1Q84 Book 3, 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.

Book 3, Chapters 1-3

A few revisions before I start: I know I promised not to do this, but went back and re-read the last three chapters of book 2 after I had posted about it. It turned out that: that was a slight implication that Aomame would have stopped herself from pulling the trigger (she only started to squeeze when she heard Tengo call out). Also, I had skipped over a bit about Tengo that rang a bit too true for me when I reread it: he was interested in math until he was about twenty or so (when he became interested in writing his own fiction). I was very much convinced that I loved chemistry from the time I was 15 or 16 right up until I got to Chem 216 in college. I don’t know why, but the magic of it was lost, and the precision just didn’t stir me any more.

Having read a bit more since then, I find it almost too easy to identify the gap that Tengo feels in his life with the malady diagnosed by Allan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind: philosophy is an attempt to fill that gap, to bridge yourself with whatever else is around you, to cure the sort of loneliness that Tengo feels. Anyways, I thought it was well captured thought.

As for the project itself, I worry that I am losing steam on it; it is getting harder to keep the book in mind when I have to stop myself after every third chapter—especially now that Ushikawa’s chapters are getting thrown in the mix. Nothing to do but bull through I suppose.

And speaking of Ushikawa, suffice it to say I was very surprised that he got his own chapter. He’s gotten nothing but disgust from either Murakami or the reader (I hope no reader has identified with him too closely…) in either The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle or 1Q84, but no we get a window into his mind. Of so of course it is an interesting move. It suits the purpose of pushing the narrative nicely, but I don’t know how much I buy into it: Ushikawa is a survivor (in the same way that mold survives in my toilet bowl), so why would he go around prodding Buzzcut and Ponytail with extranneous questions about Tengo, Fuka-Eri, and Tengo’s lover? More than that, I am not sure if Murakami can pull off writing from his point of view; some of his descriptions sound a little pat, as when he says that Ushikawa would be more put off by an honest compliment than he is by scorn. The trick is to write Ushikawa in a way that is sympathetic (as in, we feel the way that he does) without making him likeable. Call it a Smerdyakov paradigm.

More worrisome is the fact that Murakami is adding another ball to his juggling act, just when I was getting worried that he had too many already. Now we’ve got reference to her family and brother

As for the Aomame and Tengo chapters, I have the sinking suspicion that he’s setting things up like a modern Japanese cell phone romance. Will Tengo ever come back to the slide to meet Aomame? Or will the circumstance of his father’s illness keep him away? Will be be lost in the “town of cats,” despite Fuka-Eri’s warning?

Aomame Gets Ready

  • In the same way that you can’t introduce a gun without having it go off, Murakami has dropped an aluminum baseball bat into the story. Will she possibly have occasion to use it?
  • Tamaru is another instance of the Cinnamon, albet much more threatening; if the bat thing works out as I think it might, he might wind up sweeping in to save Aomame after she’s spent her last trying to save Tengo (in a reversal of the end of Wind-Up Bird).
  • And she consciously brings herself back to the image of the spider from way back in book one on page 617, as though Murakami were giving an undergraduate the answer to his question.

More to the Point

  • Why doesn’t Aomame just look him up in the fucking phone book?

Tengo Settles Down With Dad

  • He leaves Fuka-Eri alone at his place, which makes him Tamaru to Fuka-Eri’s Aomame (I suppose that there still is the possibility that the Aomame story we’ve read is just his invention—maybe the real Aomame is out there somewhere working as an accountant with two kids, or still working with the Society of Witnesses).
  • Much in the vein of a thriller, you get the feeling that Tengo is making a number of bonehead mistakes—Fuka-Eri told him not to get stuck in the town of cats, but even when he has the sensation that the story he is writing is taking over his reality and that the protagonist of the town of cats story must have felt something similar, alarm bells don’t go off. I wanted to shake the book and yell at him. And at Murakami.
  • I did like the descriptions of him in the sanatorium, as though he were visiting a separate world, wondering why the people he meets there (like the young nurse) settled there, feeling like it is a different world than Tokyo.

Most to the Point

  • Why on earth does he leave Fuka-Eri alone at his place? ESPECIALLY when a supposed NHK collector comes to his house to check on him and knows a little too much about him?
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