1Q84 – Books 1 and 2
I’m currently 700 pages into the 1159-page Haruki Murakami novel 1Q84. Here are the thoughts I’ve collected, spoilers and all, in no particular order thus far.
There be spoilers below.
- What if the novel that Tengo is working on after Air Chrysalis is actually the novel I am reading, 1Q84? What if Aomame has been written into the novel? After all, the foundation of the book is based on 1984, where history is rewritten. Perhaps Tengo is in a future where the past is forgotten and he is rewriting history, reminiscing of a childhood love he never saw again.
- I really appreciate that Tengo has forgotten his girlfriend’s name. I feel like so much of life is repetitive events with people we know without really knowing. And it’s not that you don’t care about these people, but just that in going through the motions, you forget to get to know them further.
- I don’t know if it’s just me but I had no idea what the Willow House was supposed to be for the first two chapters of Aomame’s story that mentioned it.
- I can’t not picture the Dowager as an American southern aristocrat with Cruella Deville hair.
- In that same respect, I also can’t not picture The Professor as a Japanese version of Edward James Olmos. I have no idea why.
- They keep quoting lyrics from Frank Sinatra’s “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” Given the two moons in the story, what does it mean? In the song, love isn’t real without that other person–it’s a fairytale. Is 1Q84 a fairytale as well until Aomame or Tengo remember they’re in love and then suddenly become a part of it?
- Janacek’s Sinfonietta is such an odd choice of a song to have recur throughout a book. The intro fanfare is so cacophonous and discordant. It’s a war theme.
- There’s a lot to make me think a primary theme of this novel is feminism. So much sexual abuse and vengeance in the name of sexual abuse. Aomame doesn’t want a lover. Ayumi doesn’t have time for a lover.
- Speaking of which, Aomame’s revenge on her dead best friend’s husband? I can’t think of anything more annoying than literally having to replace every. single. item in my house. That is some skilled shit.
- I love the way Murakami describes the first appearance of Ushikawa:
- “…some creepy thing that had crawled out of a hole in the earth — a slimy thing of uncertain shape that in fact was not supposed to come out in to the light.”
- “…black, curly hair that had been allowed to grow too long, hanging down shaggily over the man’s ears. Ninety-eight people out of a hundred would probably be reminded by it of pubic hair. Tengo had no idea what the other two would think.”
- “It was not just that he had terrible style: he also gave the impression that he was deliberately desecrating the very idea of wearing clothes.”
- Tengo’s girlfriend’s dream about the cottage in the woods really freaks me out. She says she has a sense of dread about why the food was left at the table, why after hours, it’s still steaming hot, why it’s getting dark and whoever left it is still not back, as if they abandoned it to run away from a monster. And Tengo suggests that she is the monster and she gets offended. But what really freaks me out about that is just the continuity of the scene. All alone with the forever-steaming food. Isn’t that what hell is? Being stuck forever with dread?
- Book 2 is really boring and drawn out. I feel like he was trying to be really dramatic in spending 8 pages describing a handgun and how it’s handled, but the deep impact of that really falls short. Yes, guns are kind of more heavy than they look. Yes, they’re made of metal. Yes, they’re powerful and you have to be extremely safe with them. I get it. I did appreciate the Chekhov reference that once a gun appears in a story, it has to be used. I feel like, at this point, I don’t really care if the gun gets used or not, though. Murakami makes it really hard to care about Aomame given that she’s not a very emotional person.
- I have really appreciated how blunt Aomame is though about her sexuality, from her telling a guy in a bar that she likes big cocks down to her weird sensation the morning after of her asshole having been stretched open from anal sex. It’s a little bit shocking, from someone who presents herself so properly in all other venues of her life.
- The Little People make me think of The Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels. I can’t really figure out what their angle is though. I know they’re not good, but I don’t know that they’re bad either. They’re just… chaotic supernatural forces, as far as I can tell, that are tied to events that do seem bad–child molestation, disappearances, cults, exploding dogs?
- Fuka Eri asking what Tengo what “real” meant was interesting given her character’s whole existential crisis in Air Chrysalis upon learning she had this dohta clone.
- Murakami is obsessed with breasts. I know more about Fuka Eri’s breasts than her face.
- I don’t know what to feel about the whole concept of the maza and the dohta. Is Fuka Eri being separated from her dohta (the shadow of her heart and mind) the reason she is perceived as dyslexic or is she actually dyslexic anyway?
- What are the criteria for being chosen as the Perceiver and Receiver? Is it just a coincidence that the Leader and his daughter (or her dohta?) are both? What happens if the Perceiver and Receiver don’t know one another? Do the Little People have to orchestrate that whole shebang? Are they a global force or just a Japanese thing?
- I feel like there is a bigger conspiracy laying ahead. The first time that Tengo got a call from Fuka Eri when she was in hiding, he could hear children in the background. I feel like she was staying in the same condo that Aomame is staying in after killing the Leader. Which I think means that two opposing forces are actually working together (possibly the Dowager knows the Professor? Or… the Dowager’s long lost son is the Leader) Who knows.
- I really hope this book wraps up in a way that doesn’t just feel like the whole thing was a homage to Orwell’s 1984, because I’d be really disappointed with that. I just think Murakami can rise to the occasion to not need to use another literary work as a plot crutch, especially for his longest work yet.