Of course my rant last week about spoilers was because of 1Q84.
It’s been a long wait in Italy, with the first two volumes released together in Fall 2011 and the third in Fall 2012. Uncharacteristically, during all this time I refrained from looking for spoilers. So no serious reviews, no wikipedia, no fanart, no flipping the pages of the English translation in bookstores, no nothing. I wanted to try this “surprise” thing everyone is always talking about, and I also it was for solidarity towards Japanese readers, who had had to wait one year for Murakami to write the third volume.
Well let me say it was a mistake (except for the solidarity bit). In order to relieve my curiosity I had to force myself to stop thinking about 1Q84 entirely for one full year, so when the third volume was out I couldn’t remember who was who and who did what exactly. I felt so stupid sitting there in silence while all the information was flowing everywhere and easily available on the web. When I finally could join the crowd again, feel the hype, read reviews and everything, I felt like the twin coming back from space and discovering that the other twin has become older than him. What they don’t tell you about the twin paradox is that traveling alone in space can be stupidly boring, no matter how fast your spaceship is, and when you’re back you feel like an alien.
Anyway, the book was out on Tuesday 16 but I had to wait for the following Saturday to be able to go to an independent bookstore I like (and not the big one in shopping mall where the assistants look at me with contempt because I go there only once a year to spend the company Christmas bonus of 25 Euros and I don’t own their fidelity card so they think I read only one book per year).
So on Saturday I went to fetch my copy of 1Q84 III at last. I read 50 pages before going to bed. I could not sleep well that night. I kept on waking up, for no apparent reason. I thought it was just a coincidence. I read more in morning, a lovely Autumn morning with birds and sweet air and someone somewhere closeby slowly raking leaves. Later while doing chores I started to feel unwell. I though it was for the chores. The house was a mess really. But then the hours passed, I enjoyed some figure skating, Yuzuru Hanyu looked overwhelmed and tired but that was because he had scored an amazing world record less than 24 hours before (in the end he was second at Skate America). I couldn’t cheer up though. I had a cup of tea, started my new supersilent washing machine and read 100 pages more while the cat slept. You can’t feel bad while reading Murakami next to a sleeping cat, it’s impossible. But it did happen, astonishingly. It seems you can indeed feel bad while reading Murakami next to a sleeping cat. Then there was more figure skating. I pressed some laundry. Still I felt nervous, agitated, uneasy. I went out with some friends and friends of friends. One I didn’t know very well said she wanted to eat edamame. I couldn’t bring myself to ask her why. I was also avoiding looking up at the sky, for fear of the moons. We ordered edamame, a lot of edamame. We chatted about how Rupert Everett is ageing (opinions differed), how we are all old enough to remember the endearing curls Colin Firth used to have in Another Country, and how you’re not allowed to go to an onsen or sento if you have a tattoo.
I read another chapter before going to bed, I fell asleep, to be woken up half an hour later by a big mosquito. Fell asleep again, woke up again, mosquito. Fell asleep again, woke up again, mosquito. Killed the mosquito. Slept bad afterwards. Maybe nightmare, not sure. Read another chapter over breakfast. Foggy outside. Not exactly depressed, kind of nervous. Can happen on Monday morning. Went to the office. Read another chapter over lunch. Still nervous. Sunshine, too hot. Wrote code. Thought that I had never never felt like that while reading Murakami, Murakami had always been about inner order and feeling whole, to me.
I read for three hours on Monday night, with the entire Skate America in the background. Details were slowly falling into their place quite satisfyingly, I was starting to see the whole picture, but still everything felt unbalanced and broken. Shutters closed. Fragmented sleep.
I finished 1Q84 in the early morning of Tuesday, it was a romantic ending, very solid. Then it struck me. I had never felt like than reading Murakami, but I had felt like that reading, once. It was back in 1993, when I was studying for a comparative literature exam about fairy tales. I was reading a lot of traditional and authorial fairy tales and I was slowing starting to realize how not only they fit the Propp narrative structures, but how pretty much every narration fits them perftly. At the beginning it was interesting, but at some point it started to feel disturbing, and in the end I was properly scared. I would go to the cinema, see a film, and find Propp’s structures evidently there, and no one seemed to notive. I would read a book, literary fiction or genre or anything, and there it was, Propp’s structure. I started to dream weird dreams. I started to ask people, are you aware that we’ve been telling the same tale all along, since the beginning of humanity? Do you know what the prefix ur- means? Can you see the implications? The exam went stellarly. The professor, a German giant, was retiring after that course, and he seemed satisfied by the impression his work had left on me. All the following year went stellarly, Uni-wise. I became distracted. I started to think about Propp less and less, I decided that it was ok after all that all stories had the same narrative structure, it was ok that people did not know. Ancestral fear was fading.
Well it’s back.
I don’t know what Murakami was trying to do here. Was he doing it consciously? Did he know in the first place? I would really like to discuss it with him. I need to know. Maybe he’s just talking about what he’s learnt about Aum Shinrikyo, maybe he’s just talking about inner order and feeling whole as usual, only this time his voice is so crystal clear that the underlying universal narrative structure can be seen through. I, for myself, couldn’t take my eyes from it the whole time (this completely distracted me from the the plot, so I could as well have read the spoilers, it wouldn’t have made any difference, waiting for the “surprise” was just uselessly stressful).
Now I’m looking at the sky again. We’ve been able to see a nice crescent moon for a few days. I slept with shutters open so that the light could pour upon me. Now it’s cloudy and rainy, as the end of October is supposed to be. Order, and feeling whole.
I don’t care about the Exxon tiger. In the old campaign sometimes is turned left, sometimes right, sometimes it appears to be purring. See, there’s only one moon in the tiger’s sky.