Since I got nothin’, just wondering if anyone has read Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 before I commit myself to all 985 pages of it. I hate to not finish a book (the last one I gave up on was Stephen Carter’s The Emperor of Ocean Park which was so infuriatingly awful I actually got up from my chair, walked down to the garage and dumped it in the trash/recycle bin) but 1Q84 sounds interesting; somewhere between a less-playful Pynchon and a less-dreadstruck DeLillo.

The word “realism” is a key descriptive term that readers often apply to certain works of literature without any general agreement about what it actually means. After all, if we cannot agree about what reality is, then why should we agree about what realism is, either? The entire topic dissolves quickly because its scope becomes too large and its outlines too indefinable to be particularly useful. Much of the time, we can talk about fiction without having to take a stand on what is real and what isn’t, although we do sometimes say that this or that event or character is “implausible” or “fantastical,” thereby rescuing truth-value for the plausible and the everyday.

Murakami’s novels, stories, and nonfiction refuse to make such distinctions, or, rather, they display, often very bravely and beautifully, the pull of the unreal and the fantastical on ordinary citizens who, unable to bear the world they have been given, desperately wish to go somewhere else. The resulting narratives conform to what I have called Unrealism. In Unrealism, characters join cults. They believe in the apocalypse and Armageddon, or they go down various rabbit holes and arrive in what Murakami himself, in a bow to Lewis Carroll, calls Wonderland. They long for the end times. Magical thinking dominates. Not everyone wants to be in such a dislocated locale, and the novels are often about heroic efforts to get out of Wonderland, but it is a primary destination site, like Las Vegas. As one character in 1Q84 says, “Everybody needs some kind of fantasy to go on living, don’t you think?”

I’ve noted before that my favorite novel is Robert Coover’s The Origin Of The Brunists (warning: spoliers at the link) which, now more then ever, is a brilliant encapsulation of The Times We Live In; desperate lives lived in economic squalor which incubates fear and madness and a heedless religious fervor for a messiah to rise up and save us all, whether he or she is a smooth talking black man from Chicago or a babbling nitwit from the Alaskan hinterlands.

That having been said, I’m interested in anyone’s comments on 1Q84 or for that matter, anything current fiction related.

As a side note, I’m currently reading Brian Kellow’s Pauline Kael: A Life In The Dark which contains a great line from an early Kael attempt at a screen play: “Mr. Benjamin Burl’s infatuation with himself has become a national romance” which immediately made me think of Newt Gingrich.

Have at it, and remember: Nader sucks and Barack Obama is responsible for everything.

That should get it started…

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