1Q84: No Thank You

Haruki Murakami‘s 1Q84, photo credit Amazon

What is wrong with me that I could not get myself to like this novel? After all, it has received so much notice and acclaim.  I started reading Haruki Murakami’s lengthy 1Q84 with lots of enthusiasm.  But after the rather meandering first half, I had to coax myself to finish it.  It took a month.  I don’t really like leaving books unfinished.  It’s my obsessive-compulsive tendencies getting the better of me sometimes.

The story started out really promising.  Yes, truly.  I was engrossed in the description of place and time.  I even liked the characters and how the author developed each of them: The heroine, Aomame, (yes, she’s named after a pea), a very young and skillful assassin; Tengo, a talented writer with a rather sad and empty life, who somehow is destined to “complete” Aomame; the “Dowager,” defender of marginalized women in abusive relationships through her bodyguard and Aomame; the police-officer friend, Ayumi, who somehow reminded me of Lisbet Salander’s Asian lover in Stieg Larsson‘s famous trilogy, to name a few principals.  They were interesting enough, with some complexity and less predictability.  I even found the obsession with Janacek‘s Sinfonietta quirky.

But the others?  Fuka-eri, the “Leader,” even the little people — well, I got lost there.  The little people especially floored me.  I kept asking myself, should I stop taking this book seriously?  Should I see it as nothing but a shallow pretender that parodies serious dystopian societies?  Or a dark comedy perhaps?  Everytime I read about the “little people,” I could not help but imagine the Grand Central Station locker creatures in Men in Black, reciting in unison, welcoming Agent K, praising him for lending them his watch, “K is back! The keeper of the light! All hail K! All hail K! Oh K can you see by the dawn’s early light… ”  Oops! I might get neuralyzed if I’m not careful.  And, I’m digressing……

There was also a total lack of decorum towards sex.  Not that I’m a prude.  I just found the attitude so pervasive like it’s the norm, nonchalant to the point of being mundane and workaday, almost universal among the characters.  I started asking myself if this is all part of the existential world this story is in, where sex is not much different from having to brush your teeth or taking out your trash.  I tend to come from an age (or era?) where sex is considered a beautiful and very personal activity.

Japanese writer Haruki Murakami

Japanese writer Haruki Murakami (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It may be that I lack the literary expertise to appreciate this. After all, Mr. Murakami has quite the following.  And he has won many literary awards.  Maybe I’m just not an intellectual high brow for this level of reading.

Perhaps, I should just cave in to my hubby’s pronouncements that all these stories are ultimately love stories.  That I should stop over-thinking them.  This coming from someone who believes that even the likes of  Saving Private Ryan, Inglorious Basterds, or Pulp Fiction are love stories.

Well, if so, then, this was a very elaborate, long-winded, tortuous, ya-you-lost-me-a-hundred-pages-ago, happily-ever-after fix. Not!

P.S. For those of you who have read a Murakami masterpiece and really enjoyed it, can you suggest an earlier work that would more likely impress and satisfy?

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13 Responses to 1Q84: No Thank You

  1. Pingback: Dystopian Societies Everywhere | Not the Family Business!

  2. eof737 says:

    I love his What I talk about when I talk about running… quick and easy to read and entertaining too. 😉


  3. Writerlious says:

    I’d been hearing about this novel too, and wondering if I should read it. After reading your post, I’m not so sure I’ll pick it up. Thanks for the honest review! 🙂


    • likeitiz says:

      I can’t say I’d recommend it. But some people recommended other Murakami novels they liked. I’m still debating. Right now, I’m finishing Stephen King’s time travel story.


  4. A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff says:

    I would recommend ‘Dance Dance Dance’ and ‘Kafka On The Shore’ to start with or ‘Sputnik Sweetheart’ for one of his shorter novels. I found his earlier works like ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’ to be a bit too surreal for me!


  5. I’ve heard about this guy. Mainly I thought the name was a not so subtle attempt to summon the specter of 1984. And rest assured, your not wrong for not liking something other people have. A lot of the time, authors who have established themselves will put out something that’s really not up to snuff but people will love it based on reputation alone. Doesn’t matter who they are or what they’ve written in the past… sometimes, they just create something that sucks!


  6. Gilly Gee says:

    A few years ago I was in a book group and one month it was South of the Border,West of the Sun. I hated it, didn’t get it and it left me feeling I was incredibly stupid because the rest of the group did!Never again I thought. But a few weeks ago I noticed that my daughters man had loads of his novels on the shelf, we chatted and he said that for a first Murakami the best to try is The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. So I’m 130 pages in and quite liking it, appreciating his fine details but anticipating a point where it will get difficult for me, we’ll see. Anyway just wanted to share that it might be a good one to try.


  7. greatgreths says:

    thanks for the ping! murakami’s works are all surreal. it was ‘sputnik sweetheart’ and ‘hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world’ that got me hooked on him – maybe you should check them out. ‘kafka on the shore’ is also great. ‘norwegian wood’ isn’t a favorite but i love the film adaptation. thanks again for the ping! 🙂


    • likeitiz says:

      I like surreal. Don’t get me wrong. But surreal can be an excuse to write junk sometimes. It takes a really crafty genius to put it together and make it seem like a new reality


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