Sunday, December 11, 2011

Brautigan on Steroids with Vonnegut as his Bookie and Campaign Manager

One delicious aspect of this book is whether it is a retelling of George Orwell's "1984" or not. It keeps flirting with the reader that way and generates additional tension above and beyond the clever, fantastical storyline.

I am deep into the work and have become attached to the characters and the universe they inhabit and really don't want them to end up betraying each other with rats in cages eating their faces. Will "1Q84" end up mirroring "1984" in some way or will it use it as a springboard or will it perhaps lovingly parody it? I guess that's what the "Q" is for in the title.

I got a couple hundred pages into this and found myself enjoying every turn of phrase, every synesthesiatic swirl of intuition-metaphor-image-concreteness, every whimsical gesture, every playfully abrupt change in meta-narrative level.

As Nog hinted at with his observation of the two currents, this work is rife with so many wonderful not-quite-exact symmetries, parallels, mirrorings, and echoes. I think somehow Tengo's dichotomy of math prodigy and powerful writer serves as a touchstone for much of the near-symmetry throughout. As Tengo leaves the (for-him) safe comfortable world of equations and numbers (the basis of reality) he ventures into the much less rigid forest of the narrative world.

Even Aomame climbing down the emergency expressway stairway from the superhighway at the beginning of the story mirrors this idea of choosing to leave the mainstream reality and strike out through a thicket of uncertain narrative. We even end up visiting other cultures and realms in the course of the book that cleverly echo this as well.

So far the physical size of this volume hasn't been a deterrent in the least, as I'm always looking forward to the next page, the next chapter, the next insight. At one point I Wiki’d Murakami and found that two of his greatest Western influences were Vonnegut and Brautigan – my two favorite authors! No wonder I am loving this - for me it is like Brautigan on steroids with Vonnegut as his bookie and campaign manager. I can only hope that this entry point for Murakami for me doesn't spoil any possible enjoyment of his earlier works if this turns out to be his masterpiece because right now I can envision retiring from PBR Book Club for a year to drown myself in Murakamiism.


  1. Did I forget to mention that Murakami's writing is humorous as well? If you're the kind of reader that finds Vonnegut and Brautigan quietly hilarious, you'll be smiling a lot if you allow yourself a pace that affords the humor a chance to register before moving on.

  2. Don't retire on us after this (I'm determined to get some DeLillo in this book club eventually, ideally Underworld, which I need to re-read anyway).

    Here's an explanation of the title from the NY-Mag piece I referenced in prior post:

    "The title of “1Q84” is a joke: an Orwell reference that hinges on a multilingual pun. (In Japanese, the number 9 is pronounced like the English letter Q.)"