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Customer Review

652 of 805 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Cue Over-dramatic Self-realization..., November 23, 2011
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This review is from: 1Q84 (Hardcover)
Imagine everything you love about your favorite cocktail; the way the ingredients intermingle, often with hints of flavors that, while unbearable on their own, blend magnificently with others to create a mixed concoction to stimulate even the most nether regions of the human tongue. Now dump your glass into a gallon jug. Fill the jug to the 3/4 mark with water. Then add clam juice, tabasco sauce, maple syrup, nutmeg, and vanilla extract til you get to the top. Voila! You've got 1Q84. Drink it down, consumers.

I'm currently 720 pages in and have resorted to skipping whole paragraphs. Why I feel the need to continue despite a blossoming blase could perhaps best be explained by my previous Murakami experience- I first read all of his books within a span of 10 days using a flood light outside of my hotel in Singapore. Despite this I just can't see the point of 1Q84 (other than length, of course). Put simply, 1Q84 is a meandering odyssey to nowhere in particular.

Reading 1Q84, you'll find that many of Murakami's "trademarks" are present: the contrast of an ultra-sentimental/nostalgic (natsukashii -_-) love story to its surreal sci-fiesque backdrop; minute details of each character's appearance and daily routine to make up for an otherwise flat individual; allusions to Western artists galore. What 1Q84 fails to provide is something to tie everything together into a neat little package to make me care what happens. The two main characters are eternally and subliminally united by troubled youths, voided personalities, and a single hand grab decades prior to the events of the story. My advice to Murakami is that when you're building a love story on such a thin and unrealistic connection, no matter how many times you recite their devotion to finding one another, having little people coming out of goats' mouths saying "ho ho" at random intervals throughout the book is enough to distract me from the central plot. Never mind all the other random and unresolved "supernatural" events that take place and there are many. In other words- it takes such a large extension of my "benefit of the doubt" to buy into this nearly unbelievable love connection (the pursuit of which is the closest thing to a unifying plot you'll find here) that the inclusion of such random and jolting distractions just made me abandon any wish to connect to or identify with any element of the story. Ho ho!

A few other things I found disagreeable:

- Question: How many times per chapter can a character come to some sort of "OHHH... I thought things were THIS way, but it turns out they're THAT way" conclusion? Answer: At least 3-7 on average. Factor this out over 920ish pages and you have a very very annoying method of character and plot development. I reckon there are about 100 of these sentences with barely any variation. Ho ho! This is not an exaggeration.

- The same criticism holds true of the characters' thoughts on whatever world they might be in at a given time. Let's just all agree that something odd is going on and just do away with these OMG moments. Hard Boiled did this bluntly; Kafka was the ideal subdued approach. 1Q84 is just awkward in the same way as my first criticism. Paraphrased sample: "And then Tengo finally realized that at some point, the world he had known had become this new and different world, like a train switching tracks." There. I summarized about 60 pages of text. Ho ho!

- The sex scenes are just terrible. Superfluous breast descriptions probably amount to 6 pages of text. I remember reading a review on here that described these segments as being "borderline pornographic." I assure you, if they were anything close to being borderline pornographic I would have been far more interested. However if the reviewer meant that in the sense that they are contrived and artificial then I would agree 100%. And Murakami is usually so capable when it comes to meaningful sexual moments! Alas, it pains me to say that 1Q84 fails miserably in this respect. I recall better examples, such as those with Kafka and his maybe sister (the one on the bus sticks out (pun intended *teehee*)- tasteful and poignant). Ho ho! Ayn Rand would make for a better writer of erotic fiction than the Murakami of 1Q84, and that makes me cry a little inside.

- Unbearably redundant at times. Case in point: How many pages do we need to explain the same physical characteristics of Ushikawa? Probably about 14, but I don't care enough to go back and count. These useless details just thump into you. Ho ho! After a while I found myself just skipping pages of the same descriptions. This is filler, not literature.

These are not the only flaws present, but are such that they will remain flaws no matter how the rest of the book turns out.

