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.
First Note: People are finishing the book ahead of me! I knew this would happen as I’ve made progress so difficult, but I just need to stick with it and I’ll be able to chat soon.
AMB tells me that The Guardian has nominated 1Q84 for worst sex scene. At this point it would probably be the encounter between Fuka-Eri and Tengo. The accusation may be accurate, but Murakami’s descriptions of sex are often a bit out there.1
A Little Unbelievable:
- Aomame decides that she needs to make contact with Tengo as she looks at him… and then runs out to meet him without first shouting from the balcony for him to stay. Come on.
A Little More Believable
- It’s almost a running joke that Aomame can’t ask other people if they see the two moons; I suppose you could go to an encyclopedia to confirm the existence of the second moon, but whom could you ask without seeming crazy? It’s no small matter to think of little, tiny things that you take for granted and have wrong.
Aomame Grows a Millimeter
- I wonder if the whole thing isn’t an exploration of Aomame’s anxiety about relationships and or pregnancy; the moon is usually associated with fertility2 in Tengo’s memory of her she looks at the moon, the two moons are an obvious signifier in both Air Chrysalis and 1Q84. She talks about loneliness, and we can feel that a child might help fill that void.
- Aomame witnesses the dowager caring for Tsubasa and decides that she wants goldfish of her own; she’s not quite up to goldfish, so she gets a rubber plant instead; she takes in an orphan.
- I wonder if she, Tengo, and Fuka-Eri will wind up being some sort of hodge podge (and deeply creepy) nuclear family.
The Keeper of the Beat
- This sentence recurs over the three chapters, almost like a punctuation mark. Tengo has already thought of Sonny and Cher (an offhand reference to he and Fuka-Eri making the perfect pair) and their song “And the Beat Goes On.” So Tengo may have had the idea of the keeper of the beat on his brain when he made the reference in Air Chrysalis (if indeed he used those words—from what I take it, we have only Aomame’s reporting of the actual text); the usages find their source in the same root, which works just fine for me—until Murakami uses the sentence “‘Ho ho,’ says the Keeper of the Beat.” in Tengo’s chapter.
A Prediction Comes True (Sort Of)
- Aomame is in some way inside Tengo (literally inside, like Dennis Quaid in the movie Inner Space).
- She wonders that she is now a character in Tengo’s story (though, perhaps, a sentient character), and then she goes ahead and makes him into a god figure in the last lines on page 546. Could I still think of this book as feminist? We’ve come a long way from Stieg Larsson.
- But who is authoring the book then? Aomame? Tengo? Azami? Fuka-Eri? The Little People? Murakami? Murakami’s subconscious?
Air Chrysalis Appears
- The story is really intriguing, but I can’t imagine how anyone could spin it out into an entire novella.
- There’s something Spielbergian about the story; a girl uses her imagination to summon a secret world, and the adults are too concerned with what they think of as the real world to accept that she may be telling the truth.
- So the Leader’s terms dohta (which sounds suspiciously like the English word “daughter,” thought that could just be coincidence) and maza would seem to imply that the Leader is somehow innocent of rape…. But still, if the dohta is the mind and heart of the maza, that means that more than one preteen girl’s mind and heart wants to have sex with and become pregnant by a religious leader. As possible as that is, it is rather creepy.
- If you took my mind and heart away and put it into a double of me, I am not quite sure what would be left—my conscience? This is important to the philosophy of the book (assuming that there is any).
- The narrator of Air Chrysalis plans at one point to make a passageway back to the home of the Little People so that she can figure them out; she is stopped by the thought that she make not be real herself. And yet the Little People told her that without a maza a dohta could not survive. So how would her dohta have survived in the Gathering?
- The dohta/maza connection is still ambiguous, and there are still questions that come about; Aomame assumes that Tsubasa was a dohta; but if the dohta can’t survive without the maza, how did Tsubasa make it to the dowager’s? Where were the other mazas?
A Random Thought
- The Leader owes a heavy debt to Kurtz, both Conrad’s and Coppola’s
 This is especially true of this fantastical or magical realist literature, but also of Norwegian Wood; I am thinking of the sad sound that Naoko makes when she has her first and only orgasm. Much more pathetic was the gift of the crushed birthday cake that looked like a Roman Colisseum.
 Q.v. the first few chapters of Wind-Up Bird Chronicle