Hmm…let’s see… How did Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami get onto my TBR shelf? It’s not a long story. I was browsing in Barnes & Noble (something I really need to stop doing for various reasons) and saw the “Banned Books” table. I did giggle to myself, “Mighty bold to have a table right out in the middle of the store with all these ‘banned’ books, I must say.” Yes, I know they aren’t actually banned. They have been requested to be banned by a school district or local library usually.

That reminds me, the issue I received this month of Reason magazine was a “banned book” theme. I read an article there that really irritated me last week called Sensitivity Readers Are the New Literary Gatekeepers. I highly recommend it. If you read it, send me a message. I’d love to talk about it.

Hold the phone. Is it some kind of Banned Books Month? I googled it and there is a “Banned Books Week” but it’s not until September. So, some other “something” has created this marketing ploy.

Once again, I have digressed. I came here talk about how Norwegian Wood got on my TBR shelf. Remember?

There I was with my eyes on the “banned books” table, one hand holding three other books, the other hand hovering over the titles on the table. Most of them I had already read over the years, but there were some I hadn’t. Which one should I choose? Norwegian Wood won that contest. Why? Because I love that song…so hauntingly beautiful but then the lyrics make you wonder… What in the world is going on? Did he burn down her house because she didn’t sleep with him? I have no idea what that song is about, but I hum it every time I see the title of this book.

I finished reading it yesterday morning. It started out slow and kept a regular pace. I’m not sure what to think of it. It says it was written in 1987 in Japanese but translated into English in 2000. It reads like an American story set in Japan, except the dorm culture was very different than when I was at university. The casual approach to sex, the details, the attitudes…was that why it was considered banned?

And why the title? It was a hauntingly beautiful but sad love story. I loved reading it, but it felt strange. Some love stories you read and you’re right there with the characters. “No! Don’t do it!” and “Wait! She’s coming for you!” I end up crying right along with them, my heart broken in pieces. But this was different. I felt like I was reading it through an emotion filter, like I was on anti-depressants.

I read that this book was very different from Murakami’s previous books, so I think I might get another one and find out for myself.

Before I go, I’ll give you a couple of my favorite lines. Some of them were just too delicious!

“Death exists, not as the opposite but as part of life.”

This is a concept that I believe myself and think that most people refuse to accept, which causes all kinds of bigger problems than death itself. Death cannot be avoided. It will come to each and every one of us. It’s part of life and we cannot live without it.

“It’s not that I don’t believe in contemporary literature,” he added, “but I don’t want to waste valuable time reading a book that has not had the baptism of time. Life is too short.”

That’s exactly why I avoid contemporary literature. Just because it was published doesn’t mean it’s good or that it will change me or enlighten me. The odds are actually against it, especially in the age of self-publishing. It isn’t that every book written more than fifty years ago was a gem of genius. It’s just that we only know about the ones that are still speaking to people, the ones still in print. They are in print because people still want them. Their message has stood the test of time. Life is too short not to use the filter of time and the insight of those that came before us.

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

This is one of the reasons I need to stop browsing at Barnes & Noble. It only gives me the novels and non-fiction that everyone else is reading right now. I need a broader perspective. I follow my own interests. One book leads to another, one podcast leads to a new subject. Like I was explaining in my last Podcast Roundup.

“…we are in here not to correct the deformation but to accustom ourselves to it: that one of our problems was our inability to recognize and accept our own deformities. Just as each person has certain idiosyncrasies in the way he or she walks, people have idiosyncrasies in the way they think and feel and see things, and though you might want to correct them, it doesn’t happen overnight, and if you try to force the issue in one case, something else might go funny.”

I loved the “asylum” that Naoko was staying at to get well. A large group of people voluntarily living a simple and quiet life to get back on track. I wanted to go there and live a year, but then I thought…in some ways I have. I changed how I lived years ago, and it was the best thing I could have done for myself and my family. But that’s a post for another day.

Do I recommend Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami? Yes, I do. It’s beautifully tragic and so different than any love story I’ve ever read. Have you read it? I’d love to hear what you think!