Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book review:1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Where do I even begin to describe a book like 1Q84? This was my first Murakami novel, and though I felt, at times, that certain minutiae for which he is apparently infamous (food preparation, repetitive dialogue and re-iteration of expository detail) contributed unnecessary padding to the 1157 pages, overall I found myself quite swept away in the lyricism of the writing and the surreal but precise detail in observing the world of 1Q84.
The central characters are Tengo, a cram school (assuming this is an analog to American community college?) math teacher and aspiring novelist, and Aomame, a fitness instructor and occasional silent assassin of abusive men. Though their entry points are different, they are both drawn into 1Q84, a world that is nearly identical to that present in the year 1984 — when the novel takes place — but that is also governed by fantastical elements that are invisible to the majority of people still living in 1984. Throughout the considerable length of the novel, they are eventually drawn together, and though I hesitate to consider theirs a traditional love story in any sense, it’s undeniable that the Invisible Hand of 1Q84 pushes them together due to cosmic compatibility and shared human experiences.
No novel, and certainly not this one, is immune to criticism. But I find it very hard to even approach something like it with this book because I had an experience reading it much like the one I felt while watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Much as Murakami describes a distinctly different existence in the year 1Q84, I felt somewhat removed from the real world as I read the novel. Time bent; one hundred pages disappeared over the course of one bus commute home. I won’t be so pretentious as to suggest I was looking for glitches in the matrix everywhere as a result of finishing1Q84, but while I was reading I was certainly wholly enveloped in the book rather than in my own body.
Your mileage may vary. Some — many — have likened this book to an interminable wank. Meta-commentary from a book editor character regarding what makes a quality novel can either seem self-congratulatory or tongue-in-cheek, depending on your reading; I read it more as the latter, since throughout Murakami breaks the editor’s “rules” several times. I wouldn’t unreservedly recommend this to just anyone considering that it is a substantial time commitment. It is, though, a book that is sticking with me quite stubbornly since I’ve finished it in a really enjoyable way. I appreciated it immensely and rank it highly among anything I’ve read lately.

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