women-children and men-protectors

I don’t get men.

This, I think, is a key reason I read so many books written by women -- being a woman, I understand women’s neuroses, interests, general attractions….

Men are a different story.

(Understatement of the year.)

Take, for example, Annie Hall. Some laud Diane Keaton’s character as this fantastic depiction of unique, difficult, unabashedly real women.

I grimace at her flighty, self-centred, crazed nature.

Now, there’s little about Woody Allen’s screenplays that compares to Haruki Murakami’s prose.

Except, of course, that I don’t get the main character’s attraction to both Naoko and Midori in Norwegian Wood.

Midori is all quirky mystery and unanswered questions; Naoko is a total basket case. In movie terms, Midori would be Kirstin Dunst’s super irritating heroine in Elizabethtown, while Naoko would be like…. Probably like any of Winona Ryder’s characters in any given movie. One specifically in particular, but if I tell you that I will ruin part of the book for you.

These two girls, both cast in the confusing light only 19-year-olds can create for themselves, could not come across as less attractive. And Toru’s infatuation and connection with both…. I just don’t know if I totally buy it as a love story.

Don’t get me wrong: I actually really liked this novel (thanks T&A!). I toted it all around with me over the last couple weeks, drinking in its total hotness -- Murakami has quite the imagination -- but still wondering, really, what drew Toru to the women in his life. Does he want to save them all? Fix them all?

Clearly, he is tied to Naoko because he wants to drag her back from the edge. He has a similar nurturing tendency with Midori, and ultimately -- to himself -- Toru comes up short in his inability to protect these women from the world.

In fairness to Murakami, he allows the reader to come to the conclusion on her own that Toru’s sense of powerlessness in connection to Naoko, particularly, is misplaced. Naoko has her own shit to deal with, and there is little Toru can do to sway her in any way.

But perhaps this is what bugs me about the way some men cast love stories: In Norwegian Wood, particularly, the hero gets the benefit of adulthood even in narration, while the quasi-heroines are women-children doomed from the start.

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