1Q84: Haruki Murakami (Part 2)

In a lot of ways, I’m basically where I was a hundred pages ago. I still wish an editor had gone through and tightened this beast up. My eyes start rolling now every time a brand name or extensive clothing description appears on the page before me. It’s just so unnecessary. I’m still not in love with the alternating chapters. Nothing is bringing them together yet, and nothing will in this book judging by the table of contents for Book 1, which lists alternating Tengos and Aomames right until the end. So I will stop talking about how irritated it makes me and wait for when the two stories connect up to discuss it again.

And they are so far, two very different stories. Which I’m going to discuss in a roundabout way, so if you don’t want your reading experience to be tarnished with prior knowledge of the story, you should probably skip this part.

I’m liking the Aomame story so much more than the Tengo story, to the point where I have been flirting with the idea of skipping the Tengo chapters and just reading about Aomame. Especially now with the end of this last chapter, when her story takes a twist towards the weird. This is a character who prides herself on her memory, and when faced with the fact that she can’t remember some pretty bizarre news stories from two years ago, she briefly considers the fact that there might be something wrong with her brain before turning to what to her is the more compelling explanation: she’s in a parallel world (which is where the title comes from. No longer part of her 1984, she is in 1Q84. This makes more sense in Japanese). And the thing is, she’s so engaging and has me so involved in her world that I found myself thinking she was probably right.

She’s just written so well. While considering this whole parallel world thing, she eats a rather sparse and seemingly unsatisfying supper, and notes that although it is simple, it is the perfect meal for avoiding constipation. And she hates constipation as much as those cowardly men who beat their wives, and narrow-minded religious fanatics. That’s just such a perfect and odd detail; it makes her jump off the page and into my brain.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Tengo is still a stand-in for Murakami to me. He’s a writer and there is quite a bit about the writing process inserted here and there. Murakami tries to make him different in a bunch of ways, bigger, stronger, weirder childhood involving an NHK collection guy (and I wonder what kind of explanation or gloss Rubin’ll put in the translation for that since we don’t have public broadcaster collection people in North America; we just have telethons.) Tengo’s story is not as similar to The Making of the Next Kurakami as it first seemed, though. Which is good. Where I am now, it seems like it could go somewhere good soon, but I’m not holding my breath. Maybe it’s because Tengo is just not as compelling a character for me, or because his story is just not as obviously interesting as Aomame’s. Maybe the next hundred pages will make me fall in love with him. Or root for him. Or care him about him more than the marginal amount I do now.

So yay to Murakami and his great words! That’s what’s keeping me going in both stories, Tengo’s more than Aomame’s but still. He has a way of poking right through to the essentials, which is maybe why I find it so distracting when he rambles.

Onwards to page three hundred! I’ll probably take a break from this thing to read some comics, though, because I am feeling kind of comic-y lately. My eyes keep drifting over to that Jesus and Buddha manga on the shelf. And then to the Fumi Yoshinaga right next to it. And the pile of manga on the floor in front of the bookshelf because there is no space for all of them.

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