Monday, December 26, 2011

Sing tra-la-la and fa la LA

My Christmas day was much better than last year's. Going fishing for a week or so. Stay well.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Women of Cairo

Hang in there sisters.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, other women are agitating in large numbers.

Note the preponderance of fur-trimmed parkas. That's what you get as a pressie for doing some actoring. They don't have Oscars over there, they have what's called The Parkas. Not as exclusive an award but still, it gets results performance-wise.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New obsesssion

Oh, how quickly other worlds are forgotten. Like the real one of Melbourne 2011, or the fictional one of Tokyo 1Q84.

We have watched four episodes and this is going to be my summer obsession. Fuck bbqs and beer, give me Middle Earth and a show that actually hired a language consultant to create a glossary. Well, maybe bbqs and lagers can be accommodated.

David J. Peterson from the Language Creating Society was hired by HBO to develop the Dothraki language – "possessing its own unique sound, extensive vocabulary of more than 1,800 words and complex grammatical structure" – to be used in the series. [from wiki]

There's too much goodness here, so much so that the books are on my Christmas list.

But I don't read fantasy, she says.

Oh, shut up, she says.

It's going to distract you, she says.

From what? she says.

From, you know. Being focused on your own stuff. The business.

Oh shut up.


Am I crazy? I must be, mustn't I?

Thanks Alex for so willingly holding my hand and climbing down the ladder to 1Q84 with me. It was much better with you along for the ride.

While you no doubt recover and immerse yourself in something completely different (ie science stuff?) I have started reading The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell which weighs in at 975 pages and was recommended to me by a blogger (squib or bookmoth?) a couple of years ago.

It's about a Nazi SS oberstumphenfuhrer (or something) and I figure, why the hell not?

I'll let you know how I go.

What plans for Christmas?

Oh and we have started watching Game of Thrones. HBO. Animal skins draped across shoulders and a kick-ass young tomboy who doesn't want to grow up and marry a Lord and run his castle.

Aren't tv and books simply delicious? (A word I picked up from Jude Law on his 'bromance' with Robert Downey Jnr: "Don't call it a bromance, it belittles it. It's so much more than that.")

Monday, December 19, 2011

Links to 1Q84 articles and reviews, seems it was a flop?

This is an article from The Atlantic, talking about the book, calling it 2011's 'biggest literary letdown.'

This is a kinder one from The Guardian. This mentions too the way he writes sex scenes about as dispassionately (or passionately?) as the way he writes about food preparation. It also hits the nail on the head when it describes the scene in the playground when Aomame and Tengo reunite as moving. I agree.

New York Times. Scathing.

Washington Post - positive. The writer says that a reader will be glad to have all three volumes in one hardbound book because that's all you'll want to do, read it, until the end. Oh yes.

The Independent. Mixed'ish.

But perhaps the best paragraph is from the review above, in The Independent:

Murakami really does stand alone, as much a "foreign element" as his heroes: a sport, an outlier, sui generis, inimitable, if often imitated. Which other author can remind you simultaneously of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and JK Rowling, not merely within the same chapter but on the same page? Viewed through the "postmodern" lens, his exemplary blend of a light touch and weighty themes, of high literature and popular entertainment, ticks every box. Posh and pop, sublimity and superficiality, history and fantasy, trash and transcendence: they switch positions and then fuse as the metaphysical speculations of an Ivan Karamazov meet the death-defying adventures of a Harry Potter.


I wonder if the reviewers who bag it just can't let themselves enjoy a book that has Little People that come out of a dead goat's mouth, two moons and time slippage. Is it beneath them? Not 'serious' enough? I wonder if they like surreal art or is that ridiculous and silly? I wonder if reviewers are divided into those who bag and those who don't. Is it a case of desire for rigor smothering any possible positives? Who cares.

A couple have mentioned the Stieg Larsson Millennium series (the Girl and Dragon Tattoo or whatever) I also at times thought of that, but this book is so, so much better. I read the three Elisbeth Salander books, the first was readable, but books 2 and 3 were tedious and so forgettable. Nothing about 1Q84 will be forgettable I don't think (apart from the the details of daily stuff like cooking, brushing teeth, dealing with hair, and the sex scenes.)

