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I read widely and in most genres but romance and westerns. Here you'll find my reviews since 2007, with a few reviews of previously read books as well.


In 2012, I completed an "authors of the world" challenge, reading a book for every country (and a few other entities) by someone who'd lived there for at least two years. I expect to tag these books by challenge and country in the near future. I'm still refining my list by adding books that better meet my challenge criteria.


1Q84 - I wavered between 1 and 5 stars while I was reading. I settle on 3 for these reasons: On the more stars side, Murakami's story is engaging and entertaining. I was curious to learn what would happen. He usually uses symbolism very well, and he has a sly sense of humor. Some of his images are startlingly compelling. The audiobook readers generally did a good job.On the fewer stars side, Aomame is a big old Mary Sue of a character, which I can live with but which doesn't help me identify with her. The main male audiobook narrator insists on saying "air chrysalis" (like "Air France") rather than "air chrysalis," which is how this construct noun should be stressed. This is not Murakami's error, but it recurs frequently and throughout. The big problems are that the degree of repetition in this gigantic novel is excruciating, and the level of unimportant detail astounding. Moving me from 4 stars to 3 at the very end of the novel, several important points aren't resolved or given closure in a way that satisfies, causing some of the important symbols to lose their value and become noise rather than signal. I would argue that it matters that the reader recognize them as signal; that is, as potentially meaningful, even if that meaning is ambiguous. I think Jung, another major structural influence, would agree. This structural aspect of the novel goes limp at the climax, if I may be so bold as to appropriate a penis metaphor from Murakami. There are many penis discussions in this novel, so my theft of one probably won't matter. It's not as if I'm stealing an air chrysalis.I want to say something about detail. I understand through the heavy-handed references to Proust that one of Murakami's themes is the relationship between detail, memory, and doubt. There is also a parallel process in which the reader, like the protagonists, must sift the wheat from the chaff to determine what's important. It's a novel more like life than life is like a novel which has a clear progression of knowing and determining significance and meaning. That's not what I'm complaining about. When I refer to problems with repetition and detail, I'm talking about, for example, the fact that every time a character urinates Murakami describes it, sometimes at great length. This is not done pruriently, but matter of factly, in such detail that it takes longer to describe than it would to urinate. And the characters all urinate, with description, over and over again. And they do every action that people do, in detail, for no especial purpose other than to contribute deep description to the story, over and over. Consider Aomame's relationship to carbohydrate consumption, which is part of Aomame's complete and balanced diet, but not balanced with meat, not very much meat, except when Aomame wants meat sometimes, in which case Aomame goes to a really good restaurant, but in any event, not too much meat with too much carbohydrate, an unimportant, long description of which is seared uselessly, like seared meat perhaps, but more like a small piece of white fish that would be more nutritionally sound, as a metaphor as well as a breakfast, into my brain. Lots of telling rather than showing, leading to flat characters despite loose meat-like piles of words.Similarly, the reader isn't stupid. I, and I assume many readers, understood the first time (and will even give Murakami the license to underscore it by a second repetition), about Aomame's small, asymmetrical breasts. By the end of the novel, after countless similar descriptions, and as Murakami returns again to her small, asymmetrical breasts in one of her first, and one of the novel's last, conversations with Tengo, I want to scream at him, "I get it! Aomame doesn't like her small, asymmetrical breasts! Aomame's small, asymmetrical breasts are like the two asymmetrical moons! Aomame's small, asymmetrical breasts are like the maza and dohta! I get that there are weird, over-determined symbolic resonances throughout, and that I will appreciate them and speculate about them without, perhaps, ultimately understanding them, but for the love of god, stop using virtually the same language to describe, ad nauseum, Aomame's small, asymmetrical breasts!" This novel could easily have been at least 30% shorter without losing any of its postmodern playfulness or altering the themes and intentions related to the reader's or protagonists' experiences. It cries out for a strong ending that uses its symbols and events more effectively, which still wouldn't require explaining or resolving all the mysteries. If I were writing this novel, I'd end with Tengo seeing the left-facing Esso tiger and realizing that Aomame is not with him. He is alone in L984*, a town of bigger and much more troubling cats. *"L" for Left-facing tiger