So I should have known that I was setting myself up; I started in on chapters 7-9 this morning when a couple of hammers came down. BAM! Before I knew it my head was spinning out the possibilities and I was getting what I came to 1Q84 hoping to get.
Before I get the the chapters, there was one awesome quote that might even deserve its own meme on reddit:
“When it comes to being gay, I’m in the big leagues” (676).
Chapter 7 / Ushikawa
There wasn’t much in this chapter in and of itself; more Ushikawa edging his way towards the truth about the dowager (who finally has a name… but I still like the dowager). He’s using his contacts to find out more information and stumbled on the connection between Aomame and Tengo—that they went to elementary school together. I was trying to think of it from his perspective; given what we know, there is a connection between the two, but from his perspective the connection is tenuous at best. His going theory is that Aomame was somehow abused herself as a child and that is what caused her to link up with the dowager. But what could possibly have happened that Tengo is attached to all this, and why on earth would Sakegaki be interested in the two if they didn’t already know the connection of domestic violence?
Anyway, I had a few thoughts about Ushikawa and the novel as a whole while I was reading this:
- If I recall, I read a bit in a post-modernism class I took in college1 to the effect that there had yet to be written a murder mystery in which the reader was the killer. And yet, aren’t we the killers when we read a murder mystery? Whatever their fates are, I am pushing Tengo and Aomame forward by progressing through the book. Murakami may be a god figure in as much as he wrote their fates; I am the one pushing them forward; if the novel is a violin, he’s the left hand holding the strings, and I am the bow producing the notes.
- Ushikawa is reading lots of documents, trying to figure out the connections between Tengo, Aomame and Sakigake. Well, what am I doing but reading a document and trying to figure out the same thing? Why are we much different than Ushikawa? What makes us different? Murakami is asking us the question and letting us figure out how we are different, why to my mind is one of the reasons that people write and read books.
- Another commentator, IG, wrote that he found my blog when he googled something or other about the karmic wheel of time (forgive my misremembrance) in an earlier chapter. That got me thinking about India. I think I’ve touched elsewhere on the theme of individuals being powerless or being pawns in a greater struggle that they cannot understand,2 and that kinda fits my understanding of Indian mythology: we are little tributaries in a great stream of reality, and our greatest battles might just be skirmishes in the grand scheme of things. Nevertheless, individuals may exhibit qualities of huge mythic figures like Vishnu (the creator), Shiva (the destructor), and every other god in the pantheon. So now apply that to the different levels that Murakami has going on: in the story you have a sort of quasi-sexual creation going on between Fuka-Eri and Tengo that creates the world of 1Q84; in this world, Aomame is a great warrior. Now you also have Ushikawa as a destructor, bringing that world inexorably to a close through his investigation. On the next level up you have Murakami as the creator of the work (which is its own sort of world) and my (the reader) as the destructor. Whew!
Chapter 8 / Aomame
The Big development here, which hammered me even as I read it, is the possibility that Aomame is pregnant. There’s the Big Implication here, and then a few other sub possibilities:
The Big Implication: some sort of immaculate conception has taken place, with all its attendant weight; you’ve got Aomame, a woman with a religious background as the Virgin Mary.3 The natural question, then, is just who or what got her pregnant (if indeed the pregnancy is real). Each possibility has a number of interesting implications
- It was the Leader himself. There are a few points in his favor: A) he’s got mystical powers. B) he is avowed spiritual presence. C) the book itself describes them after her stretching session as being like two lovers are a bout of particularly intense sex. The possibility raises some questions: did he choose her somehow?
- It was Tengo. On the same night Aomame killed the Leader, Tengo had sex with Fuka-Eri, and he remembers multiple times that they hadn’t used contraception and that he’d felt a particularly forceful and, uh, voluminous ejaculation inside her body. Fuka-Eri had told him that that wouldn’t a problem (which, in the context of the book may imply that a maza or dohta are capable of getting pregnant). But if somehow Tengo was the father, there is a natural link between Aomame and Fuka-Eri, as if one were the maza and the other was the dohta. So could a maza get pregnant if her dohta had sex, or vice versa?4 Such a connection between Fuka-Eri and Aomame would mean that there was also some connection, on whatever level, between the Society of Witnesses and the cult at Sakigake.
