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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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1Q84 - Jay Rubin, Philip Gabriel, Haruki Murakami

1Q84 is the second book I've read by Murakami.  I felt similar feelings for the first, Kafka on the Shore, as I did this one.  Murakami's stories are entertaining, I'll give him that, but I honestly do not understand why is he is often labeled a literary genius.  Likely I'm just too much of a literary snob who can't recognize an accomplished writer with the brilliance of Murakami.  Perhaps.

That being said, I felt more connected with 1Q84 than I did with Kafka on the Shore.  While Kafka... was extremely entertaining, I felt like I was being taken on an amusement park ride, its sole purpose to thrill me with breathtaking drops and vibrant colors.  1Q84, despite its superior length, is a much more focused work; entering the world of 1Q84, I understood—perhaps accepted is a better word—I accepted the rules that governed the universe, as I did its peoples' quests.

In my oft-wrong opinion, 1Q84 suffers from a lack of editing (some of this could be issues with translation).  In writing a 955 page epic, Murakami has developed a need for excessive introspection, excessive repetition, excessive trivial detail, and excessive repetition.  Must we hear every one of Aomame's rambling reflections?  How many times must we be reminded that Air Chrysalis, the fictional book within 1Q84, “wasn't a long book”?  Must we know every detail of Tengo's daily routine?  How many times must we be reminded that Air Chrysalis, the fictional book within 1Q84, “wasn't a long book”?

And then there were the analogies and similes that I can only pray were issues caused by translation.  Take, for instance, my favorite: “If his erection had been a movie, it would have been low budget, straight to video.  Not an erection even worth discussing.”  I wish it truly hadn't been.

Regardless of its many sufferings, 1Q84 was largely entertaining.  At times it became bogged down under its own mass, but when the story was moving, it moved.  Of the three books, the second was the most thrilling and insightful.  The dialogue between Aomame and Tamaru at the end of the first book and into the second was captivating and became the force which propelled me to read further.  This story is all about Aomame and Tengo, but I found some of the supporting characters so interesting that I wanted to know more about them.

Haruki Murakami is probably my favorite author whom I care little for.  I don't understand him and I don't really appreciate his work that much.  He may be a “genius,” but his genius doesn't resonate with me.  Regardless, I am attracted to his stories and I want to read more.  Any other author who has impressed me so little after two novels wouldn't get a third read.  But there is just something magical about Murakami, something that draws me back.  Perhaps this is his genius.  Perhaps not being able to put this “magic” into words is why I don't understand Murakami's appeal.  He may be brilliant, but I'm not willing to completely accept this yet.