1Q84 and the End of the World

I started reading 1Q84 late last evening. I’d been putting it off. After Dark, Murakami’s last novel, was a slender thing that seemed to end too soon. I wanted to read 1Q84 slowly, carefully. I wanted to make it last.

I read the first two chapters last night before bed. Halfway through the second chapter, my fingers were eagerly drumming on the edges of the pages. As soon as I finished, I grabbed a notepad and ballpoint pen and began to write. I didn’t have the patience to go upstairs to get my laptop and wait for it to power up. I needed to immediately scrawl words across a page.

I first encountered Haruki Murakami when I was about 16 or 17. It was in the fiction section at the main branch of the Charleston Public Library. The main branch of that library system was a very good one, and I spent a lot of time there during the five years I lived in South Carolina, and afterwards when I would come down from Connecticut to visit my mother. My memories of that library are very vivid. I remember how it smelled: book glue, new shelving, highly conditioned air.

This was before Goodreads and literary social networking. I read novels voraciously, but with very little guidance. I enjoyed my English classes in school, but those classes usually didn’t put post-modern fiction, or foreign novels, or science fiction on the syllabus. I was on my own. I would discover an author I liked, and then methodically work my way through every single book by that author at my library’s particular branch. I read Philip K. Dick that way, and Kurt Vonnegut, and William Gibson. I had no one to talk to about those books. My friends liked books, but not always the same books that I did. I read in a vacuum. I don’t remember how Murakami’s name was first given to me. I think I read a sentence somewhere that compared him to Philip K. Dick. That was enough.

I went to the “M” section of the library. After reading through the jackets of the various Murakami novels, I picked out Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. I read through the book in under a week. Afterwards, I was completely blasted. I felt like something had written something especially for me, directly to me.

Soon afterwards, I began writing fiction for the first time after years of writing poetry. My entire brain switched gears.

I then proceeded read every Murakami novel ever written. Later, in college, a writing professor introduced me to Murakami’s short fiction. I read all of those collections, too. I’m caught up now, so I have to wait years between new novels. Sometimes I go back and re-read. Every time I encounter Murakami, though, it always triggers a flurry of productivity in regards to my own projects.

Nowadays I have plenty of friends who are happy to talk about Murakami with me, but sometimes I still think about my teenage self wedged into a gap between the stacks at the CPL, reading her first Murakami novel, and feeling like she and he were the only two people left in the world.

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