I’d been wanting to read Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 for months when I finally bought it, on impulse, in paperback at Barnes and Noble. My proximity to the book was my downfall–it’s huge. It’s 1184 pages long (matching the title, but only in the English language edition. In Japan, the book was originally published as a trilogy. I have no idea why the English language edition collapsed all three books into one volume). And I love big books. I love the feeling that I have a book that will never end, that I can get really, deeply lost in the pages, that I will be able to pick it up again and again and be consumed by language for weeks. Kindle edition be damned–the reassuring weight of a gigantic book lets you know that you’ll have time to dream, absorb, leave, return, ruminate, sip coffee, walk the dog, stare at the moon, read late at night by a book lamp, sleep a story-filled sleep, and wake to a story-filled morning. A gigantic book lets you settle in. A gigantic book spans your calendar squares like a perpetual beach vacation. I love the moment when I open a really big book. Opening this one was like putting on sunglasses and stretching out by the ocean for the first time in years.
And I finished it in four days.
Murakami is a master story-teller. He unfolds. And each unfolding is more delightful than the last. Or maybe that’s the wrong way to put it. Maybe he’s folding. Maybe he’s creasing the paper again and again, and sculpting it into some kind of ink-ful origami. Or maybe it’s better to say that his story opens and blooms.Or maybe reading it is like falling in love.
Because ultimately, inevitably, and inexorably, 1Q84 is a love story. But it’s not immediately a love story, and it’s not obviously a love story. Aomame and Tengo, the two protagonists, alternate points of view throughout most of the novel. A novel, Air Chrysalis, serves as a focal point, or perhaps a grounding point, or maybe a catalyst, and certainly a chrysalis, between the protagonists, who live in different worlds. Or, perhaps it’s better to say they live in different worlds that are nearly the same, because they live in parallel worlds. One is a world with two moons.
I can’t tell you anything else about it, because reading the novel is, itself, the novel. Like any novel, really, we make the worlds we read and the stories we read come alive as we participate with the language on the page and bring our imaginations into collusion with the author’s. Stories are not stories without audiences. Every story-teller needs a told-to; the telling makes the tale. When I read 1Q84, I make the story with Murakami as my imagination unfolds under his guidance. His worlds and my world meet, and we make a new world together. This, too, is a love a story.
I’d never read anything by Murakami before, and I struggle now with buying more of his books. Because I want to read them all. And I want them all to be this convergence of sci-fi and fantasy and magical realism and romance and mystery and love. And I haven’t bought them yet because I like the idea of having all the rest of his works stretching before me, spanning my calendar squares with sips of coffee and dog-walking and staring at the moon(s), a beach vacation waiting to cover me with language like sand and waves and sun. I haven’t bought them yet because I know that when I start reading them all it will be like putting on sunglasses and stretching out by the ocean.
And I haven’t bought them all because I know that when I start reading them I won’t be able to stop myself from finishing each one of them in four days.