Part 3 1Q84

I think it was Iris Murdoch who said 'never explain yourself' [in writing.] It's a credo I love and try to adhere to in my own writing. As a reader I don't want everything laid out across the page, I don't want my brain to be told how to imagine things, how to visualise things. Too much detail from the author interferes with my imaginings, and I like to think that reader can become complicit in the creation of worlds and characters when there are gaps for them to step into.

1Q84 has so many unanswered questions even at the end but towards the end it's noted that there are always more questions than answers. I can accept this, I can handle it, I desire it in a way because when things are left unfinished, in a novel, then it's not over. I can keep thinking about it and somehow remain in the story even after I've read the last page. This is a fabulous byproduct of reading for me, and I've only just now been able to articulate it. Thank you Haruki Murakami for showing me this.


Notes on Part 3.

Page 598 the reference to A. being eleven years old when she cut ties with her family. I thought before it was 10.

Page 599 Henchmen Buzzcut and Ponytail, something is wrong with Ponytail, he never speaks in the whole book, there are a couple of significant moments when he moves suddenly but incompletely and ambivalently. Is he a dohta?

Buzzcut says he can't remember much about A's face. Echoes bit before about the Little People with their undistinguishing features, their faces, hair and clothes that when you look away, you can't remember what they look like.

This first chapter of Part 3 is from Ushikawa's point of view.

Page 597 Ushikawa's fingers, ten, resting on the desk 'as if they were some curious object' then on Page 602 'He looked surprised to discover that these fingers were his.'

At this point I wondered whether Murakami was deliberately repeating things like this to create a sense of deja vue for the readers? Alex, you asked me whether you'd read a moon passage before one appeared in the book and I didn't think so. Maybe you had. You had the feeling you'd read it before. Was this a mechanism of manipulation of the author? Am I reading too much into this? [More about this later, this tendency to 'overthink.']

Page 631 Misspelling of two storey (as two-story). Why? Is this American spelling? Yes, just checked. It is.

Page 678 A asks for pregnancy test. Hasn't been with a man since June but period is 3 weeks late. Night at Hotel Okura when she killed Leader she was most fertile. The night she killed Leader was the night Tengo 'ejaculated' into Fuka-Eri.

- significance of Tamaru being gay?

Fuka-Eri is A's dohta and somehow Tengo has impregnated A?

Page 695 Ushikawa's appearance is described again. Is he the child from the sanitorium that Tamaru helped?

Page 698 Vice Principal at Tengo's and A's old school tells Ushikawa that A was taken in by relatives in Adachi Warn in Tokyo. Adachi is the name of the one of the nurses Tengo meets in cat town.

Page 701 Ushikawa from a wealthy family

Page 704 Why was A in a regular school when her parents were such religious nuts?

Page 714 Idea of going UP the stairway, logical, to get back to 1984

Page 715 So much happening. The bogus NHK person knocking on doors, Tamaru revealing he got a woman pregnant once and his child would be 17 now. A is pregnant, immaculate conception.

* look up Janacek's Sinfonettia, the version I listened to on youtube was 7 mins long but in the taxi at the beginning onf the book and while A is working out, it is much longer. Wiki tells me typical performance runs for 20 - 25 mins. Hmmm.

Page 723 Tengo leaves the town of cats to train back to Tokyo. Sleep and makes awful smell in his mouth, he chews gum, this happened to A earlier and she used mints. Later Ushikawa also has rotten smell in mouth. And Little People come out once he's dead; is it a sign of Little People inhabitation?

Page 727 "when he had polished off the beer" - so idiomatic, Aussie.

Chapter 13, Ushikawa chapters are intrustive? I just want Tengo and Aomame.

Page 731 - 732 Reference to Ushikawa having no photo of Aomame other than class picture which depicts her face as 'tiny and somehow unnatural-looking, like a mask.'

Ch 16 page 763 Ushikawa - 3rd time mentioning 'start from scratch' (previously he was cold in the sleeping bag, now with surveillance. Why the repeats?)

