You know those workdays where you get a lot done in the morning, and you think to yourself, “I’ve done enough, I think I can take it easy this afternoon”? Well, consider that my attitude for the rest of 2022, as my greatest achievement of the year is behind me: I finished this damn book.
I’ve wanted to read Haruki Murakami for a long time, and I was so intrigued by the premise of this book: A woman, Aomame, begins to discover subtle differences between what the world should look like, and what she’s seeing, and nicknames this strange world “1Q84” (apparently this is a play on the way the letter Q and number 9 are pronounced in Japanese). Meanwhile, a math teacher named Tengo has agreed to take a job as a ghostwriter for a book about a mysterious “Air Chrysalis” and some strange “Little People.” There’s also some stuff about a cult and some contract killing.
Alternate worlds, magical realism, cults–I thought this book would be right up my alley but my goodness was I wrong! I slogged through this book for 11 long weeks.
I don’t recommend this book to anyone and have no idea who would like it. If, for some reason, you decide to read it, be aware that Murakami’s obsession with breasts leaps out from every page. A woman mourning the death of a friend takes a moment to be sad that her friend’s perfect breasts are no longer in the world (As the poem says, “I thought her boobs would last forever, I was wrong”). A woman randomly pulls out one breast so a friend can reassure her that her nipple isn’t too big. Aomame’s key characteristic (besides being horrifyingly ugly when she frowns) is that she’s sad that she has small boobs. Another female character, Fuka-Eri, is 17 but her breasts are described repeatedly in rapturous detail. Search for Murakami on r/menwritingwomen if you have an hour or ten or kill.
The boob thing is barely scratching the surface of all the problems with this book. We aren’t even told what Tengo’s girlfriend is named until she’s no longer part of the story–she’s just his “older married girlfriend,” a phrase which is repeated ad nauseum. I was gratified to learn that a particularly off-putting and disturbing sex scene in this book had been nominated for the Bad Sex Award (well-deserved!), but–SPOILERS–anyone reading this book should know upfront that a central part of the story revolves around fully grown men being paralyzed (by cultish mysticism, I guess?) and then being raped–by underage girls. I don’t know how this book got published. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be telling me. I certainly don’t know why it had to be 1,000 pages. The one and only interesting thing about this book was learning about NHK subscription fee collectors.
I kept reading this book because I thought there had to be a payoff–there had to be some satisfying conclusion that tied up all the loose ends and made sense of the fantasy components.
There wasn’t. This book sucked, don’t read it.