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Cannonball Read IV: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

By ElLCoolJ | Books | April 24, 2012 |

By ElLCoolJ | Books | April 24, 2012 |

I received my copy of 1Q84 just before the year began and I knew it was going to be my first cannonball read. This 925 page cat squisher of a book did not disappoint. There have been some reviews, in this CBR and in the mainstream press, that condemned this book as a rehashing of traditional Murakami themes, but I have to disagree. True there were cats, ears, music, food, strangeness, but for some reason this time it captured me more so than others (and I have loved almost everything he has written). I would not recommend this to a first time Murakami reader, but to the seasoned vet dive in.

From the opening passages I was hooked. The general story is boy meets girl, but as with any Murakami book it’s not that simple. The first chapter is about a woman Aomame who is late to an important business meeting and is stuck in traffic. She gets out of her cab in the middle of a parking lot of the expressway and climbs down an emergency stairway, and in doing so unknowingly climbs into an alternate reality. The next chapter is Tengo, an aspiring novelist/math teacher, meeting with publisher to discuss entries for a young writers contest. The publisher asks Tengo to partake in a venture to ghost re-write the story to make it better and will be assured of winning the prize. Chapter three brings is back to Aomame as she reaches the bottom of the stairs and heads off to her meeting, helping people “cross the threshold” ala Dexter Morgan. Chapter four brings us back to Tengo as he meets the original author Fuk- Eri, an enigmatic 17 year old with an odd style of …well of everything. Chapter five is back to Aomame and so forth and so on. In typical Murakami format these two seemingly unconnected plot lines do of course draw closer to each other and resolve themselves in the closing pages of the book.

I won’t go into a play by play of the plot here, as I am sure that once you realize that you need to set aside time read 925 pages you are going to read this book. Murakami brings his characters to an unbelievable place with the simplest of details. The dowager, Aomame’s benefactor, who likes sitting in her butterfly filled greenhouse. Komatsu, Tengo’s editor, with his lived in clothes, chain smoking and unique phone etiquette. Tamaru, the dowager’s aide, who understands so much and says so little. Fuk-Eri who doesn’t use puncutation yet makes it clear when she is asking a question or making a statement. Buzzcut and Ponytail, their physical descriptions become their names. Ushikawa with his misshapen head filled with so much wisdom.

Murakami obviously likes to cook and eat as he has a way of stopping the plot to have a character whip up a “simple meal” that to my Western mind is neither simple nor a distraction from the plot. These tasty morsels of writing remind the audience, once again, that this is a Japanese book, and not just for the names of the people and places, but for the customs, culture and way of life. It may be similar to the Western world I live in, but not the same. It’s what can be described as “same same but different”.

At one point he writes:

Still, ever since Fuka-Eri showed up in his life, he felt he had been living in a place where questions outnumber answers. ..
This was not just a thought one of the characters was having but also a hat tip to the audience. It is a comment on his entire body of work. True most of the questions were answered by the conclusion of the story, but not all them. The ones that were left unanswered did not need to be answered, not just because they were small and trivial, but because the overall structure did not demand an answer to them.

Very near the end two characters (and I won’t say who) were realized that they were not going to see each other again. One says to the other…

…if you do go somewhere far away, and I never see you again, I know I’ll feel a little sad. You’re a rare sort of character, a type I’ve seldom come across before.

This is how I felt as I reached the end of the book. I will miss these characters and will not see them, or their type, again until Murakami writes his next tome for me to delve into. I did start reading the book a bit each night before bed and in this manner read about the first half of the book in three weeks. Over the next week I read 100 pages a day diving my mind and soul into the book. I dragged out the last 50 pages because I did not want to let go. Once you reach that point in this book you will understand my reluctance to let go, but will also want to see how it concludes. Read and enjoy!

This review is part of Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it, and find more of ElLCoolJ’s reviews on the group blog.

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