Page 764 Ushikawa used to be a lawyer

Page 767 Maza = mother, dohta = daughter? A person splits?

My idea - Aomame has been used by the dowager, her daughter didn't die, or not in the way described, her child survived? Somehow connected to Tengo or Aomame?*

Page 768 Fuka-Eri - "strangely depthless eyes"

Page 769 Fuka-Eri looking at electricity pole. Twice. Then later Tengo does as well. Never explained, love it.

Page 772 - 73 NHK collector at Ushikawa's door. (Death knocking?**) "I never give up until I get what is coming to me. I never waver from that. It's like the phases of the moon, or life and death. There is no escape."

Page 771 turns on space heater
Page 773 Ushikawa turns on the space heater

Page 780 Ushikawa is "dwarfish"

Page 780 U in park, watching Tengo. A goes to the phone, misses seeing T but catches glimpse of U. U stayed in the park "checking on something he needed to make sure of" (this is never explained or referred to again.)

Page 888 Tamaru telling Tengo to meet A at the slide. Message to keep both hands free.

OMG the ladder!!

Late in the book, lots of references to Tengo's hair. Mention of cowlicks and tangles, never before has it been mentioned or highlighted in this way.

Page 896 A: There's the moon.

Is A the smaller moon (her name means green pea, and the small moon is green and rounded but not perfectly shaped. A green pea is well-shaped?)

What does Tengo mean in Japanese? Had a look, can't really find.

Page 899-900 Buzzcut talking to his 'superior' who is asking questions in italics not direct speech. Unclear who/where the superior is.

Page 902 Shrine maidens - the 'voice' is still audible or there was a final message before the Leader was killed?

Page 907 A's 'small pink ears', what about her deformed ear?

Page 914 "closer to a ladder than a stairway. It was shabbier and more rickety than she remembered."

Page 918 Metropolitan Expressway 3 - traffic described as 'bumper to bumper' then on the next page 'they watched the leisurely flow of the traffic before them.'


Page 923 A's tears are described as falling to the sheets like rain. Blech.


I am glad the ending was happy and it was right at the end, when Tengo and Aomame were reunited that I felt something for these two characters, and was wanting them to be together, get up the ladder and be safe.

There are so many layers in this book, and seemingly lots of red herrings (for want of a better term, I prefer to think of them now as Idea Starters rather than tricks or traps). I think a person could read this book as a fantasy, read it as a thriller, or read it as a piece of literary fiction looking for all the themes and symbols. My mind was going off in all directions, much like Tengo's at the end, when he started to overthink and doubt and suspect and worry that something would go wrong. But Aomame doesn't waver in the same way. She is very simple and clear, whereas he is more complex in his thinking.Can see all the possibilities.

I have a list of 'reasons why I think this is an incredible book'

- the beldn of literary imagery with popular fiction style

- the existence of the ladder, the slide and the two moons. I can see them all, and they seem so archetypal in some way.

- people disappearing mysteriously and we never find out what happened to them (Tsubasa, Tengo's girlfriend) likewise Tengo never finds out what happened to his mother (but the reader does.) This is what happens in life; nobody ever has all of the pieces of the puzzle.

- all the references including the bit about Jung's theory of the collective unconscious. I had wondered about that. Also the bit about his stone house that he built and the inscription of 'Cold or Not, God is Present.' Also unexplained, but with more than one possible meaning.

- Chekhov's gun and how if there is a gun it has to be fired. Didn't happen and the characters are aware that Chekhov's 'rule' is broken. So if thisliterary rule is broken, what other literary rules have been broken?

- the nicknames - Bobblehead, Buzzcut and Ponytail. I love people who make up names for people because I do it. Don't we all do it?

- the amazing consistency, where scenes are filled with fixed objects that become like characters, eg the playground. We have the slide, the locked public toilet block, the mercury-vapor lamp and the zelkova tree.

- the fabulous slips into surrealism, eg Bobblehead's mossy tongue

- the page numbers are mirrored images, flipped and inverted and running to a pattern (Alex you may not have this on your version?)

