Friday, November 18, 2011

First get your facts...

"First get your facts; then you can distort them at your leisure." -Mark Twain

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

1Q84 : Haruki Murakami

By Haruki Murakami

When I think about this book, I have this image stuck in my mind.

It's of a hypothetical sculpture/art piece, where there is a fur hide made of intricate caterpillar fuzz on the outside.  And like some caterpillars, it has neon bright yellows, blues and pinks contrasted against a dark felt-like black, where the colors spill out across the fuzz in mesmerizing recursive patterns like those on the most striking butterflies or seashells.  On top of that, the fur hide itself curls in on itself and it has its own hills, valleys, reaches and pulls in 3d space.

It's this piece that compels the viewer to examine and get lost in the details: to leisurely trace the intricate swirls of texture, color and presence.

And the artist's process of creation was done like that: by solely focusing on one detail at a time and then moving on to the adjacent detail.  There was some minimal stepping back and gathering of local perspective, but it was more focused on the creation of these details as a linear journey forward, not really knowing the global plan.

And when all had been said and done, the details were mostly beautiful and the one-step-at-a-time nature of the creation had led to some novel pathways. However, stepping back to take in the whole piece at once, it just did not quite come together.  

The details that worked, to which I am so vaguely and abstractly referring to were:

  • Murakami's writing style - his word choices, sentence structure and the way words just flow forward.
  • Murakami's description of mundane details and their interplay with some very far-out conceits
  • Tone - I suppose it's not surprising that Murakami is a music buff.  He has a way of setting up the environment and the mood and rapidly shifting it to a different emotion with ease.
  • Growth beyond the standard Murakami themes - One of my complaints about Murakami's earlier works was that there were recurring themes between novels.  Some of them are a bit indistinguishable in my mind.  This breaks through that bubble and explores new ground.
What did not work so well
  • Repetition - There were some spots where it felt like a tv show / comic recap moment, where he reminded the reviewer of what a character was feeling and why.  
  • The deep connection between the two central characters - it's obviously ambitious to take on both characters perspectives in a true love story, but it seemed to hinge too much on a single point of contact
  • The delving into the background of the antagonist - actually I'm unsure of whether this worked or not. Certainly, it made you sympathetic to the character in a challenging way, which was intellectually intriguing, but it did not support any additional details that could have added to the connection between the protagonists.

As a note, I ended up reading this in 3 days.  When I get a chance, I'll probably end up picking it up again and flipping through.