It took a month of reading a few chapters here and there, before bed, to finish Murakami’s 1Q84. I can’t say that I loved it, but I did enjoy it. I approached the novel after learning the vague premise, that other people whose opinions I respect loved it, and that the cover art was beautiful. I’d never read a Murakami piece before (though now, I will probably seek out The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles) so I was green to his style of writing. I think it helped that I’m familiar with the Japanese language; none of the cultural context or names were awkward to me. I could see them being awkward to others — like how I get tripped up when I start a science-fiction novel and people have weird names that all sound the same.
First, I want to talk about the actual cover art. When I saw the book at BookPeople and picked it up, I thought to myself, “This is a book that makes a very strong case to have a Kindle,” because it’s heavy, and books that are that heavy can be a hinderance to read — you basically have to rest it on your chest while lying down, or stoop over it on a table while sitting. But the packaging for this book is absolutely beautiful, and that sort of tactile sense of peeling back the translucent cover, looking at the layers between the hardcover and the jacket, and rubbing that pretty spine of a book cannot be replicated with an e-reader. While I didn’t thoroughly enjoy handling the enormous book, I did enjoy experience it (and there is a difference).
But my copy of the book was also mis-bound — after the apparent ending on page 925, there were the obligatory “about this author” pages, and then out of nowhere the book started up again on page 901. For those of you who know what the book is about and how it ends, you could sense my confusion. What did this mean? Was there an alternate ending? I read from the 2nd page 901 eagerly, only to find out it was the same information. It ruined my reading experience a little bit. Damn you, book-binder!
I enjoyed the story, which follows two characters with a linked past as their paths draw closer and closer. The story was interesting, because it mixed a lot of genres. Mystery, thriller, science fiction, detective-sleuthing, romance… While some might call it “confused” I thought each element had its purpose in the storyline. It was like being submerged in a dream… Sometimes, things don’t make sense; sometimes, your brain just needs to steep in the thoughts for a while and work out what is happening. The story definitely goes somewhere, but it’s not a direct line. Murakami’s writing meanders a little bit, enough that you’re not sure what is really real… and a lot of questions are left open-ended.
The only way I can really describe it is when you close your eyes and push your hands against your eyelids, and you can start to see those weird fireworks bursting into view. When you open your eyes again, you can still see them — soft impressions in your vision, a palette of colors that slowly fade as reality sets back in. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who just wants to “know what happens”… it’s a book to experience. It has a lot of flavors, so you should savor it slowly :)
I don’t want to give anything away for those who are interested in reading this, so I’ll leave it at that.
Has anyone else read 1Q84? What did you think?
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Next on my list: No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July; Just Kids by Patti Smith, and I still have Teacher Man by Frank McCourt waiting for me.