The Reading Life Japanese Literature Project
Prior reviews of Murakami.
Of the 840 posts on my blog, this is the hardest one for me to write and publish so far.
Hummm. Maybe someone needs to say this. 1Q84 is not at all a good work. I almost feel like saying it flat out stinks. I have read numerous blog posts analyzing 1Q84 in lofty terms for its weakness and merits and profundities. I am sure the status of Huruki Murakami (1949-Japan) is so high that no editor would ever dare say anything to him as they know the book will be a big seller and a lot of money will be made from it. I think people, including me, liked some of the other work of Murakami so much that they really wanted 1Q84 to be his War and Peace. I wanted it to be the book that would get him his Nobel Prize. There was a lot of prior to publication publicity on this book that had hopes really high. (A lot of the hype came from book sellers and press reviewers paid for their services who may not have felt comfortable just saying what they really felt.)
The big romance in the book was really not credible. The little people that figure so heavily in the book reminded me of the Oompa-Loomas in Willie Wonka and the Chocalate Factory. I wondered what clothes they wore as they emerged from people, did they all have uniforms or what and I was waiting for them to burst into song. The character of "the dowager" was kind of interesting but, maybe this is the fault of the translators, to keep calling her that over and over reminded me of something out of a bad rewrite of a Daphne de Maurier novel.
The novel was very repetitious with the same things being told to us over and over. I have seen it suggested that 1Q84 should get the infamous "bad sex award". I got sick of hearing about the life of an NHK collector. One of the central characters, The Leader, is a serial pedophile. The main female character seemingly has an immaculate conception with the baby of her old elementary school sweetheart. The details of how this supposedly happens and their reunion and how it came about are among the really bad parts of the story.
The religious cult that plays such a big part in the book was completely uninteresting. Kenzaburo Oe has done a much better job with this sort of thing in his Somersault.
If I had to say what parts of this book I liked best, I would say I liked the descriptions of the bodies of the adult women. OK and I know this is not a real intellectual reaction on my part! Murakami is a master at describing the bodies of women. (I know this is hardly a complement to the book!)
If I had gotten this book as an ARC from a brand new author I would not have finished it unless I was being paid to read it and I do not think many others would finish it.
OK who should read this book? If like me, you are really into the work of Murakami you should probably read this book to experience it for yourself and satisfy your curiosity. If like me you are very into Japanese lit you probably need to read it. I bought it as a Kindle edition for $11.00 on Amazon. Please do not pay the full $30.00 price unless that amount of money means nothing to you-just wait a few months and you will be able to buy it for $10.00 or less from an Amazon merchant. I do not endorse this book to anyone else. If Murakami produces another novel, I will for sure still give him the earned on his old books respect of reading it but I will not be as excited to do so as I was when I started 1Q84.
I feel bad to write this but I feel a need to express my feelings. If some are offended by my words, just look at the 100 plus other posts I have done on Japanese literature, including 11 on Murakami and you will see I am almost never negative on a work I read. If anything, I sometimes get to carried away with the love of what I read.
I am sorry to be so negative but I want to be honest.
You can find lots of blog and other posts going into the great depths of this chunkster-just do a book blog search on them. I think from reading them a lot of people are having hard time admitting to themselves the truth about this book.
I love the Japanese novel. There are so many good even great books and short stories. It is an inexhaustible field I will be reading in for the rest of my life. I do not yet think there is a Japanese novel that could be ranked in the top 10 or maybe even top 40 on a world's best novel list. For sure 1Q84 does not belong on such a list.
I know some people will not like this post and may wonder if I am having a bad day or something. No, not as I can see and I look for that if I post something negative.
Please feel free to tell me I am totally wrong on this.