- the coincidences and near misses, slips of time. The confusion with continuity at times, when visits to the park are shown from three different points of view in three (or more) different chapters. I'm wondering whether this is another broken literary convention or rule: don't confuse the reader with continuity problems, keep things as linear as possible or if not, make it work within the world, time sequencing.

- the fairytale qualities, Six Little People come out of Ushikawa's death mouth like dwarves returned from the mines. But they are clean and their clothes are clean.

- the mention of Tengo and A leaving 'the forest'


So why do I think this is a masterpiece when there are flaws and inconsistencies?

I can't compare really because I haven't read anything else of his, but I suspect he is a precise and knowing writer of literary fiction. I think it's all quite deliberate, how he has done this book, and it's possibly the greatest cross-over novel of all time, one where the possible audience-capture is so vast that anyone could find something in it, and find it not too hard to read. The only thing is the size of it, not many people will commit to reading such a big book. I wonder whether it was in three volumes originally, and published over time?

To google.

* this is an example of the elaborate scenarios I made up to fill in the gaps. This is reader as most active, as part of the equation of conveying the story.

** later one of the nurses tells Tengo that his father wasn't completely in a coma, that he was tapping the side of the bed. She demonstrates, and Tengo says it's a knocking not tapping a code. Was it Tengo's father who managed to knock on the three doors asking for payment? Ushikawa kept an eye out for the NHK collector to leave the building, but no one ever did. Again, unexplained but marvellous.

1Q84 - part 2 finish

Just some notes from Part 2:

page 542, it's an A chapter, she is reading Air Chrysalis

there is a boy, Toru, befriended by a girl from The Gathering. Toru is small and skinny with a face like a monkey (his face has several deep wrinkles.) Curved backbone etc. Sent to a Sanitorium and is 'irretrievably lost.'

(These were the words used by Tengo's older gf's husband.)

Then Tamaru's story (heard earlier, of his upbringing in orphanage in Hokkaido? Or Sakhalin? there was a boy he helped to look after when he was young.)

p552 rubber plant and goldfish. Contradictions on this page and continuity issues with the order of seeing the goldfish at the Dowager's house and A getting her rubber plant. Editing OR story turning in on itself?

page 553 movie references eg Fantastic Voyage, blend of Western and Japanese popular culture references.

OMG moment # 3

p554 She sees man in playground.

p555 Nikon binoculars in flat, why have they been included in the stocking up of the hide out? Why would you have binoculars? For this moment? Also another thought (on branding of items in the book) many brands are used in original form, eg Esso, Nikon etc but the cigarettes are called Seven Stars. Maybe they exist but when I was in Japan I smoked Mild Seven. Will google later.

[There is a movie called Spirited Away. It's about a girl whose parents go on holiday and they stop for food on the way and the place they stop is weird and her parents disappear and she goes looking for them and it's the most incredible other world she finds. I kept seeing images from this movie while I was reading this book.]

p558 look up zelkova tree - significant? Several mentions.

p562 cat town (where Tengo's father is) - lots of cat references, Fuka-Eri called it going to cat town (having sex?) Tengo imagines A hiding away like an injured cat.

Receivers and perceivers match up?

Murakami's story is so restrained in some parts writing-wise, yet loose in others (where cliches and overwriting creeps in.) How can a writer so clean and aesthetic in parts be indulgent and sparse in equal measures? Is he writing for himself or for clearly defined audiences, trying to keep everyone happy?

Ch 23 p567 A "applied a barely perceptible touch of lipstick" this is unoriginal writing but possibly highly original writing would detract from the story?

p568 she's going back to the ladder?

p573 what does QED mean?

p575 gun - Chekhov, she 'started to squeeze the trigger'

* I am not moved by any of the characters or events, there's no deep emotion other than 'wow' or 'omg' thrill moments, but nothing where I am connected to the characters.

I like to live an emotional life and it's all about relationships and relating for me. So I revise my statement that this is one of the best books I've read. I will say it's one of the greatest, though. It's a tour de force, a masterpiece but it's not really touching me.

All the real world refs, Nikon binoculars, movies, stations, cities, areas, brand names create a very real world to make it more of a contrast for the magical realism (?) to take place.

