I Love Murakami

Haruki Murakami tweaks tradition and gives equal air time to the tradition and the tweak.
photo: Marion Ettlinger
Haruki Murakami tweaks tradition and gives equal air time to the tradition and the tweak.

OK, so that part's a little heavy-handed. Murakami's style is still developing in Norwegian Wood, and some of the risks he takes don't pay off for a couple of books or so. Murakami's penchant for Western pop culture references, for example, is in full force here, and it's not quite clear why a writer would merely list names—Mancini, Capote, Bogart, and Jim Morrison are among the name-drops—for any other purpose besides looking hip. The Beatles song is a similar shrug: Watanabe hears the Beatles tune as airplane Muzak, making him remember his promise to Naoko that he'd never forget her. "Even so," he admits, "my memory has already grown increasingly distant, and I have already forgotten any number of things." By Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, he's remembered them. In the meantime, Norwegian Wood is a story in flux, from a novelist whose voice was then just emerging. Reading it now is a delirium of cross-fades, a sensational sensation that's tough to pin down and impossible to forget.

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