Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holiday Interim B-Pig Meeting

This is not meant to be minutes of the meeting or anything, just a few hurried lines of random remembrances - hopefully it'll trigger others to add to it in the comments or their own posts.

We wondered about whether cultural filters that we lacked were causing us to miss anything about the story regarding popular culture, sexuality (including a brief tangent on wood cuts), potential lingering effects of WWII and also commented on a review some had read about how Murakami has Western influences and in fact his work seems ripe for translation to English. We marveled out how difficult it must have been to translate, even so. Also, apparently, the work was released in Japan in books, so it wasn't a huge tome to be intimidated by all at once.

We talked about surreality at the level of the story and world as well as in the moments created scene by scene, such as the telephone ring taking on the personality of the caller. We noticed the detailed descriptions of what everyone wore and tried to reconcile it with our ideas of how people dressed in the 1980's in America.

We talked about the mirrors motif, the symmetry in the story as well as in the printed book and how "real life" appeared frequently in the reading, 30-some-odd times in all based on a search of the e-book on tablet. We noticed a parent/child theme echoed here and there, from the religious organization splitting off to the idea of an air chrysalis as a shell or birth pod to the significance of Aomame's name: "green bean" as a pod containing seeds.

I am intrigued by the pervasive echo of being on a main road or expressway versus being off the grid and moving through the forest - Aomame on the expressway, the Gilyaks sticking to the forest even after roads were built, Fuka-Eri being good at disappearing and moving through the forest (but you can hear a road in the background nearby on her tape), and I think it's even present in the contrast between Tengo's love of math with its formulas and equations (reality of sorts) and his fascination with writing (the not so rigid or defined "forest" of the narrative world).


We pondered the use of the term "Little People" (curiously enough we didn't really ponder what they were) and the general consensus seemed to be it was an intentionally drawn contrast with or at least a play on "Big Brother" in Orwell's work; a decentralized, distributed presence versus a top-down central omniscient authority. Speaking of "1984", I described the tension I felt between knowing that the love interests in that work ended up betraying each other when put to the test and me really not wanting Tengo and Aomame to betray each other at some later point in "1Q84" !

I meant to bring up but forgot to bring up the concept of the "memory hole" (ironically) and revisionist history presented by Orwell and discuss their potential relevance to Murakami's book. The protagonist in the former has as his main job the re-writing of history as the current propaganda changes and in the latter we have Tengo (in concert with Fuka-Eri) writing narratives that other people (like Aomame) seem to be experiencing as part of their reality.

I foisted my half-baked idea that some of the tenets of quantum mechanics run throughout "1Q84" and raced through a nutshell description on the differences of the Copenhagen versus the Many Worlds interpretations of what happens when potential outcomes are selected. No cats were harmed during this discussion and BananaSuit also mentioned the concept of parallel universes with CourtBelle referencing string theory. Murakami has that effect on people like us.

Some wondered if everything about Aomame and Ayumi was plausible but generally liked the characters. Aomame seemed to be a favorite with the dowager and Tamaru in the mix as well.

Finally, we talked about Russian writers and generally hoped the Gilyaks were doing okay in spite of their shortcomings.


  1. Oh yeah - we had a Brautigan reading from his writer's notebook of short bits and ideas "Revenge of the Lawn".

    And when I first walked in an unknown person spotted my 1Q84 and we got into a conversation. He's reading it too and has ready every Murakami book prior to this one. He talked about how in his middle works Murakami was dipping his toe into the surrealism and that he's unleashed it full force in 1Q84.

  2. Good stuff and sorry I missed it.

    Steve, I think you should write a future blog post on the Murakami/Orwell/rewriting history topic.

    I'm pondering a weird post about Chekhov's gun, DeLillo, and Murakami (and maybe narrative control and the concept of "the death of the author").

    We'll compare this son of a bitch to everything!

    Yeah, I read that Murakami's use of Western references has shifted in recent novels toward higher culture: less likely to use sitcoms and more likely to talk classical music. But the musical references, at least, in IQ84 still seem pretty across-the-board.

  3. Thhe Gilyaks have an annual bear festival! "Bears are captured and raised in a corral for several years by local women, treating the bear like a child. The bear is considered a sacred earthly manifestation of Gilyak ancestors and the gods in bear form (see Bear Cult)."