Part 3 next, but I have finished the book. I'm preparing to revise some of my revisions and can't wait to google around to see what others have made of the book. I also want to read more of his oeuvre.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

1Q84 discussion part 2

Okay, I'm not yet at the end of Part 2, I'm up to the beginning of Chapter 14 in the middle section but I have some notes to start us off with.

Page 328 - Tengo's girlfriend is obsessed with his balls. Always cupping, massaging his testicles.

Tengo is writing the story of Aomame. Disappearance of Fuka-Eri doesn't register in Aomame's world, also the novel Air Chrysalis about the Little People. Wouldn't it catch her (Aomame's) attention? [Later, it is referenced. I've just finished an Aomame chapter where she has had an extended conversation with a man she's been sent to kill; the leader of the cult. He talks about the Little People, talks about reality shifts and time shifts and I found it hard to follow.]

I've also got a note about Aomame's face, that there was a reference very early on about there being possibly something wrong with it, that she has to keep the expression neutral otherwise it will become frightening to people if they see it. I remember now this was an early hint (for me) that there was something strange about her, more strange perhaps than what has been revealed thus far about her character, history, thought processes.

I'm trying to find the description of her face and I'm re-reading the opening pages where she's in the taxi. I'm also listening to Janacek's Sinfonettia. Several things which I half noticed when first reading are now seeming more suggestive:

1. Aomame has no idea how she recognises the piece of music - Sinfonettia. While the text tells us she loves history as much as she loves sports, and that she doesn't read fiction, it's clear she knows about the Czech composer and his piece of music that is playing in the cab. As she listens to the music, she thinks

Why, though, Aomame wondered, had she instantly recognized the piece to be Janacek's Sinfonettia? And how did she know it had been composed in 1926? She was not a classical music fan, and she had no personal recollections involving Janacek, yet the moment she heard the opening bars, all her knowledge of the piece came to her by reflex, like a flock of birds sweeping through an open window. The music gave her an odd, wrenching kind of feeling. There was no pain or unpleasantness involved, just a sensation that all the elements of her body were being physically wrung out.

The mention above of no personal recollections makes me wonder whether there is some kind of collective memory at work here? Or has she begun her shift to another version of herself?

2. The taxi is described as no ordinary cab and there is no visible identity papers/card for the driver. When she asks him about the traffic jam, when she asks him how he knows it's an accident without listening to a traffic report, he says

You can't trust them... They're half lies The Expressway Corporationg only releases reports that suit its agenda. If you really want to know what's happening here and now, you've got to use your own eyes and your own judgment.

Shades of Big Brother here?

Then when she gets out of the car to go to the ladder, he says

... remember: things are not what they seem.


I've found the description of her face

A detailed examination of her face from the front would reveal that the size and shape of her ears were significantly different, the left one much bigger and malformed. No one ever noticed this, however, because her hair nearly always covered her ears. Her lips formed a tight straight line, suggesting that she was not easily approachable. Also contributing to this impression were her small, narrow nose, somewhat protruding cheekbones, broad forehead, and long, straight eyebrows. All of these were arranged to sit in a pleasing shape, however, and while tastes differ, few would object to calling her a beautiful woman. The one problem with her face was its extreme paucity of expression. Her firmly closed lips only formed a smile when absolutely necessary. Her eyes had the cool, vigilant stare of a superior deck officer. Thanks to these features, no one ever had a vivid impression of her face. She attracted attention not so much because of the qualities of her features but rather because of the naturalness and grace with which her expression moved. In that sense, Aomame resembled an insect skilled at biological mimicry. What she most wanted was to blend in with her background by changing colour and shape, to remain inconspicuous and not easily remembered. This was how she had protected herself since childhood.

Whenever something caused her to frown or grimace, however, her features underwent dramatic changes. The muscles of her face tightened, pulling in several directions at once and emphasizing the lack of symmetry in the overall structure. Deep wrinkles formed in her skin, her eyes suddenly drew inward, her nose and mouth became violently distorted, her jaw twisted to the side, and her lips curled back, exposing Aomame's large white teeth. Instantly she became a wholly different person, as if a cord had broken, dropping the mask that normally covered her face. The shocking transformation terrified anyone who saw it, so she was careful never to frown in the presence of a stranger. She would contort her face only when she was alone or when she was threatening a man who displeased her.

