A prefatory 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.
Ushikawa and some thoughts
- Ushikawa goes to Tengo and Aomame’s middle school to do some research and this gives Murakami the chance to talk about him as a student. Like Aomame (and maybe Tengo—I can;t too much remember), Ushikawa was a listener. So what is the cost in not speaking? Murakami’s protagonists are usually pretty passive and so are listeners too… given that Tengo, Aomame, and Ushikawa are all listeners, we are meant to ask what makes them distinct, like the set-up to a Socratic dialogue.
Bureaucracy in the Schools
- The vice-principal of the school1 reminds Ushikawa of a girld he looked at girl in middle school (696). How does this compare with Tengo’s middle school memories of Aomame?
- She is also very pleasant, despite Ushikawa’s appearance.2 (she sits, “as if wondering what sort of pleasant conversation they were about to have” 696).
More Fyodor M. Dostoevsky!
- On 701 Ushikawa says that he was like a Raskolnikov who had never met his Sonia (remember that Sonia is the prostitute who brings Raskonikov back after his long, long obsessions with individual will). Would a Sonia have “saved” Ushikawa?
- As he rides the train, Ushikawa notices that a little girl is looking at him, fascinated (702). As soon as he makes a conscious effort to change his face, she runs away. His natural state is interesting, his conscious state frightening, as if it were by trying that he makes himself unpleasant.
Quite reasonably, he decides to follow Tengo; and of couse in Tengo’s chapter he decides to look at the moon again, and we are set up for a climactic moment: Tengo meeting Aomame with Ushikawa watching.
- As I guessed, there is some connection between her moment with Tengo when they were both children and the fact that she started menstruating at a the same age, as he if had unlocked something in her, as if emotions determined biology as if, to paraphrase this selfsame book, cause and effect were ambiguous.
- Aomame thinks positively about the pregnancy on 712; it reminds me of Toru trying to convince Kumiko to have their baby, or maybe just people trying to look at the bright side.
- Aomame thinks of climbing back up the stairway and back to 1984 (as opposed to 1Q84)… which somehow feels intuitive, even though I didn’t call Murakami or her on it when she tried to go down the stairway at the end of the last book; she does say that she wouldn’t go back to 1984 until she had the chance to meet Tengo again, which sets up the idea that she will escape up the stairway and back to the the cab she left way back in chapter one in the climax of the book… but I doubt it.
- The NHK collector; Aomame says that all she needs to do is keep the door shut, as if this were a fairy tale. It reminds me of the mysterious woman in Wind-Up Bird telling Toru not to turn on the light, not to make himself able to see either her or the intruder in the hotel room, as if seeing something could make you unable to fight it.
Aomame and Tamaru on children
- they touch on the idea of immaculate conception but don’t explore it
- Tamaru once got a woman pregnant… and guess what? She’d be seventeen, just like Fuka-Eri. I feel like that is a cheap red herring to put in there (a red whiting, so to speak), but who knows how it will spin out?
- I just thought of this, but his father is a sort of deaf audience for Tengo, and who does an author write for but the future, also a deaf audience
- Another bit about the past intruding on the present: Tengo seems to accept that his father may be returning as some sort of accusatory ghost, living out his role as an NHK fee collector.3
- The new nurse, whom he doesn’t recognize (somewhat ominously, given that he’s been there every day for multiple weeks) is named Tamaki—the name of Aomame’s college friend.
Fuka-Eri Disappears Again
- Can’t say I was too surprised by this one. I get the feeling that it was a natural plot development (as though she sensed Ushikawa’s approach and knew it was time to skedaddle), and neither I nor Murakami is making a big deal of it.
The phrase “nature abhors a vacuum” came up again—I know it had appeared in a Aomame chapter, I just can’t remember where. Given all this talk about pregnancy, I wonder if nature abhors an vacuum in a uterus as well, as though the universe were conspiring to get Aomame pregnant; and really her womb is a sort of Chekhovian womb that needs to go off before the end of the book.4
Arrg! Another instance of poor editing!: Tengo can’t imagine Fuka-Eri in a passionate state, and yet her remembers her nostrils “flaring with desire” when they had sex (726). WTF?
Also, just how does Ushikawa know that Tengo rewrote Air Chrysalis? The people at Sakigake may have known that Fuka-Eri was dyslexic and so unlikely to write a book by herself; they may have investigated the publisher and Komatsu, but how did they connect the book to Tengo?
1A completely random thought; that a school would have a vice-principal surprises Ushikawa. Completely randomly, JK Rowling played with school bureaucracy in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and in such as way as to make me think that she didn’t much like them. If I recall my days in primary education vice-principals dealt mostly with discipline. I wonder what an old-hand teacher in elementary schools would think of vice-principals, and whatever they represent.
2She looks “as if wondering what sort of pleasant conversaion they were about to have.” (696). Ushikawa’s ability to charm people goes against Tengo’s impression of him; note that the secretary at his school also seems to think that Ushikawa is a suspect character. That Ushikawa offends when he isn’t trying to charm is either an inconsistency or a statement.
3Another thought I had just now; America’s public broadcasting system is just that: PBS. It is funded through private donations and government grants. I wonder how people would feel if a PBS fee collector showed up at their door every few months and called them a thief?
4Which is an awesome thought—guns are almost always a phallic symbol, so if Murakami was making a woman’s body into a figurative or literary gun, would it be reclaiming the potency of the female anatomy, or would it reduce women to a reproductive role?