I finished book 10, so I suppose I should get around to my book 9 write-up, huh? I must say, I’m really glad I got pretty ahead in January! 1Q84 definitely takes up a lot of time.
So, here’s the problem, and the reason I haven’t gotten this post up sooner: I cannot for the life of me figure out how to write a review of the middle third of a book.
As I mentioned in my previous 1Q84 post, though it looks like a trilogy if you’re not paying attention, it is most definitely one book published as three volumes, presumably to make it seem a little less intimidating, though if a big book is going to intimidate you then you may not be the target audience for this book.
Middles are awkward to begin with. You’ve got middle school (ugh!). Midlife crisis. Middle child. Middle management. Middle-of-the-road. None of these stand out as even remotely good (at best, they’re kind of…middling). Even the middle book of a series usually isn’t the best. I mean, who didn’t want to pry their eyes out with a spork during the Entmoot in The Two Towers? Did anyone else roll their eyes when, in Catching Fire, Katniss and Peeta go to the Hunger Games… again? Or get just a teensy bit fed up with Harry’s whining in Goblet of Fire? Hell, even Jingo, the fourth and middle book in Terry Pratchett’s City Watch subseries (in the Discworld series) is my least favorite of those, though it does have some great moments. (At least, it’s currently the middle. I doubt he has plans to publish more of those, though; Snuff seemed to tie everything up nicely.)
Despite what you learn in middle school, plots look nothing like this:
I mean, why would they? If they did, then once you’ve gotten to the middle, you’d know it was only going to get less exciting from there and you’d probably stop reading, or at least be bored. Really, plots look like this:
So when you’re in the middle of the book, you get neither the potentially deadly tip of the tail nor the super exciting top of the head. You just get a couple of the defensive spikes/plates along the back.
Middles: They’re the worst. Spread the word.
All that being said, volume 2 of 1Q84 was actually very exciting. Things start to take shape. On page 561, I felt that the story actually, really started, for serious this time, and everything I’d read so far was absolutely necessary information for me to understand the story. Over 500 pages of backstory. Brilliantly written, fascinating, awesome backstory, but backstory.
So, despite my professed hatred for middles, volume 2 was better than volume 1. And I can’t wait for volume 3! I’ll be starting that today. I had to take a little time off, otherwise I would have begun to forget what was the real world and what was the book (I have a weird habit of confusing reality with speculative fiction).
I need to share this quote. I loved this quote. I loved it so much I wrote it down at like 2am, despite being almost falling asleep:
“If a certain belief–call it ‘Belief A’– makes the life of that man or this woman appear to be something of deep meaning, then for them Belief A is the truth. If Belief B makes their lives appear to be powerless and puny, then Belief B turns out to be a falsehood. […] It means nothing to them that Belief B might be logical or provable.”
The character who’s speaking is talking about religion, if that’s not obvious, but I can’t help but feel that it applies equally to art and stories. I think, if a story is really, truly loved, it’s because there’s an element of belief there between reader, viewer, listener, or what have you, and story. That story gets at an important emotional truth for its consumer. It’s why, if you’re a Doctor Who fan and you hear the TARDIS, you start looking around, because you just can’t turn off that little thing in your head that says the Doctor is real, because the Doctor would believe absolutely and 100% that you matter, that you are important, and you need that to be true. (I’d apologize for making this post about Doctor Who, but I’m not sorry. It’s my blog and I needed an example.)
Anyway, the problem with middles isn’t necessarily that they’re bad. It’s just that they’re hard to talk about out of context. And I don’t have the context to talk much more about this without just summarizing what happened (boring), so I’ll be back with more about 1Q84 later on.
But first! Book 10! I’ll get Book 10’s post up as soon as I can–hopefully within the next couple of days. I read The Office of Mercy by Ariel Djanikian.
Do you have any examples of stories that hold emotional truth for you? What are they? Share in the comments!