Online Book Club: 1Q84

I used to be part of a book club. I really enjoyed it, but eventually the members let it die out, largely because of changing priorities and life demands. Sometimes I really miss it, though, usually when I find myself in the embrace of a book that’s so dense I either want to share it or need someone with whom I can bounce around ideas.

My glasses resting on the open book, 1Q84. I snapped this after jotting down some notes as I was reading.

This is one of those times.

I just finished 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami, and I have to say it was one of the most amazing books I’ve read in a long time — dense and multi-faceted and rich with themes and images that seem to simultaneously unfold and wrap together as you read.

There’s actually so much going on in this book that I started jotting down notes and questions about half-way through the 925-page text. (Yes, 925 pages. This is no novella.) Rarely since college have I found myself taking notes while reading a book. But I wanted to keep track of what I was thinking and wondering, and “mark” quotes and passages that seemed significant as I read them.

Having just finished it, what I really want to do now is start back at the beginning and give it another go. But I borrowed this book from the library, and I’ve renewed it as often as I can. There’s been a waiting list for it, so I have to return it for someone else to enjoy.

If you haven’t read it, I’m not going to try to summarize it for you. I couldn’t possibly do it justice. But if you have read it, or if you decide to, here are some questions for you to think about and maybe discuss with your book club if you have one — and if your members are willing to take on this incredibly long book. If, like me, you don’t belong to a book club, I’d love to start a dialog in the comments section. Let’s call it our online book club.

  • What is this book ultimately “about”? I keep coming around to a theme of literature and the role it plays in the world and in people’s lives.
  • There are numerous images of positive and negative space in this novel. How do they weave together, and what might be their meaning?
  • Is time actually linear in this novel? Or does it have some other shape/flow? What is Murakami saying about the shape of time?
  • Life and death also are recurring themes. Why? What is Murakami trying to say about them? Is the relationship between life and death non-linear?
  • Why is it so important to Aomame that Tengo bring with him his unfinished novel when they try to leave 1Q84?
  • What did Aomame really give to Tengo when she held his hand in elementary school?

Those are just some starter questions. I’m going to go type up all of my notes on the book now, for reference when I read through the book again. (I don’t want to have to decipher the scribbles later. Some of them are literally scrawled almost illegible on the back of my library check-out receipt.)

If you haven’t yet read this book, go get it. Be prepared to devote some real time to it; as I said, it’s 925 pages. But it’s worth it.

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