Bookshed: 1Q84

I just did something I never do…… A crime against story-telling, really. But when the book is 920 pages longand there’s a plot summary online – is it really so bad to forgo the last hundred pages in lieu of slogging through the book?

I think the main problem with 1Q84 – the latest release by Haruki Murakami – is that it was originally published as three novels in Japan. For what I’m assuming were marketing and audience reasons, the English-version was released as one giant book – which makes for an uneven arc, and a lot of story repetition in each section. It’s the kind of thing that makes you wish you could have read the books in context – because the alternative world that Murakami creates – rife with magical beings, malevolent cable-service fee collectors, cult-leader prophets, and feminist murders – has lots to offer. But as a single – superlong – novel, it drags.

This Globe and Mail review sums it up best:

Whatever else about 1Q84, it is maximalist Murakami. With its animal allegories and echoes of folk legends, the references to everything from Alice in Wonderland to the Gnostic thinking of Carl Jung, the novel offers the most complete précis of its author’s lifelong preoccupations and eccentricities. For fans, the more is the merrier; for newcomers, the book may be a few oddities, and a couple of hundred pages, beyond the patience threshold.

Though even as a fan, my patience was sorely tested, to the degree that I’ve sought out the spoiler and can now move onto other things. This was obviously a new attempt for Murakami – at more than double the length of anything he’s previously published – and I find myself hoping that for his next work he will return to more condensed surrealism. A world created within 300 pages is frankly a far greater accomplishment than one which takes 920 to explain.


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