Remember how peculiarly thrilling it was watching the first season of Twin Peaks? Early on, it seemed almost too good to be true, didn't it? Remember how, as the suspense mounted and expectations grew, folks speculated how David Lynch would tie it all together? Remember how disappointing it was when that didn't happen?
Reading Huraki Murakami's much-anticipated 1Q84 was a similar experience. The first few hundred pages pulled me in, and I was initially absorbed in the parallel narratives converging over the course of the book. But as the stories of Aomame and Tengo draw closer together, the mystery unravelled more than it resolved. There was plenty of violence, sex, and intrigue to go around, but, by book's end, they felt like distractions from the fact that the author couldn't effectively pull off his elaborate conceit. Sound familiar?
Part of the problem was that Murakami put too much emphasis on a book-within-the-book—all the major characters were somehow connected to it—and when we finally got details about the novel, Air Chrysalis, the results were underwhelming to say the least. Nearly 800 pages in, Tengo summarized the plot of Air Chrysalis and what should been a major "ah-hah" moment devolved into banality involving the Little People, a 10-year-old girl, the mahza and the dohta (symbolizing the mother/daughter relationship), two moons, and, yes, an air chrysalis. Before you could say, "Laura Palmer's diary," all hope was lost.
Here's a snippet of that awkward summary: "I imagine that they have multiple dohtas. The Little People must use the chance to create many air chrysalises. They would be anxious if all they had was one Perceiver. Or the number of dohtas who can function correctly might be limited. Maybe there is one powerful, main dohta, and several weaker auxiliary dohtas, and they function collectively."
At one point, he noted that "it's difficult to pinpoint exactly what that means." That's for sure, and, after weathering that disappointment, it's even harder to care about the last hundred or so pages. I forged on, hoping Murakami would miraculously deliver on the book's early promise, but it wasn't to be. I closed the book with visions of the Log Lady dancing in my head.