This frightening distortion of her face is intriguing, and since this passage on page 11 of my copy, there has been no further mention. Nor of her deformed ear, something else that is interesting. Will it become significant? In a book where so many other things are repetitively stated, Tengo's size and strength, Fuka-Eri's idiosyncrative speech patterns, the German Shepherd's penchant for raw spinach, the job of Tengo's father, all seemingly innocuous, why are these two things to do with Amomame's appearance mentioned once and once only?

I love it.


Page 331

There is a description of a business card. In Japan, business cards have surnames first and then given names but in this instance it's the other way round. Murakami would not make such a mistake? Was it in translation? Or deliberate? Sloppy?


Page 333

Creepy artistic grants worker Ushikawa tells Tengo that time and freedom are the most important things a person can buy with money. This is true for a writer, but is it true for other people?

Ushikawa visits the cram school, he's described like a shambolic type of Columbo character. I expected him to be a detective and was delighted when he was unexpectedly revealed to be a grants officer. Loved the unpredictability of this.

Friday, December 16, 2011

1Q84 discussion number 1 SPOILER ALERT

Anybody who would like to discuss, please join. We will be talking about the book so if you want to read it and don't want to find out stuff, then don't be a dickhead and read these posts?

I'm up to Chapter 12, Part 2 page 451. Alex has finished Part One (and since commenting has maybe steamed ahead.) So for the discussion below, let's focus to the end of Part 1, to page 309 in the copy from Readings.


I've got a collection of scrippy scrappy bits of notes I've made over the time I've been reading this. I don't usually make notes when I read books unless it's something useful for me as a writer and which helps me in my process in some way. Recently a writerly friend said she is always a reader first when she reads, but I think I'm sometimes a writer, especially if what I'm reading is flawed enough to jerk me out of the story. This is probably the major problem with published writing, books that I've paid money for. My message to authors: don't jerk me out of the writing. 'Don't be a jerk like that,' I say. And then they probably say 'but I didn't mean to,' and 'nobody else said it jerked them out of the text, so maybe you're the fucking jerk.' And then I don't say anything back, because maybe they are right.



Yesterday I was at my old work 's farewell for me and another two people. And after we'd had the speeches, after I'd made my pretty awesome speech, and we'd had little cakes and cut up fruit, mini mince pies and cups of tea, I was in a huddle with some readers and I said that I thought 1Q84 was one of the best books I'd ever read.

I do have to qualify this of course. I have to break it down, because as I intimated above, what is great for me might not be for others, and vice versa. Of course, this is how the world works. And I also have to qualify it by saying that my adult reading teeth were cut on books like Dick Francis's horse books and Robert Ludlum's action man, high-octane thrillers.


The first thing I wrote in my notes about this book was:

There's something lovely about the word 'Air' when used in the title of the book, as in Air Chrysalis.

I don't quite know why I wrote this, but I did. I still believe it though, it fascinates me.

I've also got written:

Lacked editing? couple of repeats of information as 'new to reader' eg Tengo's father's job of NHK subscription collector.

I also noticed all the references to the female characters' breasts - large or small. I'm wondering whether this will become relevant later, like the NHK subscription collector but I wonder. I wonder what that's about.

The thing though that grabbed me right from the outset, in the first few pages, was Aomame getting out of a taxi in gridlocked traffic and climbing down a ladder off the side of the freeway to the road below. Something happened time-wise or dimension-wise during that climb down, and while it was hinted at by her noticing anomalies in a police officer's uniform and gun, and while it's also been suggested by later references to two moons in the sky (something else that intrigues me in a really primal way: moons and air, love it) it hasn't been disclosed in any greater detail up until where I've read now. And there haven't been too many more hints (that I could see, Alex?) so I love that light touch. There's no Ludlum here.

