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My impressions of 1Q84

Disclaimer: This post is my opinion of Murakami’s work and it will be full of spoilers. If you have not yet read the book and do not appreciate spoilers, please skip this post. Instead of reading this you can go check out Geri’s game, or Alma, or how fascinating differences can be. Or just read about the day a venti skinny peppermint mocha tried to kill me. Your call.

103575751Q84 is a novel by Haruki Murakami originally published in Japan in three volumes but released as a single volume in the US. It’s an international best seller and it’s Murakami’s 12th published book. The letter Q and the number 9 are homophones in Japanese. The title is a play on the Japanese pronunciation of the year 1984, a reference to George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eight-Four.

In all honesty, after learning all that about it, I had really high hopes when I started reading this book. I had been trying to get my hands on it for quite some time and was eager to know what was so amazing about it. Thinking back I realize I set my expectations too high, and that’s never a good thing. The best thing is to have low expectations, so you can never get disappointed. But some things are easier said than done.

The novel opens with a very vague first paragraph. It doesn’t cause an impact and things start very slowly. For a long time I felt lost, not knowing where the story was going or what was the connection with Nineteen Eight-Four. There’s a lot of repetition throughout the chapters, including information that is given again and again, as if I was not capable of retaining information as I read the book. The first two books go back and forth between two different point of views: Aomame’s and Tengo’s. The third book introduces a third point of view: Ushikawa’s. Bits of information are dropped here and there but the reader is left wondering what the H is really happening. And yes, good books do not review all their secrets at once, and curiosity does move you forward and makes you eager to know what happens next, but too little information can be frustrating.

At times there was too much telling when a simple showing would suffice. One example is when Tengo is cooking. It is explained to the reader how that was not a chore to him, dishes are explained to specific details, and it’s said how the character likes to use this time to think about things. Honestly, I don’t think it was necessary, and it even slowed me down. Just show me Tengo thinking while chopping one thing. That’s all I need.

I also felt that characters reached the right conclusions way too easily. Ushikawa, for example, when investigating why the dowager helps victims of domestic violence, concludes that the dowager’s daughter did not die of illness, but that she took her own life. Really? Is that the most reasonable conclusion? I would have thought the daughter had probably died as a victim of domestic violence; that the violence she suffered either left her to die from injuries inflicted on her by the abuser or had led her to give up hope and commit suicide. That would have been a more reasonable way for a character to reflect on the dowager’s real motives.

Then, as we get closer to the end of the book, things seem to get sloppier. We have the narrator’s POV during Aomame’s POV, which was not a resource used throughout the book, so it was just odd it was dropped there all of a sudden. It was as if the author couldn’t think of a way to deliver the message to the reader. In Tengo’s POV we have another character telling his story, and for a chunk of the chapter it becomes his POV instead of Tengo’s. Then in Ushikawa’s POV, in a chapter he’s being tortured and blindfolded, we have the name of the torturer, which is something Ushikawa couldn’t possibly know, being dropped from nowhere. We, readers, know who that person is, but Ushikawa shouldn’t know. And we shouldn’t have a description of the aggressor closing his eyes or anything like that, since the chapter was supposed to be from Ushikawa’s POV, relating only what Ushikawa could hear or sense (he’s blindfolded, after all). And in chapter 29 (book 3), since it says the chapter is from Aomame’s POV, we shouldn’t have the whole chapter narrated from Tengo’s POV.

Those little things really bothered me. Maybe some of them are due to translation issues, but I doubt all of them are. And I know it’s a book written in a different language through the eyes of someone who lives in a different culture, but that shouldn’t change things that much. But the most frustrating part, for me, was that one of the main characters is a writer! He talks about writing, he talks about fixing issues with a book written by someone else, a book where details are not explained. His editor tells him that when something new is introduced, something people don’t yet know about it, it must be explained as well as possible. He talks about those things and makes such silly mistakes. He introduces elements we do not have in this world we live in, and does not provide us a good explanation, or even a good image. He leaves his readers confused at times, when they needn’t be.

Other than that, I do think the book has a nice story in it. I don’t think it is as great as some make it seem, though. Sometimes I wonder why a particular book is a best seller, and what makes people thinks something is so great. I have already reached the conclusion that being a best seller does not guarantee a book will be good, but I’m still curious as to what draws people’s attention to it so much. Don’t take me wrong, the book does have good points, but overall, I’m not as happy with it as I hoped I’d be.

So, did you read the book? What did you think of it? Have you read any other books by Murakami?

Quotes:

“That’s what the world is , after all: an endless battle of contrasting memories.”

“Even if we could turn back, we’d probably never end up where we started.”

“Most people are not looking for provable truths. As you said, truth is often accompanied by intense pain, and almost no one is looking for painful truths. What people need is beautiful, comforting stories that make them feel as if their lives have some meaning. Which is where religion comes from.”

“Perhaps this was the wisdom with which a child in her position survived: by minimizing her wounds–staying as small as possible, as nearly transparent as possible.”

“(…) but if she actually put it into words, the facts contained in the ‘something’ might irretrievably become more definite as facts, so she wanted to postpone that moment, if only briefly.”

“It is not that the meaning cannot be explained. But there are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words.”

 

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What’s my motivation?

Lately I haven’t had much time to read all the blogs I follow. Part of it is because I follow several blogs and there’s not enough free time on my days to allow me to read them all. But most of it is because I’m trying to focus my energy on my own writing. So what I usually do is pick a few of them to read each time.

Today I stumbled upon a blog post on Legends Undying called What’s My Motivation? It talks about plot, which is something I talked about a couple of days ago. It talks about a book I have not read yet, but it got me interested in it.

Anyway, here’s a little story by @VeryShortStory to start your week with the right foot:

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Have a great week!

