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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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Welcome to Monsters University!

Earlier this week I went to see Monsters University. I have to admit I was pretty excited about seeing this movie but also quite a bit worried about it. It’s just that making a prequel is not the same as making a sequel.

In a sequel, things move forward, so almost any action can be justified, since the future has not been determined. It can be a disaster, and fans can be disappointed, but there’s more freedom in them. In a prequel, things need to move toward an established truth. The characters already exist and act a certain way, and the prequel must show the characters as they were but also be true to who they are now. Prequels don’t leave much room to play with the ending, which usually pleases the fans more than sequels, but it also creates a lot of expectations in fans, and when expectations are not met, things can get complicated.

I was relieved when I saw that MU was not at all what I had expected. It was so much better! I was happy with the choices made for how the characters met and how they were in the past, as much as what led them to choose the path they did later in life and how much college life influenced them later on. I was happy to see that Mike and Sulley were not best friends from the start, and that Randy was so insecure. It showed how little experiences and how you deal with them have a huge influence in who you’ll become.

“Just wait, hot-shot. I’m going to scare circles around you this year.” ~ Mike Wazowski

Oh, and before the movie, as it happens with all Pixar movies, there was a short animation film, The Blue Umbrella, which was adorable! I loved it! Here’s a clip of it. I’ll post the full version when available.

 

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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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The Book Thief

book-thief_custom-5556fa04c9c8b2854fecdce5f096940a892255db-s6-c10The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, is the story of Liesel Meminger, a blonde girl with dark brown eyes, living with a foster family in Germany during World War II. But the most interesting thing is the narrator of the story: Death.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul. (Random House)

It’s just a small story really, about, among other things:

* A girl
* Some words
* An accordionist
* Some fanatical Germans
* A Jewish fist fighter
* And quite a lot of thievery

I saw the book thief three times.

A long time ago my grandmother was reading this book and insisted I read it. At the time I was busy with other things and found excuses not to do so. Then last December I saw the title again and decided to give it a try. But I read about a third of it and had to return the book to the library. At the end of January I got the book again and devoured the last two-thirds of it.

When I was done reading the last page I felt this emptiness inside of me. Do you know what I mean? It was as if I had been in a cave and had suddenly emerged from it. My eyes took their time getting used to the light of day once again. That’s how I felt. I held the book in my hands and just said the last line of the book in my head.

I loved it! And that made me really, really sad.

You see, I love libraries. Love them! I love going to the library and just touching the books on the shelves. I love the ability of reading anything I want without having to worry about money. To be honest, if I could, I’d buy all the books I want to read. But unfortunately I don’t make that much money. And that’s why libraries are so amazing, because they are for everyone, regardless of how much money they make.

But every now and then, when I read a book I truly enjoy, I get sad because I know I have to return the book. It’s not my book to keep. Is this silly? Maybe it is. But it’s okay. At least I have one more book to add to my ever-growing list of books to buy even though I’ve already read them.

If you have a chance, read it. It truly is an unforgettable story.

A few quotes:

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

“If only she could be so oblivious again, to feel such love without knowing it, mistaking it for laughter.”

“I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that’s where they begin. Their great skills is their capacity to escalate.”

“I like that every page in every book can have a gem on it. It’s probably what I love most about writing–that words can be used in a way that’s like a child playing in a sandpit, rearranging things, swapping them around. They’re the best moments in a day of writing — when an image appears that you didn’t know would be there when you started work in the morning.”

“Can a person steal happiness? Or is just another internal, infernal human trick?”

“You cannot look afraid. Read the book. Smile at it. It’s a great book – the greatest book you’ve ever read.”

“I am haunted by humans.”

 

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New Year Wish

I love new years. They are brand new notebooks full of blank pages just waiting for us. And we fill their pages with new stories, new dreams, and new mistakes. Yes, mistakes, lots of them. Because life is not life without some good mistakes along the way.

I remember once looking for quotes on the internet and stumbling into some really great ones written by Neil Gaiman.

Gaiman’s new year wish for 2005 (written in 2001):

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

For 2008 he added:

…I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be,  be wise, and that you will always be kind.

And for 2012 his wish was:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

I guess my New Year Wish for 2013 is very similar to the ones Gaiman made, only with my own twist:

May 2013 be full of magic, dreams, and lots of good madness – because nothing is complete without a touch of good madness in it. May we read great books full of wonderful stories to inspire us. May we make mistakes, lots of them, and may we also make art – any kind of it. May we write, draw, dance, sing, act, paint, create. May we never stop doing something we’re afraid of doing. May we live brand new adventuresMay we learn the magic of dancing in the middle of a supermarket. May we embarrass ourselves and live life to the fullest. And may we never forget to be furiously happy!!

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Amas Veritas

Young Sally: “He will hear my call a mile away. He will whistle my favorite song. He can ride a pony backwards.”

Young Gillian: What are you doing?

Young Sally: Summoning up a true love spell called Amas Veritas. “He can flip pancakes in the air. He’ll be marvelously kind. And his favorite shape will be a star. And he’ll have one green eye and one blue.”

Young Gillian: Thought you never wanted to fall in love.

Young Sally: That’s the point. The guy I dreamed up doesn’t exist. And if he doesn’t exist, I’ll never die of a broken heart.

How many times in our lives do we kid ourselves and avoid going down a certain path thinking we can protect ourselves from getting hurt? And more important, can we? Can we really avoid breaking our hearts? Or are we just breaking them ourselves in the odd chance that someone else would do it?

Life is short. Live it. Jump in head first. Do what scares you the most. No excuses. No regrets.

 

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Monty Python and the Holy Grail – Three Questions

“There’s the old man from scene twenty-four.”

“What’s he doing here?”

Bridgekeeper: Stop. Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.
Sir Lancelot: Ask me the questions, bridgekeeper. I am not afraid.
Bridgekeeper: What… is your name?
Sir Lancelot: My name is Sir Lancelot of Camelot.
Bridgekeeper: What… is your quest?
Sir Lancelot: To seek the Holy Grail.
Bridgekeeper: What… is your favourite colour?
Sir Lancelot: Blue.
Bridgekeeper: Go on. Off you go.
Sir Lancelot: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much.

Sir Robin: That’s easy.
Bridgekeeper: Stop. Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.
Sir Robin: Ask me the questions, bridgekeeper. I’m not afraid.
Bridgekeeper: What… is your name?
Sir Robin: Sir Robin of Camelot.
Bridgekeeper: What… is your quest?
Sir Robin: To seek the Holy Grail.
Bridgekeeper: What… is the capital of Assyria?
[pause]
Sir Robin: I don’t know that.
[he is thrown over the edge into the volcano]
Sir Robin: Auuuuuuuugh.

Bridgekeeper: Stop. What… is your name?
Galahad: Sir Galahad of Camelot.
Bridgekeeper: What… is your quest?
Galahad: I seek the Grail.
Bridgekeeper: What… is your favourite colour?
Galahad: Blue. No, yel…
[he is also thrown over the edge]
Galahad: auuuuuuuugh.

Bridgekeeper: Hee hee heh. Stop. What… is your name?
King Arthur: It is ‘Arthur’, King of the Britons.
Bridgekeeper: What… is your quest?
King Arthur: To seek the Holy Grail.
Bridgekeeper: What… is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
King Arthur: What do you mean? An African or European swallow?
Bridgekeeper: Huh? I… I don’t know that.
[he is thrown over]
Bridgekeeper: Auuuuuuuugh.
Sir Bedevere: How do know so much about swallows?
King Arthur: Well, you have to know these things when you’re a king, you know.

 

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