Thursday, November 24, 2011

IQ84 Redux

Haruki Murakami's IQ84 is a lush, sensual novel that uses the canyons of central of Tokyo as its canvass for a dreamy, escapist fairy tale about two childhood friends who shared a brief platonic romantic moment before separating forever. It's a book heavily informed by the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Jung's notion of the collective unconscious and it has a fantasy element straight from the pages of the brothers Grimm. 
The story of the two central protagonists, a hack writer and a yoga teacher/assassin (!) are told in successive chapters and it takes most of the book for them finally to collide. Fortunately the leads and their voyages of discovery are both equally compelling. However, as in many Murakami novels the characters in IQ84 behave in maddeningly passive, inconsistent and illogical ways and as the fantasy/fairy tale elements get more pronounced I found myself increasingly irritated by their behaviour. Although I enjoyed this book a great deal I think the critics are wrong to say that this is Murakami's masterpiece. He's clearly a very talented writer but I believe he can do better. There is a lack of discipline to Murakami's writing and if he reined in his tics and compulsions he could say something really interesting about modern Japan and the human condition. I blame the translators/editors for the laborious explanations of Western pop culture that should have been cut from the English edition of the book, but I blame Murakami for his creepy obsession with the breasts of young women and young girls; indeed although the sexualisation of prepubescent girls may be a popular trope in Japan (?) you don't have to be a bug eyed Congresswoman running for President to find it icky and unpleasantly disturbing. 
Don't get me wrong IQ84 is a beautiful, strange, interesting novel that raises a lot of questions but it's not as beautiful or as deep as it thinks it is and if its answers you're after, well, you best read something else.