We All Need a “Midori”, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Kobayashi Midori is a prominent character in the novel, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. Well-known for his fantastical stories, the simplicity of this novel may surprise you at first but then you ease into it, only to finish it needing time to process what you’ve just read.

Luckily for me my friend, Carla, had recently finished reading the book and so I sent her a message on Facebook. Below are selected parts of the conversation because I’m trying to avoid spoilers.

Carla’s responses are in purple:

…the ending got me rolling. like Watanabe being disoriented but it gave a limbo impression. Like he just died and hadn’t realized it

“Midori was the BEST. Every book needs a Midori I knowwww that ending!!!!”

“EVERYONE NEEDS A MIDORI”

“I’m choosing to interpret it as momentary confusion because the alternative is too sad hahah it’s so true though!”

“yeah momentary confusion – i understand – BUT what would inflict that?”

“I kind of don’t want to know”

I DO! I’m a curious little shit


However, despite it being illogical for Toru to have died or be in limbo, the word choice for that sentence still leaves an unshakeable inference to limbo. Also, talking to Carla made me realize that Toru being alive was more profound considering the “curse” (I borrow the word “curse” from Carla) that seem to cling to his best friends, Kizuki and Naoko. It’s as if him being alive broke the cycle and I believe Midori helped him.

The novel begins with the protagonist, Watanabe Toru recalling his youth, stirred from listening to the Beatles song, Norwegian Wood. A bulk of the story takes place in the past, narrated by Toru, as he pursues a degree in Drama, encountering (as Carla puts it beautifully), “fantastical characters” who are complementary with the simplicity of the plot. I being 20, naively thought I would be able to relate but it was more of me being a spectator as events unfolded.

Focusing on the two leading female characters, the contrast between Midori and Naoko is like a black slate next to a white one, with a bit of gray in the middle. Naoko is kind, reserved, and  beautiful, but the way she is presented puts me off because she seems to be more of an idealization. Especially considering what happens from pages 173 – 174. I didn’t understand what I was reading so I wrote a question mark on a post-it just so I could come back to it. Re-reading those pages again, it’s as if Naoko is elevated to the level of divinity-

After googling moon goddesses, I read about Selene, the Greek moon goddess, and her relationship with Endymion for the first time. I think the myth might have inspired this scene considering both include the moon as a dominant element, Toru is in this dream-like state and is in complete awe of Naoko’s seemingly flawless body. So we’ve got the moon, sleep/dreams, and the interaction between a mortal and a seemingly divine being in common. I feel I might be on the right track but I’m not going to settle for this reference. What other myths or interpretations could there be? What’s the function of this? Maybe a subtle way of foreshadowing that they were never going to be together since Toru may be awake in contrast to Endymion who is asleep…

Our faces were no more than ten inches apart, but she was light years away from me (p.172)

Midori, on the other hand, is weird, loud, and has no shame. When I’d read her rants, I’d feel so drawn to her, laugh, and would think how I would love to meet a person like her. You come upon her opinions, criticisms, kinks, humor, and grow to appreciate the development of her friendship with Toru. The following is one of my favorites and presents their friendship nicely:

Midori laughed out loud. “You’re so weird! Nobody talks about Euripides with a dying  person they’ve just met!”

“Well, nobody, sits in front of her father’s memorial portrait with her legs spread, either!” (p.303)

Where is the shame with this one?

Shamelessly entertained by Midori’s rants whilst wanting to hug her for acting strong despite the amount of loss she endures, Carla helped me realize that Midori serves a higher purpose than entertainment and tugging on heartstrings. Our discussion developed into the possibility of her helping Toru readjust to reality and staying alive.

Reiko is another interesting character. I love how she is described in the book, especially the details of her wrinkles. Growing up in a society that seemingly rejects the aging process, the portrayal of her wrinkles as a form of beauty puts me in awe. Despite Reiko seemingly taking on the parent role to Toru, talented, caring, and an amazing support system to Naoko, what happens with the 13 year old and later with Toru leaves me conflicted.

However minimal, the comic relief offered by Storm Trooper and Midori is highlighted because this is such a melancholic book filled with death and pain from unrequited love. One more thing I’d like to point out is that there appears to be various transitions that take place. The most relatable one was Toru’s transition from Ami Hostel back to the city, where all the noise and vulgarity returns. From the unnatural quietness of Ami Hostel to the noisy urban space, I felt that spaces like Toru’s dorm room and Midori’s home offered a delicate inbetweeness. Something you come to appreciate if you regularly migrate between a noise fest and a place too quiet for comfort.


I actually bought this book a couple of years ago and finally got a chance to read it. I’m not sure what drew younger me to it but I’m glad I bought it. I’m super glad I read it now because I don’t think I would have appreciated it had I read it earlier.

Presently, I’m reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.