- It was the Little People. Tsubasa said it was the Little People who had damaged her uterus; perhaps they can make someone pregnant too, like Rosemary’s baby. This also works because she essentially speaks to whatever is growing inside her and calls it “dohta,” to which it responds “maza.” So a mother is her own air chrysalis and her child a dohta, a shadow of her mind and will. For some reason the connection between an air chrysalis and a womb didn’t strike me until now. Never let it be said that I am the Supreme Reader.
Murakami also uses the occasion to drop the fact that Aomame has been menstruating since she was ten, the point at which she left the Society of Witnesses, at which she met Tengo, the age at which Fuka-Eri left Sakigake and the cult went off the deep end.
Aomame’s dreams also seem to revolve around sex, pregnancy, and danger; notably, she dreams that her menstrual blood is transparent, and she worries that her whole body will become transparent and she will disappear, as though the possibility of having children was what made her real. That is a pretty deep theory of human consciousness that is, well interesting. I wonder what a female reader would make of it.
The NHK fee collector reappears, despite Tamaru’s attempts to make it clear that the resident of the apartment has paid her dues. The thought struck me that the fee collector may be a hallucination, a persecutor to embody her feelings of persecution. That Dostoevsky’s representative of pure intellect and proto-Nietzchean will—Ivan Karamazov—hallucinated about the devil while Murakami’s representative of same—Aomame—hallucinates about a fee collector for the government pretty much captures the difference between the 19th and 20th/21st centuries.
This chapter was much less shocking than the one on Aomame, but it did have a big suprise in store, though it was a different sort of surprise. If you recall Wind-Up Bird, Toru spends a great deal of time waiting for the well to open up into the mysterious other world. It finally does only when he gets the last letter from Lt. Mamiya, which is the story of a failed attempt to stop a truly evil man. The implication there is that this story gives Toru the impotice to go through with it and kill Noboru Wataya—or whatever evil force is linked with him—in the world of the hotel. Here we’ve got another messager telling the protagonist to get on with it.
Naturally, Tengo gets closer to the nurses who take care of his father. Eventually he goes out with them for a night on the town, and the older women knowingly leave him to take the young nurse Adachi home to her apartment. And he knows that it’s a better idea to send her home in a cab, but he can’t resist because she’s read Air Chrysalis, and he is desperate for another sign like the air chrysalis he saw in his father’s room. And then she offers him hashish.
Wha? I know that there is marijuana in Japan, just like there is marijuana everywhere, but it was very surprising to read a very popular novelist use it in a book so frankly. Moreover, it is not a part of some seemy plot by a cult or underworld connection of Ushikawa’s—it’s a rather innocent young nurse who provides it. And then it goes ahead an facilitates a vision that spurs Tengo onward. That someone would write about hash in such a positive way is surprising, to say the least, and I bet the scene raised a lot of eyebrows in Japan.
It seemed so strange to me because Toru really goes to the edge to earn his visions (if earn is the right word) in Wind-Up Bird. And here Tengo just smokes some weed and gets his spirit vision. What? I was talking about it with JDF and he pointed out that it was strange this moment takes place in a sort of narrative eddy in the book: Tengo has gone back to the sanatorium, a place he said he didn’t need to go again, and is finding another way to waste his time. JDF was expecting a Toru getting the baseball bat moment, and instead he got a sort of anti-climactic realization that he needed to high-tail it home before it is too late. In that way Tengo’s quest, if you can call it that, is a bit more realistic than Toru’s.5
And as for that vision, it is notable for the Kumi figure talks about reincarnation. She says“you are reborn for someone else” (692), which is a peculiar way to think about it; my understanding of Buddhism is that you are reborn because of yourself, because you have too much attachment to being. This is more of the Harry Potter and the Resurrection Stone line of thinking. I am unsure how it relates to the possible connections between 1Q84 and Indian mythology.
1It may have been something by Italo Calvino.
2Or in the case of Kirillov in my previous post about FMD’s Demons, their internal ideas and struggles are used a part of a greater plot—for better or worse.
3Which is a little peculiar and unexpected, kind of like Patricia Arquette’s character receiving the stigamata in the film of the same name.
4As Tengo noted earlier, cause and effect are getting a bit jumbled here. The idea that it’s the woman who is responsible for creation is interesting and rather Joycean.
5JDF also pointed out the head-slapping realization that maza and dohta sound A LOT like “mother” and “daughter” respectively, a similarity I had only realized of the latter. We wondered if the terms