Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This is my attempt to write about the newish Haruki Murakami book 1Q84. Q is pronounced "que" which is the phonetic version of the number nine in Japanese. So the book's name is 1984, but a little bit different. I finished it last night, all nine-hundred something pages of it, over the course of a couple months. Since about page one-hundred and fifty I've really enjoyed it, savoring it slowly. Reading to find out what was going to happen but also paying attention. It's my favorite of his books since Norwegian Wood and like NW, IQ84 is fundamentally a love story. But unlike NW, it has a happy ending.

Many of the reviews, and the ones that compelled me to read it, mentioned that it was a strange book. And it is. I concur. Not in terms of narrative, or structure, or characters or plot, but in terms of symbolism and ideology and the ideas in the book. There are no archetypes in this book. The world it creates is not recognizable, nor are its themes or details. Part of the reason I read a bunch of reviews after I finished it, was because even after reading it, I'm not sure what it was actually about. Which is kind of what it's about. Not a post-modern mishmash organized by theme, but an entire world of unrecognizable values. The quote that begins the book is from the song "It's Only a Paper Moon," and goes: It's a Barnum and Baily world, / just as phony as it can be, / But it wouldn't be make-believe / if you believed in me.

As I came to the end of the book the quote started to make sense, the idea that all these symbols and characters and references have meaning because we give them meaning. Or more specifically, we give them meaning together, hence the love story. Janacek’s Sinfonietta, a billboard that says "Put a Tiger in Your Tank", a little dog running through a yard as the main antogonist's last thought, "the little people", along with a zillion other references, all hang out, unexplained. And this is what makes the book strange. It doesn't even attempt to round up all the errant wound up toys. Instead it only ties up the ones that are important to the main characters, leaving the rest of this world to run its course.

Normally this kind of thing might make a reader feel like it was a waste of time, and that is what some of the reviews have said. A minority but that's too bad, because I think they missed the point. Busy looking for something outside of the book in front of them. Other reviews have been as thoughtful as the book. That said, I would be the first to say that Murakami's books all started to blend together, Kafka on the Shore being my breaking point, and I had really planned to stop reading him: no need to keep reading the same story over and over again. But this review is the one that committed me to the book. Slightly negative review but it ends by saying that despite their confusion upon finishing, they kept thinking about it. Which is where I find myself now, a little bit under a mysterious spell. Good or bad I don't know, but it's something, and that's more than I can say for most.