'Norwegian Wood': On Having a Girl, and Losing Her

More

It's not unusual for authors, or filmmakers, or television producers to give their characters experiences with insanity, slightly illicit sex, or youthful rebellion. But what makes Haruki Murakami's bildungsroman Norwegian Wood unusual, or at least what struck me the first time I read it, and all the times since, is how quiet the depictions of the main character's most piercing and unnerving experiences are. It is, I think, one of the best modern literary depictions of depression I know.


Toru, the main character, has obviously recovered, at least somewhat, from the detachment that gripped him throughout many of the events that he's describing, but his boredom and distance from some of the more unnerving things happening to him and going on around him are interesting in their own right. His best friend kills himself; his girlfriend, who he adopts from that best friend, is deeply mentaly ill; he's at a university where the campus is in upheaval; his dorm landlord may be a spy; and Toru's enabling another friend to cheat on his girlfriend mostly because he and the other young man both like The Great Gatsby. That aimlessness of purpose and morals is frustrating in part because it feels so accurate.

It's because of that difficult balance, achieved in the same way as a very good adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird I saw at the Huntington Theatre in Boston years ago, that I'm interested to see how a movie adaptation of the novel will come off. There's a tiny little teaser trailer out:


It doesn't offer much to go on. But I'm encouraged by that flash of green towards the end. The girl who pushes Toru towards decisiveness is named Midori. Her name means green, and that colored light seems to be a little, wise nod towards her importance, even if she isn't present in the trailer. Gimmicky names like that can be annoying, but Midori's freshness is a good jolt in the novel, for both Toru and us. It would be nice to see that reflected in the aesthetics of the movie.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Alyssa Rosenberg is a culture writer with The Washington Post.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

Just In