The above quote ends the opening chapter of Norwegian Wood which doesn't leave a lot to the imagination. In fact, it is probably the most notable feature when considered in comparison to other Murakami Fiction Works: it is not imaginative. It doesn't contain any of the magical surrealism, any of the absurd, any of the unknowable. It is an utterly human and maybe even boring novel about a very lost young man in college who can't seem to quite get his love life in order.
So what saves an incredibly boring story about a college guy - Watanabe - who loves the girl who never loved him? The characters in the book are so well written and fun. Reading this book is almost like being in college again. The first time I read the novel, I had just started college and felt a weird nostalgia for the experiences in the book that I didn't think I was going through, but in retrospect I think it is Every College Person's story. We just don't think our lives are that interesting as we live them because Murakami isn't crafting our stories. Revisiting it was like revisiting a college diary with all the details that have been forgotten through time.
For my reading, the characters are the heart of the story. Lost Watanabe who is completely indifferent to life and pretends to have no emotions. Manic Pixie Dream Midori who drags her male friend to a porno because her boyfriend won't take her and says things like "I looked like a corpse on the beach with seaweed stuck to my head" as she describes a bad perm. He's Your Friend But You Know He's a Dick Nagasawa, who loves to read, spend money, womanize, and once ate three slugs to get the upperclassmen to leave the freshies alone. Nagasawa's girlfriend, the Girl Who Everyone Knows Can Do Better Including Her But She Stays Anyway. Kizuki the Teenage Tragedy. Storm Trooper the Weird Roommate. And Naoko - the person who never loves you no matter how much you feel they should.
Although this is not the most Murakamiesque, it is one of my favorite of his novels, and when looking for a good airplane read, I decided to pick this one over any of his others.