Once Aomame climbed down that ladder, and got onto the street and to her appointment (where she murdered a man, a bad man) I knew this wouldn't be one of the books that I would put down mid-way and pick up something else to read in tandem. I knew I would be living and breathing this book from those first pages until the end, unless something major happened to stop me (ie the arrival of aliens in the mid-section or something like that, could still happen folks.)


On page 200 of my copy, we are told:

' "This is the end," Fuka-Eri informed him in a whisper. Time stopped, and the world ended. The earth ground slowly to a halt, and all sound and light vanished. '

It's biblical in its pronouncements, yet simple writing. I thought it was a good description of how the world would or could end, not with a bang but a whimper, like a merry-go round slowing down to a stop and all the carnival lights going out. I like this imagery, the idea of the world (which does spin) slowing down, grinding to a halt. There'd be sound as well, a kind of groaning and possibly some squealing brake noises.

On page 215 the idea is introduced that humans are just 'carriers' for genes and that genes are knowing a ruthless. "They don't care whether we are happy or unhappy. We're just a means to an end for them."

This is the type of thinking that I love. I had never thought something like this before but in an instant I saw the truth, or possible truth, in it. I once knew a guy, he was a close friend, and he would say things like this. For me, it was amazing knowing him, because every conversation was filled with pearls like the one above. I wish I still knew him; his brain and his type of thinking were both massive and rich and he's the only person in the world I've known who has such a different way of looking at absolutely everything.

On page 223 we are told that Bun the German Shepherd (and this is again, the second or even third time) "For some reason, she liked to eat raw spinach." Like a reminder BUT as if it's the first mention. Again, I don't know whether this is sloppy editing, sloppy writing or deliberate. Is the ms too big for the author to manage? Is it that the author knew it would be a big book to read and so the reader would need little reminders? But why innocuous things like this? I don't know.


Page 249 when Little People come out of Tsubasa's mouth while she's asleep.

Up until now there have been references to the Little People, a few mentions, but it's been entirely possible until now that the Little People are just figments of deranged brains, or fictional characters in the book Air Chrysalis, which has been dictated by a strange possibly damaged 17-year-old girl Fuka-Eri (who has beautiful large breasts we are told, repeatedly, from the narrative of Tengo the writer.)

Now I've got a note: too many references to female characters' breasts. Aomame's = small ones, Fuka-Eri's = big ones. Every chapter these characters are in, there is guaranteed mention of their breasts.

Page 260 - 261

I've written 'Tengo is reading Chekhov's Sakhalin aloud to Fuka-Eri in the middle of the night. She becomes fascinated by the Gilyaks = the indigenous people Chekhov wrote about, the first time on p260 her speech is written with a question mark (before this, it had been noted by Tengo that her speech was peculiar and flat, short sentences spoken without question marks. Again, this repetition I noticed and it bothered me and could have jerked me out but because everything else was so gripping, I let go). Then on page 261 we have exclamation marks from Fuka-Eri - 'The poor Gilyaks!' [she] said. 'The wonderful Gilyaks!' She feels compassion for these people, I am entranced by the side story of how they would travel their land ignoring roads that had been laid down, walking parallel to the roads through difficult treed terrain.

Chekhov and his Gilyaks come into the story again later, and it makes me wonder about this and other types of criss-crossing between the two main narratives. (A bit about the structure of the book. Each character gets a chapter and a point of view. Tengo is one, and Aomame is the other. We get one chapter from him, from his POV and then one chapter from her and her POV. The book started with Aomame in the taxi. I have read the book without stopping mid-chapter, something has made me want to keep regular in my reading but also, I just can't stop reading mid chapter because the story is carrying me along in a way I haven't been carried before (shades of Ludlum in this.) Also, the way Murakami end chapters, he will stop mid-scene and not adhere to the [conventional?] narrative arc where each chapter should have its own natural rise and fall, beginning middle and end. I have to say this is also shades of Ludlum? Or at least it's a device to keep us reading because you know that in between Aomame preparing to kill someone, at the point of, if the chapter ends, you will have a chapter of Tengo, and then go back to Aomame, and no time has passed at all, there is no cheating, no time skips when there's a seminal scene. I like this reliability and it's working for me.]