-MS-

 

 

 

 

 

A New Pattern, I Just Need to Find It

I’m currently taking an Introductory English Literature course and a project is part of the coursework. This is the first blogpost.

I remember the first week of this semester. September. I hadn’t even settled down yet and life kinda slapped me in the face when I realize I wasn’t graduating on time (considering my financial situation). Fabulous. Running around trying to get my courses only added to the strain I felt. And so when I went to my first English 205 class  (I missed the first one because I wasn’t registered for it yet), the announcement of having to do a project didn’t seem as daunting until my professor delivered the gist. You see the comfort of mixing my Nutrition courses with humanities is exercising my analytical and writing skills and maximum doing a presentation and so i didn’t expect a digital humanity project for an introductory English literature class. Overwhelmed, frustrated,and emotions not in check, it felt the project had been dumped on me.

Sentiments aside, what is digital humanities?

It is essentially an intersection between computer sciences and the humanities in the field of public humanities.Which is interesting because both fields seemed so distant to me before knowing this. Specific to the project, students were instructed to collect data from random people about the books they had read in high school, the condition being that they graduated from a Lebanese high school. The purpose and with the help of visualizing tools is to observe and derive a topic related to canonicity within the Lebanese context. We had the freedom of constructing our own interview questions as long as it followed the criteria specified on the excel sheet (i.e. genre, book title).

This seems like a project I would prefer doing on my own but it’s group-work and I’m always hesitant in participating in group work because of the risk of working with a group of people who would leave most of the work for me to do. I can’t be the only one who feels this way and I know I’m not the only one.With that hanging at the back of my head, the act of picking a group was nerve-wracking. Not to mention, I’m a socially awkward jellybean – but it worked out. I ended up with 3 girls who were on the same page as me – confused and curious. I knew Mariam way before taking this class and so I was already comfortable with her and with the fact that we would be working together. I’d never met Maria or Dana before but they turned out to be friendly and supportive. Presently, I’m comfortable with working with my group. We’ve even help each other out on matters outside the project, which is comforting.

Data collecting doesn’t sound exciting but I find interviewing fun but my limitation of only being fluent in English makes me nervous but so far, so good. Considering all the answers I’ve gotten, I believe the most interesting answer I got was that one of the interviewees didn’t actually finish reading any books while in high school. She was interested in math and biology more, which is cool, but her school didn’t have a strong English literature program either. Also, she essentially didn’t read during her free time as well. She joked that she didn’t finish a book during her high school years but it unfortunately links back to the stigmatizing perception that the arts are still considered inferior to the sciences. Sigh.

It’s normal to wonder how a project like this could be relevant to the course. I was too until the following occurred to me: This class is an introductory course to British literature, where we cover works that are still considered important despite their age. And so this hunt for literary works within the Lebanese context may show which literary works are important in Lebanon, widening the scope of canon literature that isn’t British.

Working with this group reminds of another project I did. In my gender and sexuality course, Women in African Literature, my group and I had to pick a book and update its Wikipedia page. We each divided the work and then updated the old content on a Google doc and then submitted it. In comparison, the project from my gender and sexuality class was relatively simpler and shorter unlike this project that started since week 1 of the semester and requires me to be way more analytical and observant.

Reflecting on the work done so far, I do believe each of us in the group has the knowledge and the skills to contribute to this project but with each of our hectic schedules, progress has been slow but we are getting there. My group and I will most likely be focusing on generations and what books were reoccurring. At our next meeting, we will work on a further analysis of our data and the work will properly be divided.


It’s that time of the month where all the work I’ve procrastinated on is piling up. I’m gonna need something stronger than tea. French Press Maybe?

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After my occasional brew, taken by myself

-MS-

Perks Inspired Reading Challenge!

In the novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie’s English Teacher, Bill Anderson, assigns extra books for Charlie to read and write essays. By the end of the book, I realized I had only read about 2 of the assigned novels.

So why not make it into a reading challenge?

Aim: Read the follow books before the anniversary of the novel’s publication: February 1st, 2016

Book list:

Walden      The Great Gatsby Naked Lunch

The Catcher in the Rye    To Kill A Mockingbird      The Fountainhead

Peter Pan   On the Road     The Stranger

      Hamlet    

I thought it would be fun way to motivate me to read these novels and play. I read the blurbs of the ones I had never heard of and they seem interesting. Others, I genuinely wanted to read back in high school but never got to it. I have already read The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye. Click on the pictures to read the book’s blurb from Goodreads. There is a possibility that I might have missed a book or shared the wrong one. I’ll greatly appreciate it if you point out any blunders or inform me of any missing books.

WHY DON’T YOU JOIN ME!

The list doesn’t look as intimidating as the 50 Books Before You Die reading challenge, am I right?

-T.B.B.-