1Q84 Book 2 Chapters 1-3

A note on the little project: My favorite contemporary author is Haruki Murakami; his latest work to appear in English translation is 1Q84 and was released in late October, 2011. His novels are often pulpy page turners, and the urge to get to the end to see what happens often hurries me up; I don’t notice things the first time through, and I certainly don’t stop to savor the first reading. So this time I am stopping and smelling the roses, so to speak by blogging about every three chapters I read. I go through them once, think about them for awhile, and then start typing notes—whatever comes to mind—as I skim over the chapters again. Sometimes I refer back to previous sections, but I try to keep it all pretty much within these three chapters. That way I’ll have an ongoing record of my response to the book.

 

Also, I am reading the book in hard copy. This is odd because I just got a Kindle, which has so far been very useful and has changed my reading habits for the better. I’m doing the hard copy of the Murakami to again be a sort of public reader; it’s a new book, his fans tend to be very loyal, and I am looking to start conversations with random people in a pleasant way.

 

So far, one person has asked me what I was reading: a tipsy, ill-shaven native American man on a southbound A train late on a Thursday night. We talked about the book for about a minute before moving on to Zucotti Park. Sigh.

 

Book 2, Chapters 1-3

 

The Dowager, the Leader, Green Peas

  • The dowager is drained by Tsubasa’s disappearance; this is a hallmark of pulp literature too: the aging character with a constitution of iron who is shaken by some large event in life. Here it fits with some other interesting stuff too, the desire for an heir in the face of impending mortality chief among them (she also wants to “adopt” Aomame, 320).
  • More revelations about the Dowager’s understanding of the Leader. Some big hints were dropped, but they don’t add up. The big one was that the first girl raped by the Leader was his own daughter, seven years previously. That would fit the timeline with Fuka-Eri perfectly, but… Fuka-Eri didn’t disappear in the same way that Tsubasa did (though the Little People may have been more on their guard after the publication of Air Chrysalis). Two, it doesn’t match the professor’s understanding of Fukada. Three, Fukada made no secret that he lead the group at Sakigake, and so I assumed that the Dowager knew who he was and knew that he wasn’t controlling Sakigake any more. How could she have found out that he raped his own daughter, but not his name?
  • I don’t know how much I like the Dowager’s plan; Aomame is putting her life in her hands.
  • The Leader belonged to a Self-Defense Ranger Unit (347). Does Fukada share this history too? I don’t think so… he was a pure academic.

 

 

Aomame’s fears, values

  • Says she doesn’t fear death; “living as myself scares me more” (319). Huh.
  • “The only that that is important is that I want him with my whole heart.” (319). There are shades of evangelical upbringing here; it is not that he responds in a physical, demonstrable way—only how she feels inside, like a penitent at the altar.
  • She considers suicide on 354. Hmmm.
  • “I am not afraid to die… What I’m afraid of is having reality get the better of me, of having reality left me behind.”

 

Tamaru and the gun

  • I thought he was an ancillary, functional character, and so I haven’t paid much attention to him.
  • But here he is important; he’s got a bond with Aomame, and beyond just that they both work for the dowager; they are both outsiders. They both understand how close their lives are to nothingness.
  • They form a connection over the moon; Tamaru notices its beauty after Aomame fishes for comments about the fact that there are two moons (343)
  • This, uh, intimacy is well expressed in the scene with the gun; rather than loving the feeling of power of the gun, rather than getting swept away in its mystique, Aomame is cautious and careful; Murakami, she, and Tamaru all treat it with great respect, and I like that—a lot.

 

 

 

Moons

  • Come to think of it, sex and pregnancy are two big themes here, and they both have to do with the moon. That there are two moons ties in with that more or less directly, as on 342
  • An chrysalis is like a uterus in some respects; it is the site of growth and change. There is some connection between the air chrysalises and the infertility of Tsubasa (and perhaps Fuka-Eri too?)

 

Chekhov

  • Did they really just talk about Chekhov quote that once a gun appears on stage it has to go off? People have been playing with that quote, explicitly or implicitly, since Nabokov.

