Do you know what happens when you write or say something about a weird book, claiming that every reason you love it is rooted in its remarkable weirdness?
Well, since you asked, people start piling a weird amalgamation of weird books on your desk, promising “You’ll love it! It’s so weird! Like, really, really weird!” They start asking you about a series of weird things, wondering if you’ve watched/seen/read any of them and your day turns into a weird spiral of…weird(?) — oh, and I must note, by ‘people’ I mean, Stephan Lee, whom you know rather well.
A week or so ago, mid-Matt and myself raving about Annihilation and Authority (picture: flurried hand gestures, excited voices, compulsive head-nodding) Stephan quietly asked, “Have you read Murakami’s 1Q84?” I’d heard of it, of course, but as he strolled back from his desk, book in hand, all prior “someday when I have time” excuses disappeared. Now was the time.
At first, I was like ‘Whoa! Cool packaging!” and “Hmm, I wonder if this is a play on 1984?” and “Is that two moons on the cover or just one moon, repeated for aesthetic value?” and “Why is her face upside down on the back?”
Then I realized I had roughly 1,000 pages in front of me that needed reading, slammed my head into my keyboard and began.
After a few days indulging in Murakami’s Tokyo/but-not-really-Tokyo, I asked Stephan to share why he found it compelling (other than, “because, weird”) and while he said a lot of smart things, the one I keep thinking about is, “This is an oxymoron, but the absurdity makes sense and the threads come together in the end in a way that’s kind of mind-blowing.”
And it is absurd. Completely, totally, 100-million-percent-parallel-universes-potentially-interacting-absurd, but deliciously and appropriately so. The more bizarre events become, the more they make sense.
It’s worth divulging that Stephan and I, for the most part, do not share similar literary sensibilities — we came at this work from opposing angles. As Stephan says, “I’m not the typical Murakami reader—I’m not a high-concept ‘ideas’ guy when it comes to fiction. I prefer to read about real people and their relationships, stories grounded in the real world and human motivations.” I, however, want to occupy as many other worlds and imaginary spaces as possible. When our female lead, Aomame, exits her cab and her driver bids her farewell by warning that what she is about to do (climb down a staircase) might forever change the nature of reality, I knew I’d found the right book. That moment certainly isn’t what locked Stephan in, but we both ended up in the same (weird) space, loving it.
I’m still in the final third of it (c’mon, it’s complicated) but I’d love you to pick up your own copy and join me.
What should we read next? Something ‘normal’ perhaps? What’s everyone’s favorite beach-read?