Anybody who would like to discuss, please join. We will be talking about the book so if you want to read it and don't want to find out stuff, then don't be a dickhead and read these posts?
I'm up to Chapter 12, Part 2 page 451. Alex has finished Part One (and since commenting has maybe steamed ahead.) So for the discussion below, let's focus to the end of Part 1, to page 309 in the copy from Readings.
I've got a collection of scrippy scrappy bits of notes I've made over the time I've been reading this. I don't usually make notes when I read books unless it's something useful for me as a writer and which helps me in my process in some way. Recently a writerly friend said she is always a reader first when she reads, but I think I'm sometimes a writer, especially if what I'm reading is flawed enough to jerk me out of the story. This is probably the major problem with published writing, books that I've paid money for. My message to authors: don't jerk me out of the writing. 'Don't be a jerk like that,' I say. And then they probably say 'but I didn't mean to,' and 'nobody else said it jerked them out of the text, so maybe you're the fucking jerk.' And then I don't say anything back, because maybe they are right.
Yesterday I was at my old work 's farewell for me and another two people. And after we'd had the speeches, after I'd made my pretty awesome speech, and we'd had little cakes and cut up fruit, mini mince pies and cups of tea, I was in a huddle with some readers and I said that I thought 1Q84 was one of the best books I'd ever read.
I do have to qualify this of course. I have to break it down, because as I intimated above, what is great for me might not be for others, and vice versa. Of course, this is how the world works. And I also have to qualify it by saying that my adult reading teeth were cut on books like Dick Francis's horse books and Robert Ludlum's action man, high-octane thrillers.
The first thing I wrote in my notes about this book was:
There's something lovely about the word 'Air' when used in the title of the book, as in Air Chrysalis.
I don't quite know why I wrote this, but I did. I still believe it though, it fascinates me.
I've also got written:
Lacked editing? couple of repeats of information as 'new to reader' eg Tengo's father's job of NHK subscription collector.
I also noticed all the references to the female characters' breasts - large or small. I'm wondering whether this will become relevant later, like the NHK subscription collector but I wonder. I wonder what that's about.
The thing though that grabbed me right from the outset, in the first few pages, was Aomame getting out of a taxi in gridlocked traffic and climbing down a ladder off the side of the freeway to the road below. Something happened time-wise or dimension-wise during that climb down, and while it was hinted at by her noticing anomalies in a police officer's uniform and gun, and while it's also been suggested by later references to two moons in the sky (something else that intrigues me in a really primal way: moons and air, love it) it hasn't been disclosed in any greater detail up until where I've read now. And there haven't been too many more hints (that I could see, Alex?) so I love that light touch. There's no Ludlum here.
Once Aomame climbed down that ladder, and got onto the street and to her appointment (where she murdered a man, a bad man) I knew this wouldn't be one of the books that I would put down mid-way and pick up something else to read in tandem. I knew I would be living and breathing this book from those first pages until the end, unless something major happened to stop me (ie the arrival of aliens in the mid-section or something like that, could still happen folks.)
On page 200 of my copy, we are told:
' "This is the end," Fuka-Eri informed him in a whisper. Time stopped, and the world ended. The earth ground slowly to a halt, and all sound and light vanished. '
It's biblical in its pronouncements, yet simple writing. I thought it was a good description of how the world would or could end, not with a bang but a whimper, like a merry-go round slowing down to a stop and all the carnival lights going out. I like this imagery, the idea of the world (which does spin) slowing down, grinding to a halt. There'd be sound as well, a kind of groaning and possibly some squealing brake noises.
On page 215 the idea is introduced that humans are just 'carriers' for genes and that genes are knowing a ruthless. "They don't care whether we are happy or unhappy. We're just a means to an end for them."
This is the type of thinking that I love. I had never thought something like this before but in an instant I saw the truth, or possible truth, in it. I once knew a guy, he was a close friend, and he would say things like this. For me, it was amazing knowing him, because every conversation was filled with pearls like the one above. I wish I still knew him; his brain and his type of thinking were both massive and rich and he's the only person in the world I've known who has such a different way of looking at absolutely everything.
On page 223 we are told that Bun the German Shepherd (and this is again, the second or even third time) "For some reason, she liked to eat raw spinach." Like a reminder BUT as if it's the first mention. Again, I don't know whether this is sloppy editing, sloppy writing or deliberate. Is the ms too big for the author to manage? Is it that the author knew it would be a big book to read and so the reader would need little reminders? But why innocuous things like this? I don't know.
THE FIRST OMG MOMENT
Page 249 when Little People come out of Tsubasa's mouth while she's asleep.