 

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The Plot Whisperer

ImageAs you (probably) already know, I’m a writer. No, I haven’t published anything yet, but that will change pretty soon. But I am, nonetheless, a writer. And in my pursuit of more knowledge on the subject, I read The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, by Martha Alderson. Now, you have to understand I’m not the kind of writer who sits down and plots her whole story. I usually have an idea I want to write about and I just sit down and write. After I’m done, then I’ll structure it for the editing process. I found that to be helpful. It helps me see the story as a whole, without limiting me to follow a structure before even starting. That’s because I don’t really know all that’s going to happen in my stories. I see plotting as creating expectations for a story, and not following the plot would seem disappointing to me. That’s why I only plot after finishing my first draft.

But what does the book has to do with it? Well, I read the book in the hopes it would help me understand plot a little more and maybe help me improve as a writer. I was, however, a bit skeptic over the whole idea, since I don’t plot before writing the story, but I found out The Plot Whisperer was a great help. It’s not a book only for those who plot beforehand, and it has helpful tips for all kinds of writers. It talks about “the universal story,” the plot planner, the scene tracker, the barriers we find along the way, and much more. It also has exercises here and there that can help you with your writing.

Anyway, I found the book very helpful, and if you’re a writer (beginner or not) I certainly think you should take a look at this book. Then come back and tell me what you think.

 

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Learning the craft

2756494307_4018808b1b_oI’ve been taking creative writing classes and enrolling in creative writing workshops for the past two years and I can say they have changed me. One professor in particular has been a huge part of it. Before taking his workshop I could read all kinds of books and I was fine. Now I feel like my way of looking into things has changed. Every book I open, every story I read, is different. I see things I had never noticed before. I see little flaws in technique that I wouldn’t be able to identify before. I see what could be done to improve the flow of a story and what is stalling it. And although I might not always agree with his point of view, I am thankful for all he has taught me.

I’ve recently read 1Q84 and my reaction to it was not what I expected. Thank you to my professor I paid attention to details in this book I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ll talk more about it later, in a separate post, but all I say is that my opinion is influenced by all I’ve learned in the past few years.

Learning about writing has changed me. It has made me aware of how to approach it and what I need to do to improve my own writing. It has made me a better writer. And I can’t wait to learn even more.

Photo credit: Nic McPhee

 

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Writers Write

They do. It’s true. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

I was sitting here trying to figure out what to write about. I wanted to talk about writing and say something that would be worth it. I wanted to say something that would be valuable to you, but I couldn’t think of anything. Actually I did think of something, many somethings, and couldn’t decide which one to start with. I thought about many tips I know have helped me when writing as well as when editing a piece of work, but I couldn’t decide which one tip to talk about.

That’s when I thought about Writers Write and decided to share with you all about it here. It’s a great source for anyone entering this new world of writing or anyone who think they still have a thing or two to learn. And in my opinion, you should always feel like you still have a thing or two to learn. I mean, no one can ever know everything there is to know, not even in one small area. If that were true there would be no scientists or researchers in the world. They would be obsolete.

Anyway, Writers Write not only has tips that are very helpful and explained in a very simple way, but they also have daily prompts that can spark your creativity and help you out if you ever feel like you’re stuck. They also have other things, like quotes and comics and so on.

It’s cool. Go for it. You won’t regret it. Or just don’t click on it; it’s totally up to you.

cropped-writers-write-logo-large1

 

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The Smell of Books

I once got a book from the library that had such a strong smell I couldn’t stand holding it so close to me. It smelled of cigarettes or something. I assumed the person who read it before me was smoking while reading it, and that’s how it got such a smell. It was so strong I couldn’t even read the book, and I had to return it to the library. That was the only book that I ever had a problem with concerning the smell of it. But it did make me wary of library books and I avoid smelling them since then.

Today, however, I couldn’t resist it. I’ve been reading 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami, and I got to a part that says:

“Still sitting on the floor, Aomame closed her eyes. She pressed her nose against the pages of the book, inhaling its smells–the smell of the paper, the smell of the ink. She quietly gave herself up to its flow, listening hard for the sound of Tengo’s heart.” (p.546)

After reading that I brought the book closer to me and inhaled its smells. I had to. Then I pressed the open book against my chest and thought of the hands that had touched it before me. I thought of how many people, upon reading the same paragraph, would have brought the book to their noses to smell it. I thought of how many more will do it in the future. I wondered if the book would carry along a smell of me that will mix with the smell of all its readers. A smell no human can smell, but that only books know about.

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(Book Sniffer by shieldsink)

 

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Got Writer’s Block?

I love to write. I do. Create stories and different characters. But at times I find myself stuck. Sometimes it’s because it’s a complicated scene I’m having a hard time describing in a way I find satisfying. At other times it’s because I feel like my knowledge is not enough and I need to stop to do some research on the subject before I can continue with it.

However, from time to time, as I proceed with a story, I’ll find myself stuck for no reason at all. Or so it seems. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what’s wrong or how to continue, and that’s why I found this map by NY Book Editors very helpful.

Book Editor Map

And of course, sometimes I’m just procrastinating. Sometimes I’m just finding excuses not to write because I think there’s something else I need to do or because I see something shiny. Sometimes I walk to the table to get some paper and a pencil (yes, I write with a mechanical pencil and I have lots of them all over the house, just in case) and then I look out the window and “Look! A squirrel!” And the squirrel is eating and that makes me hungry so I have to find something to eat. But should I eat something sweet or not? Maybe a yogurt. Or cottage cheese. I’ve been eating a lot of cottage cheese later, that thing is addicting. Now I’m thirsty, let me get something to drink. And that’s how my ADD mind works. And now you’re probably both hungry and a little dizzy. You’re welcome.

 

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