When I received Haruki Murakami’s new novel 1Q84 in the mail I couldn’t wait to tear it open. I very rarely pre-order anything, but in this case made an exception. I waited over a year for it to just be published in Japan then another year to be translated into English. I pre-ordered it six months before the publication date and finally got it on my doorstep only to have it sit collecting dust on my kitchen table. I didn’t even relegate it to the cramped book shelves in my office. So why would a man who waited this long for a book not even bother to read it? The answer is quite simple. As much as I love his work, he pisses me off in equal measure.
For me to read multiple books by the same author is fairly uncommon. To get books anymore can be a major investment of time and money, both of which I don’t have as much of as I’d like. For a new writer I tend to stick my toes into the shallow end of the pool with a collection of short stories, so I started with After The Quake first. I didn’t get it. This obviously wasn’t love at first sight. I wound up losing that book and focusing on The Elephant Vanishes, which was slightly more palatable. Over time I began to respect his Kafka-esque approach to writing as he pummeled reality, fantasy and theÂ absurdÂ in a matter of fact fashion. After a few years flirtation I moved onto the novels and here is where it became problematic.
First off I had nowhere to begin. Fortunately my friends were able to point me towards Kafka On The Shore. Unfortunately, I found the novel to be pretty unsatisfying. I can’t even really go into the plot as much as I’d like in the space allowed, but it involved a truck driver, a mentally challenged man and a bunch of other stuff fighting the forces of evil or something. The novel is brilliantly written to a certain extent. Yet I cannot find myself recommending it. So I moved on to After Dark, which is freaking brilliant! Instead of a mash of genres and themes it is a more straight forward novel with smatterings of the strange to keep it interesting. I couldn’t wait to read his most famous novel Norwegian Wood. For the first 90% of the book I loved it. The characters were believable and you willingly became invested in their lives only to end with a big pile of nothing.
That is why Murakami pisses me off. He will do a brilliant job drawing you in then leave you with nothing to show for it at the end. Or he will bring in so many strange plot points that you stop caring after a while. It’s all or nothing with this guy. Sure the beginning and build up were great. Too bad it fizzles out at the end leaving you with however much time lost. 1Q84 is over 900 pages long! Do I really want to take the time to read something that can potentially piss me off in the end? Since I am such a glutton for punishment I know I will. He will flirt with me then only leave me with a broken heart again. Still I keep going back.