Up until now there have been references to the Little People, a few mentions, but it's been entirely possible until now that the Little People are just figments of deranged brains, or fictional characters in the book Air Chrysalis, which has been dictated by a strange possibly damaged 17-year-old girl Fuka-Eri (who has beautiful large breasts we are told, repeatedly, from the narrative of Tengo the writer.)
Now I've got a note: too many references to female characters' breasts. Aomame's = small ones, Fuka-Eri's = big ones. Every chapter these characters are in, there is guaranteed mention of their breasts.
Page 260 - 261
I've written 'Tengo is reading Chekhov's Sakhalin aloud to Fuka-Eri in the middle of the night. She becomes fascinated by the Gilyaks = the indigenous people Chekhov wrote about, the first time on p260 her speech is written with a question mark (before this, it had been noted by Tengo that her speech was peculiar and flat, short sentences spoken without question marks. Again, this repetition I noticed and it bothered me and could have jerked me out but because everything else was so gripping, I let go). Then on page 261 we have exclamation marks from Fuka-Eri - 'The poor Gilyaks!' [she] said. 'The wonderful Gilyaks!' She feels compassion for these people, I am entranced by the side story of how they would travel their land ignoring roads that had been laid down, walking parallel to the roads through difficult treed terrain.
Chekhov and his Gilyaks come into the story again later, and it makes me wonder about this and other types of criss-crossing between the two main narratives. (A bit about the structure of the book. Each character gets a chapter and a point of view. Tengo is one, and Aomame is the other. We get one chapter from him, from his POV and then one chapter from her and her POV. The book started with Aomame in the taxi. I have read the book without stopping mid-chapter, something has made me want to keep regular in my reading but also, I just can't stop reading mid chapter because the story is carrying me along in a way I haven't been carried before (shades of Ludlum in this.) Also, the way Murakami end chapters, he will stop mid-scene and not adhere to the [conventional?] narrative arc where each chapter should have its own natural rise and fall, beginning middle and end. I have to say this is also shades of Ludlum? Or at least it's a device to keep us reading because you know that in between Aomame preparing to kill someone, at the point of, if the chapter ends, you will have a chapter of Tengo, and then go back to Aomame, and no time has passed at all, there is no cheating, no time skips when there's a seminal scene. I like this reliability and it's working for me.]
Back to the notes:
Page 277 Flat, unemotional way of writing about sex. 'Fully enjoying the hardness of his penis and the softness of his testicles.' This is about Tengo's older married lover and her enjoyment of his genitals. This type of writing about sex in fiction suits me. Generally, I don't like it when sex is described in novels, I'd rather for some reason to not even go there. I think because it's so hard to write a 'good' sex scene (and really, what is a good sex scene?) but also because it's usually a licentious inclusion only, it's to titillate and to arouse (perhaps) and unless the book itself is about sexual pleasure (ie Lady Chatterley's Lover) why bother? What's the point? (to be said in Reg's voice from Life of Brian, when he wonders why Stan would bother with wanting to have the right to have a womb.)
For me, sex in literature should not be arousing, it should not move you, it should be flat and clinical because it's the most primal of activities and it's only modern life that has attached romance and softness to it. For me, it's perverse to have sex in books, it can be too intrusive to the story. If I want sex, I'll get porn. I don't want it in my books.
OMG Moment # 2
p 306, just before the end of Part 1.
Tengo is telling his married girlfriend about the story he's writing. (Before this, he has rewritten Fuka-Eri's Air Chrysalis and is now energised and working on his own novel. Up to now, we have heard nothing about his project.) He says it's about a different world. How can you tell it's different, the older married gf asks. 'There are two moons,' he says.
Because by now the reader knows that Aomame has seen two moons in her sky, you think ohmyfuckinggod, all the Aomame chapters are his story? There are other pieces of connective tissue between her and his narrative. They knew each other in primary school (you slowly realise this); they each think of the other now they are adults, in fact Aomame loves him and he is the only one she loves, even though she hasn't seen him since she was ten years old.
This is to the end of Part 1.
Other thoughts. So far we have several disappearances. Fuka-Eri disappears (she is 17) but she has also left her family (who were caught up in a cult) when she was ten. Aomame's parents were in a cult, and she left them when she was ten. Then there is Tsubasa, ten years old, who has left her cult family) and was residing with the old lady (dowager) who employs Aomame (about 30 yo) to kill bad men (men who have beaten, tortured their wives etc. The dowager runs a women's shelter.) By the end of Part 1 I think, Tsubasa has also disappeared, or maybe not yet.
Alex? Anyone else?
What is your response to Part 1?