I’m getting this in just at midnight, and that’s because I spent a lot of time for the past few days reading 1Q84 (pronounced “One Q Eighty-Four” according to Wikipedia). This 928 page novel (though my Kindle says it’s 925, but who’s counting?) has been, by far, one of the toughest reads of the year. I loved it and hated it, found it intricate and yet repetitive. In short, I have no clue if anyone else will like it, but I definitely can say it wasn’t (entirely) wasted time.
First, let me see if I can give some semblance of a summary. The book follows Tengo and Aomame (whose name I find comical) as they enter into some pretty extreme situations for two totally separate reasons, only to find events are moving themselves closer and yet further away from one another. Aomame climbs down an emergency ladder and finds herself in “1Q84,” a world where what is and isn’t reality is very distorted — and confusing. It’s not a parallel world to 1984, but neither is it 1984. In the midst of all the mind-bending the plot pulls (with Little People and air chrysalises and Leader and a host of other events and people), there’s a solid thriller plotline with a nice, purposeful twist. Here’s a part I enjoyed quite a bit:
“According to Chekhov,” Tamaru said, rising from his chair, “once a gun appears in a story, it has to be fired.”
“Tamaru stood facing Aomame directly. He was only an inch or two taller than she was. “Meaning don’t bring unnecessary props into a story. If a pistol appears, it has to be fired at some point. Chekhov liked to write stories that did away with useless ornamentation.”
Aomame straightened the sleeves of her dress and slung her bag over her shoulder. “And that worries you — if a pistol comes onto the scene, it’s sure to be fired at some point.”
“In Chekhov’s view, yes.”
“So you’re thinking you’d rather not hand me a pistol.”
“They’re dangerous. And illegal. And Chekhov is a writer you can trust.”
“But this is not a story. We’re talking about the real world.”
Tamaru narrowed his eyes and looked hard at Aomame. Then, slowly opening his mouth, he said, “Who knows?”
How can you not like that? Haruki Murakami basically shoves Chekhov’s Gun into your face and says, “yeah I might not be playing by this rule. Who can say?” This leaves a huge portion of the thriller plot wide open for anything, no matter how bizarre, to happen. Because who knows if the reality they’re in is reality. But there is only one world.
Honestly, I doubt I’d ever re-read 1Q84 any time soon. Maybe one day in the future I’ll borrow it from the library again (or buy it), and spend more time on it. For now, though, my reading time is precious, and it took up way too much of it — so I admit I skimmed in certain places and felt no worse for it. Maybe I’m skimping on some awesome section. Who knows?
In any case, I’d suggest checking out this book for yourself. Try out its flavor. There are a lot of strange things in its pages, but I certainly think Haruki Murakami deserves the positive attention this book has been getting.