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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Technique and Mastery of Plot in Haruki Murakami's "1Q84"

There's much to say about a 900+ page novel, especially if that novel is dependent on highly sophisticated story-telling techniques.  I am about half-way with "1Q84" and all I can say is that the novel not only displays Murakami's genius, but it does something else that might not help it make a commercial success (in a good way).  Literary fiction is not really the silver bullet needed to land on top of the NYT bestsellers list, if you catch my drift.  What is brilliant about "1Q84" is precisely what does not help it become a more widely or popular book.  Again, it is not designed to do that, and the fact that literary fiction is to "readers for the sake of escapism" as water is to oil, is the reason we need to keep at least one aspect of that argument nicely qualified.

The novel's amazing plot lines (main and sub) drive the story forward quite fast, but a moment changes everything when the reader discovers things had been taking place right under the sentences he/she happens to be reading at the time.  This is more than just a nice allegory to the many parallels of the plot line.  For example, I quickly became enamored of the character of the "dowager" and her complicated yet loving relationship with Aomame.  Since the chapters jump between Aomame and Tengo, I also found myself wanting to finish the current Tengo chapter just to see if the "dowager" would appear in the next Aomame chapter.  But the reader ignores the dowager's benevolence at his/her own risk.  It was far too simple, far too clean and clear cut.  It is only much later when the "Leader" is asking Aomame to send him to the other world that one slowly becomes aware not all things were right about the "dowager."  This, I believe, was probably one of the most clever, well-planned and amazingly structured pieces of Murakami's technique in story telling since "A Wild Sheep Chase," or "The Elephant Vanishes."  The levels of parallel plots and character existences in "1Q84" are enough to send an existentialist running off a tall building, or a philosopher in general looking for the law of alchemy again.  Here's Aomame, there's Fuka-Eri.  There's Tengo, and here's Aomame.  There are two-moons, and neither one of them is representative of either the world they are currently inhabiting or the one they left behind.... and behind this incredilbe maze of hopscotch, there is the truth of the story.
Then there's the element of "The Little People."  It was quite obvious to me as a reader that the novel inside the novel ("Air Chrysalis") is a parallel world running along sides of the current narrative presently being read.  This reminds me of the very end of "One Hundred Years of Solitude," when the protagonist realizes he is trying to translate the same story he is currently inhabiting from a Sanskrit manuscript, and everything gets blown away by the strong wind of reality.  So far, this is frankly Haruki Murakami's best and most innovative novel to-date.  I can't wait to see what happens next.

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