 

Poor Ayumi

  • The last chapter I read was the one with the newspaper description of Ayumi’s death. It actually did throw me for a loop and kept me up for an extra hour or two. Whether they are prostitutes or not, people really do take those risks, and people really do die as a result.
  • As light as her interaction was, she registered as a character, as a person, and so it was kind of jarring to have her die like that. I thought she was being set up to be some sort of moral antagonist to Aomame, MacDuff to her MacBeth, so to speak.
  • It is another Murakami theme: the ominious city that allows some of the blackest, most immoral parts of the city out, which swallows people whole. (I’m thinking the girl with the beautiful ears in Dance Dance Dance); Murakami captures it elegantly: “This was not a terribly unusual occurrence in the big city, where the commingling of people gave off heat, often in the form of violence” (356).

 

Fuka-Eri’s disappearance

  • The police are only doing enough to cover their asses; a theme Murakami shares with the hard boiled types.
  • The daily journals won’t make a big deal of it, but the weeklies will. Hmmm.(329)

 

Ushikawa

  • Really? He is almost completely lifting this character from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (“Call me ‘Ushi’”) to the sympathy the protagonist feels for the man’s clothes.
  • Not only that, but he’s serving the same purpose; he’s a low level intermediary, a thug.
  • Murakami’s got his favorite themes, but this is a bit much, almost as if this Ushikawa and the Ushikawa from Wind-Up Bird were the same person.
  • It’s nice to have Komatsu a little unsettled (340-41).

 

Janacek, jazz

  • Tengo prefers Seiji Ozawa conducting the Chicago Symphony; Aomame likes George Szell
  • His girlfriend likes an album of W.C. Handy Blues with Louis Armstrong, Barney Bigard, Trummy Young; she knows things he can only guess at, she’s lived multiple lives…

 

A Wild Guess

  • Obviously the Aomame chapters are leading to a climax—her attempted assassination of the Leader. We’ve also been lead to think that Fuka-Eri’s father might be that self-same leader, even if there are some reasons to doubt that.
  • But! But but but. I think there is a twist coming up; and I think it may be that Aomame has been set up to kill the Fukada, but that Fukada is actually a prisoner and will ask her to help him escape.
  • It is outlandish and improbable, but that is one the things I want to record here. Murakami makes you want to guess what he is up to, to get a step ahead of him… and if he does his job you’re always a step behind.
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2 Responses to 1Q84 Book 2 Chapters 1-3

  1. Andrew says:

    The point where Tengo’s girlfriend starts lecturing him about jazz was the first part of this book where I said, almost out loud, “oh Haruki, come ON…”

    Did like the treatment of the gun, though. 99% of the time with other writers, that scene would just be, “here’s a gun. You can figure it out.” Definitely a showing rather than telling glimpse into Tamaru’s character as well, and this book has rather too frequently relied on the latter.

    • mikelekich says:

      There’s no shortage of clumsy dialogue in the book (mostly in the exposition in the Aomame chapters), and I think there’s got to be some explanation. Here are my ideas:

      1) The influence of Stieg Larsson. Aside from the specific examples of a sexist culture that fails to protect its women (who are, in theory, equals to men in a democratic society), Larsson’s style is also pretty ham-handed. Most people forgave him that because he was new to novel writing, because his blunt style was a part of his message–there’s no pretty way to talk about misogyny and violence–or because it matched the personal style of his heroine.

      2) It’s more jarring from Murakami because he’s had such a sure hand elsewhere. There are a few possibilities here: 1) Murakami’s lost his ability to write well or 2) Murakami is experimenting with something new, as he experimented in After Dark. I’m of the mind Murakami knows what he’s up to when he handles the girlfriend so clumsily. Other characters in the book elicit our sympathy much more effectively (think about Ayumi), and so I read Tengo’s girlfriend as a flat character because Tengo himself thinks of her as a flat character. Even that–instead of using her name, Tengo always thinks of her as his older girlfriend, or his older, married girlfriend. So Murakami uses the style of the book the enforce our perception that Tengo has a shallow, immature relationship, which fact might explain why he doesn’t have enough desire to write his own work yet. (reading this over I detect traces of the Ulysses paradigm here–the story of a writer who gains the perspective necessary to tell the story of how he got that perspective… you dig?)

      Or, you know, Murakami might be getting lazy.

      (possible personal spoiler alert!)

      If you really want an example of Murakami getting lazy, all you need to do it look at Ushikawa. Murakami’s always recycled character types and names, but never actual characters. Is he really going over the deep-end and using characters like Ushikawa as Homer uses phrases like “rosy-fingered dawn”? That seems a bit full of himself, which isn’t in keeping with my mental image of him… but the very fact that I recognized the character so easily might mean that Murakami’s earned the right to be so self-confident.

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