Monday, January 9, 2012

1Q84: Tengo and Aomame

A good book can get in the way of everything. That's been the story of my life. I'll confess that as a student, I sometimes tucked a novel inside a textbook. I have holed up in the restroom reading or lingered in the parking lot before work with a good book. Last night, knowing I was kicking off the first day of classes this semester at eight o'clock, I still stayed up until midnight--on the dot--reading the last two or three chapters of Haruki Murkami's novel 1Q84. This book is one that made its way to my list when I attended the English conference. It was one of Carol Jago's recommendations. (I remember her saying, It's a big book, but it's a love story!) I kept running into positive reviews, so I threw out the title at book club and those in attendance agreed to tackle it.

I'm not sure about the hardcover, but on my electronic reader, the book had 1452 pages. For me, though, they flew by. The book begins with alternating chapters following two almost-thirty-year-olds, Aomame and Tengo, in Tokyo. She has a regular job as a fitness trainer, and then a not-so-conventional avocation. I won't spoil it for you. Tengo teaches math at a "cram school" but is also an aspiring novelist, but he is an early reader of a manuscript submitted to a first novel contest by a seventeen-year-old that, though poorly written, has a fascinating story. His involvement goes beyond normal--or ethical.

As he title hints, Murakami sets the novel in 1984, the year--once the setting for Orwell's chilling picture of the future, but now part of our nondescript past. The world the characters inhabit, however, seems out of joint. While the story depends on its fantastic elements, the characters engage readers so personally and directly that, like the bodyguard character who hears the details, we find ourselves going along with them.

As I read, I frequently considered how differently the story would have unfolded if set in our modern world, with cell phones and Google. The impact on the plot would have been immense.
How soon we forget the challenge of locating people or finding information in our own lifetime.

There was so much about the novel that I enjoyed--the literary and musical references, the beautifully crafted plot details, woven together like find strands of an air chrysalis (Don't google the term. Read the book.) Something tells me this book, its plot and its characters, will reside in my head for a long time. I wonder if I'll ever look at the moon again without thinking of it.

1 comment:

Marie Cloutier said...

sounds wonderful :-) you've made me want to pick it up!