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I Once Had a Book, Or Should I Say, It Once Had Me

I totally lost it earlier this week on finding out that folks are making a movie of Norwegian Wood. Haruki Murakami’s novel about sex, mental illness, great records, cooking, and student unrest was definitely one of the Big, Influential Books for me in high school, although in a more general way than some of the novels I wrote about earlier this week. I don’t know that I felt particularly drawn to Toru, the main character. It was more that I was afraid I’d end up like Naoko, Toru’s deeply depressed girlfriend, and hoped I could find my way into becoming someone like Midori, the vivacious student he falls for in college. I liked the vision of days spent hanging out, cooking, listening to music, all without the supervision of parents or accountability to anyone in particular. And even though I’ve got a profoundly personal vision of the book’s characters and settings, the stills that have come out of the production look pretty compelling.I’d love for this to be good, and for there to be a version that’s dubbed in English and that gets a mass-market, aggressively marketed, release over here. Norwegian Wood is, in today’s movie world, a rare coming-of-age movie, one with heft and genuine disaffection. Naoko’s mental illness isn’t feigned, or really boredom: there is something profoundly wrong with her. This isn’t Robert Pattinson acting like an ass in lieu of genuine rebellion in Remember Me: the backdrop of major upheaval among the university students and stifling Japanese society is a real incentive for the main characters to drop out or seek an alternate path, and conditions under which it’s genuinely hard for them to find it. Not to get all Kids These Days, but I think it’s worth having movies with those kinds of consequences.

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