One of the ironies of life is that a writer depends upon critics as much as he or she depends upon readers. Without the critic there is no chatter and a new book lies as neglected as a homework assignment after graduation. Haruki Murakami’s magnum opus, 1Q84 came out in English translation in 2012 and ran into a nasty hive of critics who must have read the novel with their eyes shut. The book hit #2 on the New York Best Seller List, but that wasn’t good enough for some because it didn’t stay there long enough. The general complaint was that the book was an elaborate puzzle. “Trying to say anything definite is like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall.” (“How Murakami’s 1Q84 Became 2011’ Biggest Literary Letdown,” by Allen Barradec, The Atlantic 12/16/11) Another critic adds that, “It used to be customary, in a book of this magnitude, to explain unanswered questions and tie up loose ends. Mr. Murakami clearly rejects such petty obligations…” (“A Tokyo With Two Moons and Many More Puzzles,” by Janet Maslin, “Books of the Times,” Section C I, 11/10/11)
Murakami has his supporters, to be sure, but it must provide little satisfaction when they don’t seem to have read the book carefully. One writes she found it funny that the heroine, a beautiful, young and savvy Japanese assassin, should be drawn to men with large heads and receding hairlines. Sadly, she makes no connection between the heroine’s penchant and the detective with the large head and receding hairline who is tracking her.
Lacking time or space to discuss such a complex book, I’ll just say I enjoyed it and would recommend it. I’d also advise ignoring the book’s detractors because they seemed to have imposed their expectations on the work rather than to have allowed the work to speak for itself, the ultimate hubris. I don’t pretend to have analyzed all the nuances of this latest piece, but I do understand that Murakami is under no obligation to tie up the loose ends. To do so would be to diminish mysteries to which the author, like a Buddhist Monk, can only point. The work is not about solutions. It’s about the puzzle. Those who can’t understand that concept should be obliged to nail countless squares of Jell-O to a wall until they get it.
(Courtesy of npr.org)