1Q84 Read-Along Starter

Read-Along Starter

It is sometime in the fall of 1998 and I am standing in the M aisle of the fiction wing of the Idaho Falls Public Library. I am recently back from an uninterrupted two-year stint in Northern Japan, my first taste of life outside the I-15 Mormon Corridor. I have missed the start date for fall semester at Utah State, virtually no friends remain in college-less Idaho Falls, and I am brutally homesick for the city of Sendai. This being Eastern Idaho, there are of course no Japanese people to talk to, very limited (and low quality) Japanese food available, and a rental video selection consisting almost entirely of The Seven Samurai and some pornographic anime. The manga/anime boom that kicks off with Dragonball and Pokemon is a couple years away.

Even worse, the internet in 1998 is mostly blinking text and slow-loading jpegs of supermodels. I have yet to learn about chat clients and language input modules. Streaming video is not even a twinkle in someone’s eye; most of us are still on dial-up anyway. My only connections to Japan in these dark, boring days are infrequent emails and letters, some now embarrassing J-Pop CDs that I brought back with me, and whatever books I can rustle out of the library. Unfortunately for me, any knowledge I have of Japanese literature basically starts and stops with James Clavell’s Shogun, which I read within a few weeks of coming home. If there are resources and recommendations online, I haven’t found them.

So there I am in the M’s, because I vaguely remember from somewhere that Murasaki Shikibu wrote something called The Tale of Genji, which seems as good a place as any to start. Instead, I see the name Murakami attached to several books. One, A Wild Sheep Chase, has the sort of name that appeals to me, so I take it home. A day or two later I come up for air, with my brain still sizzling like bacon in a frying pan. Between that day and the beginning of winter semester, I read every Murakami Haruki book in the library.

Over the next few years, I keep up with his new books, build up better Japan networks, and eventually make it back a couple of times. It isn’t long before the pipeline connecting me and Japan is a superhighway rather than a single thread, but I keep reading. I even start buying Japanese copies of the novels. Once I find myself with a string of Japanese girlfriends, I introduce each of them to Murakami’s books. Without exception they are hooked. (This includes my wife, who has long since passed me in total Murakami consumption.) Because I am young and foolish, I project myself into the stories and identify with his often unnamed narrator. For reasons that may be similar, my girlfriends also project me into the books, though never the same ones as me or each other. (Between us, we account for five or six, though memories are hazy of who said what.)

* * * * * *

I bring this up here, at the start of my 1Q84 read, not just because I enjoy talking about myself, but to give some background for what will likely be an obsequious and fanboy-ish post. (Or posts. Not sure yet.) I’m sure I would have enjoyed Murakami’s books whenever I first discovered them, but the combination of his writing, my tastes, Japan, and a particularly impressionable time in my life created a potent literary addiction. Even now, an older, more stable, and more cynical me feels a slight thrill of anticipation knowing that I will start into a new novel tomorrow. I still remember reading Kafka On the Shore and being unable to disengage from that world, despite the demands of work and family.

Now, looking at the 900+ pages waiting for me, there is a whiff of trepidation in the air. This is a big book during a busy time, and I have a history of sinking further into Murakami than is wise. I hope to churn out a couple of backlogged posts in the next week, as well as dealing with the usual family and music duties while I read. We shall see. For now, if I eventually dribble off into the rantings of a half-mad sycophant, please understand the history I have with this author. He was a lifeline in bleak times, so I feel no shame for my craven discipleship.

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5 thoughts on “1Q84 Read-Along Starter

  1. I just finished dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on my opening post for this. I’ll stick it up on Monday. I can’t claim to be anywhere near as romantic, more’s the pity, but that should make for an interesting contrast at least đŸ˜‰

    I’m just done with chapter six, so I’ll be commenting on things up to there and be aiming to get through one ‘book’ a week from there on out. Should bring us to a final wrap-up post on the 1st of July.

    That’s the plan, but I can certainly sympathise with being busy. No hurry.

    And finally, the html is all screwy on this browser so I can’t see a damn thing I’m typing because the ‘fill in your details’ blocks are hovering right in front of the comment field. Apologise for any typos, but it does represent a suitably skewed way of kicking things off…

    • I dunno if romance is what I was going for, more of a “this is why I will be pathetic” series of excuses. I took down the first 100 pages today but will probably be working on a different post for now. Still looking for a comfortable way to hold this thing on the bus without causing forearm damage. Looking forward to your scribblings tomorrow.

  2. Murkami is an amazing talent. I had two friends who repeatedly talked about his work and finally one day, while in a bookstore with one of them, I broke down and bought the collection After the Flood. Went home, read it cover to cover, and loved it. Thus began my love affair with the guy’s work. I have several of his novels yet to read as I’m taking my time and spreading them out, but the short stories, novels and nonfiction book (about running) that I’ve read have all wowed me. I’m so impressed with him and his work.

    • He’s really something else. If you see something in mine or kamo’s posts that triggers a reaction, I’d love to hear your thoughts. It doesn’t matter to me which book it’s about, since there’s so much thematic overlap in these.

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