title: 1Q84 [support an independent bookseller and purchase at Strand]
author: Haruki Murakami
source: New York Public Library
1Q84, Murakami’s newest (and lengthy) tome, covers a lot of ground in 925 pages. Part science fiction, part magical realism, part romance, part action…and part redundant. The plot follows two main characters, Tengo and Aomame, through what seems, at first, to be two completely different stories. But as the plot progresses, their stories become more and more intertwined as the world around them starts to unravel and time itself becomes called into question.
What I loved: The story itself was fascinating. I loved the way Murakami told it from multiple perspectives as it allowed him to weave together key details and plot points delicately and gradually. And the way he wove both stories together was original and more often then not, unexpected. The concept and the execution, though definitely evocative of other works, retained their freshness, which is not an easy feat.
What I wasn’t into: I’m not sure if this was a problem with translation or an intentional stylistic decision, but the book read like a television serial. Very redundant. Many chapters reminded the reader of key details that were revealed in the past 20 or so pages. In a media saturated society of instant gratification such as ours, I understand why many television shows begin with a “previously on…” segment. But I want to be treated like a far more advanced being with the capacity to recall major plot points when I read. If the redundancies were eliminated, I bet a good 25-30 pages or so could have been shaved off the book. That said, I could absolutely see 1Q84 being successfully developed into a HBO series.
What said, I also loved how, despite its length, I was left wanting more, wondering what was next for Tengo and Aomame, what would become of 1Q84, etc. I wanted to read Air Chrysalis, a book that plays a central role in the plot. It’s strange that a book could at the same time feel too long and not long enough.
Some of my favorite quotes:
Komatsu, on writing:
“There also has to be that ‘special something,’ an indefinable quality, something I can’t quite put my finger on. That’s the part of fiction I value more highly than anything else. Stuff I understand perfectly doesn’t interest me. Obviously.” (page 18) This is EXACTLY how I feel about the books I read!
Aomame, on the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana:
“Aomame of course knew about the wedding, but she had no particular interest in it, and she could not figure out why people were so deeply concerned about the fate of an English prince and princess. Charles looked less like a prince than a high school physics teacher with stomach trouble.” (page 102)
Tengo, on writing:
“There were too many questions. It was probably Chekhov who said that the novelist is not someone who answers questions but someone who asks them.” (page 264) Ironic, because precisely one of the things I could have done with a bit less of was answers.
Ayumi, on life:
“That’s what the world is, after all: an endless battle of contrasting memories.” (page 293)
Ushikawa, on human nature:
“Nobody’s easier to fool, Ushikawa thought, than the person who is convinced that he is right.” (page 634)
Rubric rating: 8.5. I LOVE Murakami, but this was not his best. 1Q84 didn’t deter me from reading his most current work but rather helped me to appreciate his previous works all the more.