Back to the notes:

Page 277 Flat, unemotional way of writing about sex. 'Fully enjoying the hardness of his penis and the softness of his testicles.' This is about Tengo's older married lover and her enjoyment of his genitals. This type of writing about sex in fiction suits me. Generally, I don't like it when sex is described in novels, I'd rather for some reason to not even go there. I think because it's so hard to write a 'good' sex scene (and really, what is a good sex scene?) but also because it's usually a licentious inclusion only, it's to titillate and to arouse (perhaps) and unless the book itself is about sexual pleasure (ie Lady Chatterley's Lover) why bother? What's the point? (to be said in Reg's voice from Life of Brian, when he wonders why Stan would bother with wanting to have the right to have a womb.)

For me, sex in literature should not be arousing, it should not move you, it should be flat and clinical because it's the most primal of activities and it's only modern life that has attached romance and softness to it. For me, it's perverse to have sex in books, it can be too intrusive to the story. If I want sex, I'll get porn. I don't want it in my books.

OMG Moment # 2

p 306, just before the end of Part 1.

Tengo is telling his married girlfriend about the story he's writing. (Before this, he has rewritten Fuka-Eri's Air Chrysalis and is now energised and working on his own novel. Up to now, we have heard nothing about his project.) He says it's about a different world. How can you tell it's different, the older married gf asks. 'There are two moons,' he says.

Because by now the reader knows that Aomame has seen two moons in her sky, you think ohmyfuckinggod, all the Aomame chapters are his story? There are other pieces of connective tissue between her and his narrative. They knew each other in primary school (you slowly realise this); they each think of the other now they are adults, in fact Aomame loves him and he is the only one she loves, even though she hasn't seen him since she was ten years old.


This is to the end of Part 1.

Other thoughts. So far we have several disappearances. Fuka-Eri disappears (she is 17) but she has also left her family (who were caught up in a cult) when she was ten. Aomame's parents were in a cult, and she left them when she was ten. Then there is Tsubasa, ten years old, who has left her cult family) and was residing with the old lady (dowager) who employs Aomame (about 30 yo) to kill bad men (men who have beaten, tortured their wives etc. The dowager runs a women's shelter.) By the end of Part 1 I think, Tsubasa has also disappeared, or maybe not yet.

Alex? Anyone else?

What is your response to Part 1?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Read it with me?

I'm up to page 240.

I'm wondering if this book could be the foundation of about a zillion posts I could make, consecutively over the next x amount of time.

Anyone else reading it? If not, do ya wanna? Would love to hold someone's hand along the way.

But if I am to trek solo, I want to share bits and pieces of this mammoth tome. For I am loving it so and want to shout about it from the mountain tops.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

1.About to take Princess to TopShop.

Wish me luck, oh people of Melbourne.

2. And then I'm going for 'lemons' with some bloggers.

3. And then I'm going to a partay tonight.

When really, all I want to do is the middle option.

Is it just me but as soon as the clock ticks from midnight on 30 Nov to one past midnight on 1 Dec things just go mental. Birthdays, catch ups, Christmas things you have to think about. When all I really want to do is number 2 above and read my books. And potter in a writerly way.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Because it's my birthday

You get two posts for one.

There are many reasons why I'm happy my daughter loves Adele, rather than say Beyonce or Lady Gaga. This video demonstrates all of those reasons.

Beautiful song.

Thursday, December 01, 2011


There's more to hate about it than like, don't you think?

I hate having to ask for it.

I don't really care about not having it.

I don't understand why some people love it more than anything else.

At the moment, I feel I'm poised in quite a precarious situation, like the position the Karate Kid held just at the end when he was about to make his amazing kick. Up on tip toes, on one leg, hands doing something fairly elaborate. Yet I'm sleeping at night and I'm not depressed or worried or anxious.

Requests to the universe (you never know, it might help):

1. please, no more heavy downpours until we get the roof fixed in St Kilda

2. please, assist Ali with his business in the UK so he can send me $$$ for what needs to be paid for here

3. please, let just the perfect amount of schools in Melbourne think the new business is one they absolutely have to work with

That's it, not very much is it?