • lorena

    Hi, I'm glad you all enjoyed the meetup. Valerie does a great job with it. Has next month's book been selected?

    April 14, 2013

    • Valerie F.

      Yes Lorena! We're reading "The New Jim Crow" - hope you can join us

      April 14, 2013

  • Jack L.

    Great discussion today. I really enjoyed the high degree of discourse and the real interest in the book, despite liking it or not. Kudos to Valerie for excellent moderating, thanks.

    2 · April 14, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Just wanted to thank everyone for sharing opinions and ideas today, I actually left liking the book more than when I came in. I hope to see you all again in the not-too-distant future for another good discussion :)

    2 · April 14, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Extremely interesting and lively discussion. The diversity of opinions and angles on the book made it great. Oh, and Valerie did, too! Thank you Valerie for being the mover and shaker to organize this group!

    2 · April 14, 2013

  • lorena

    I couldn't finish the book due to my lack of interest in it.

    April 13, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I love Murakami, Norwegian Wood is one of my favorites!

    April 12, 2013

  • Liz

    Finished the book today! Will be very interested to hear everyone's thoughts on this one. It surprised and intrigued me. Plan to do a little reading around the novel - background, crits, notes, etc - before next week, so don't expect me to come with any of my own ideas ;)

    2 · April 7, 2013

    • Valerie F.

      I finished it yesterday - I think this is going to be a good discussion! I have a lot of unanswered questions and thoughts, so I hope other people will bring their's as well, and we'll muddle through it together :)

      1 · April 10, 2013

  • Dmitriy L.

    Thanks!

    March 22, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I literally just joined this group and lo and behold I see my favorite author is featured! What a happy coincidence. I sincerely hope I can find and read this book because I'd love to be a part of the discussion.

    1 · March 20, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Thanks! I'm happy to be a part of it. I just ordered the book from halfpricebooks and it should be here by the 31st, so I'll have plenty of time.

      March 20, 2013

    • Valerie F.

      Glad to hear it Jene'e!!

      March 21, 2013

  • Liz

    Count me very definitely in for this one. Great meetup today, Valerie, thank you!

    1 · March 10, 2013

  • Liz

    So excited for this one (sorry Freddie!) I read "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running", loved it, and have had Murakami on my "must read" list since then. This is the perfect time :)

    March 8, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sounds good—I've heard great things about Norwegian Wood. I've never been to this venue...the big question is: Any parking advice? It'll be a Sunday, but that doesn't mean nearby street parking will be easy. Please advise!

    March 6, 2013

    • Liz

      Hey Keith, I work right by Luka's and have had to come into downtown on a Sunday a couple of times. Never had a problem with the parking a few block around. Worth checking if there is any kind of Oakland downtown event that date - anything at the Paramount Theater or nearby - but if not, you shouldn't have too much trouble. Otherwise, 19th St BART is only 2 blocks away.

      March 8, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry, I read Wind Up Bird Chronicles and cannot bring myself to read another Murakami book. Looking forward to whatever comes next. Sorry to be a bad sport!

    March 6, 2013

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