Bottom line? If you really want to read 900+ pages of Murakami, read Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore, and maybe Wind-up Bird Chronicle. If it were less than 600 pages I'd have given it a second star. I'm off to make myself a pot of coffee and finish this turd so I can move on to greener pastures.

UPDATE: Finished the book. I give the ending a "Meh +" but my relief at finally being done may have colored that. For some reason it feels as if there were no middle of the book... like the middle of the book and first and last parts were in some totally different WORLD. Get it? I'm mocking an oft-used phrase. Ho ho! Remember that sentence format because you will encounter it dozens of times. (Maybe the little people and I were just from an entirely different WORLD. Something something THIS world, compared to something something THAT world. Look at me trying to figure things out. I'm a character in 1Q84, which is like 1984 but in a different WORLD.)

Looking back on the experience, it seems like 1Q84 parallels my own writing style when it comes to longer school papers: 1) Start with a quirky thesis/topic in which readers can see potential for enjoyment and profoundness; 2) Realize that this is a 25 page paper, that I have only one page done, and that it's due tomorrow; 3) Write 20 pages or so of gibberish that loosely develops some kind of discussion, leading readers meandering down meaningless tangents never to be resolved (Ho ho!); 4) See that it's already 4 A.M. and wrap things up (for the most part) in a page in 15 minutes.

In summation- This book is arbitrary and ****ing long. Like I said before: if you're after good Murakami (ESPECIALLY if you're from the WORLD of new readers) here is not the place to start. And this is coming from a very big fan of his. I wonder if Knopf kept hectoring reviewers until they said something nice about it. Oh, and Chip Kidd is an excellent graphic designer. But please do not let 1Q84 turn you off to one of the world's best authors of contemporary fiction.
I'm glad that at least The New York Times agrees with me. Ho ho!
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Tracked by 16 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 117 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 1, 2011 8:23:44 AM PST
jen junod says:
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I am 500 pages in and grit my teeth every few pages and ask myself, "Why?" It is truly a "turd" of a Murakami. Blech.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2011 2:11:35 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Feb 27, 2012 3:13:12 PM PST]

Posted on Dec 17, 2011 7:29:13 PM PST
This is awesome. Thank you for writing this review (the school paper example made my freaking day). My husband and I are trying to read this book as part of a book club, and I'm glad to see someone else shares my view.

Posted on Dec 26, 2011 8:27:34 PM PST
Hilarious and apt. One Star is a little harsh but your critical review of the book is excellent.

Posted on Dec 30, 2011 10:23:35 AM PST
R says:
"Looking back on the experience, it seems like 1Q84 parallels my own writing style when it comes to longer school papers..." Love this paragraph!

Posted on Dec 30, 2011 4:08:12 PM PST
Thanks for the honest review. I'm a big Murakami fan and was really looking forward to this book, but I think I'll wait for his next release. Thanks for saving me cash, endless hours and a big disappointment.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 31, 2011 9:20:51 AM PST
I didn't mean to discourage anyone from reading it; just pick it up at the library and curb your expectations.

Posted on Jan 1, 2012 11:12:53 AM PST
Reader says:
The NYTimes does not quite agree with you. 1Q84 made the "100 Notable Books of 2011" list in the fiction and poetry category.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 3, 2012 5:20:06 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 17, 2013 6:52:24 AM PST
There are many reasons why something would make a "Notable Books" list. Maybe being declared the magnum opus of an international best-selling author and (alleged) nobel candidate is one of them. Standalone literary merit is another, and the lack of it in 1Q84 is what my main review addresses.

I based that statement on the two reviews they have posted. One is about as scathing as a major paper is likely to endorse (big media politics, etc.) and the other, while generally positive, dwells on the fact that the story is hollow and unresolved with oodles of random tangets; the main reasons for the positiveness being that the story remained on the mind of the reviewer for longer than expected.

Posted on Jan 4, 2012 4:26:34 PM PST
P. Pittman says:
Completely agree with you. My least favourite Murakami, by far.
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Location: Minneapolis, MN

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