I’m feeling conflicted about how I’m categorizing 1Q84 for this project.
When I started reading it, I was not yet entirely sure what I was getting myself into. Mostly, I was unsure whether I was about to start reading one book or three books. See, it comes in this fancy little three volume boxed set, and prior to starting it, I had heard it referred to as both a book and a series. The word “volume” made me think single book, but then I remembered that I’ve definitely read or heard of other series that referred to each book as a volume, particularly comic books/graphic novels, particularly magna. (Of course, I could be mixing this up a bit, since I’m not really familiar with magna, but I seem to remember seeing “volume 1” on the sides of them in the comic book store instead of “book 1.”) So basically, that thought process led me to figure that the words “book” and “volume” in the way I’m using them here might be translated from the same word or something, and it’s a series. But then I thought, Wouldn’t each book at least have its own title? Like, each book in the Lord of the Rings series has its own title. Same with literally any other series. But of course, while that’s almost always true with books, it’s not with everything–Iron Man 1, 2, and 3 are all individual, stand-alone movies that happen to work well in a series. Maybe it’s like that.
Well, now that I’ve finished volume 1, I can definitively tell you: It’s not like that. Volume 2 doesn’t even start on page 1; it picks up right at page 391. Which means I’m definitely cheating by counting it as its own book.
Now, if this were like the Hunger Games series, and I read the entire three “books” in one weekend, I wouldn’t cheat. I’d suck it up and call it one book, because that’s what it is. But given that volume 1 took me two weeks to read–I finished it on Thursday–I’m going to go with an “It’s not really cheating since I made the rules to begin with” cop-out here. Volume 2 is slightly shorter; volume 3 is slightly longer. Even counting each as an individual book, I’m glad I have a few YA books on my to read list so I can catch up after finishing 1Q84.
So now, I’m at this awkward place where I’d love to write a review of 1Q84 volume 1, but how does one write a review of the first third of a book? I’m still not even sure what’s happening!
Here’s what I’ll tell you. I’m really, really enjoying 1Q84. It’s fascinating, and that’s why it’s taking me so long. I’ve read so many books in my life that, as soon as I pick them up, I am unable to put them down, and I fly through them and love every second. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There is also absolutely nothing wrong with how 1Q84 is working for me, which is the complete opposite–I am unable to not put it down. It’s completely messing with my reading habits. For example, usually, I will read on my lunch break. I’ll heat up my food or go get my food and spend the rest of the break reading and eating. Now, though, I heat up or go get my food, sit down with it, start eating, read a few pages, and spend the rest of the break staring into space thinking. This happens almost any time I pick it up when I’m not about to go to bed. I read a little bit, then I stop and think and process and wonder. I’m thinking about the book, about what’s happening and what’s going to happen and how everything is going to end up being connected. I’m looking at the real world, thinking about this book as a mirror of the real world, wondering how accurate it is, wondering how I would behave in the same situations as the characters. I’m sitting on my couch imagining what it would be like to look in the sky and see two moons.
I’m also thinking a lot about culture and cultural differences. It’s hard to place exactly what in the book that I’m seeing as different is a difference in culture and what is just a difference in writer, translator, or character. For example, the language in 1Q84 is incredibly precise. This was the first thing I noticed when I started reading it. Is that the author’s style? Or the translator’s? Or is Japanese just a much more precise language than English, and that carries over in the translation? Then, I’ve noticed that both of the main characters seem much more aware of their flaws and willing to discuss them openly and matter-of-factly with others than most people I know. If it were just one of them, I would think, oh, that’s just something this character does. But since it’s both, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a cultural difference that I’m not aware of, or, again, whether it’s the author.
So far, I am completely in love with this book. It is so different from anything I have ever read before. I’m completely wrapped up in its world, and I’m glad there’s a lot more to go–though I am slightly worried that, by the end, I’ll be unable to distinguish reality from 1Q84.
And now, Book 8 of the 50 Book Project will be….
…I don’t actually know. I mean, obviously I’ve already picked up Volume 2 of 1Q84 and I’m working my way through that, but I also have to read The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers for my book club meeting at the beginning of March, which means I’m going to be reading two books simultaneously. I don’t know which I’ll finish first, so I don’t know what my next post will be.