ey i'm blogging here a blog by alex daily

Review: Haruki Murakami’s “1Q84” (2011)

Original Japanese cover of the first volume.I was, chronologically speaking, about to graduate. Unfortunately, the work that led to that moment meant I’d caught up on podcasts. Nothing left to listen to1This is… relative, but the practical effect is as described.. That not having happened in some time, I panicked, decided I should listen to more of the kinds of books adults listened to, read, or at least pretended to listen to or read, and put a bunch (four) of Murakami novels and short story collections on my phone. 18 May, 2022, according to Overcast’s timestamp. I liked Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, I liked, mostly, the short stories I’d managed to find. Killing Commendatore seemed too imposing, which just left 1Q84.

Unfortunately, “catching up on podcasts” doesn’t stop podcasts coming and coming, or Big Finish dropping box set after box set, and soon enough, both 1Q84 and Killing Commendatore were but ideas at the bottom of a pile. Piles upon piles upon piles. So, this summer, more than a year later, having both graduated and finished the first half of a follow-up degree, I finally put it on. A choice, curiosity finally getting the better of me, not just because I’d run out of podcasts.

So. 1Q84. Tengo is a cram school math tutor with aspirations towards published authorship who is asked to shepherd a young writer’s amateurish manuscript to winning a new writers’ prize, only to discover the magical realist work of fiction is actually a true story meant specifically to disarm the real forces behind a dangerous cult. Aomame is a personal trainer slash personal assassin whose line of work eventually puts her in the position of having to take out the leader of a dangerous cult. They had a brief interaction once, as children, and long to reunite. 1Q84 is the story, told in alternating point-of-view chapters, of how they find themselves finally drawn back together in another world entirely.

Where Murakami thrives in his portrayal of this shared journey is in his descriptions of process, ritual, work. Whether that’s Tengo’s writing or Aomame’s killing, the ritual of reading to a comatose parent or of the departure from one world to get to another, or repetitive, boring time spent in isolation, it’s his descriptions of these two people going about their well-rehearsed business where the book really comes alive. Murakami really sells Tengo’s writing as an act of magic, Aomame’s killing as a cosmic duty. The travel to another world an accident, a spell tripped into, but a ritual nonetheless.

But it feels like the book reviews itself in its reviews of Fuka-Era’s novel Air Chrysalis. The magic2The magical kind, not the process, ritual, work stuff I describe above, which, in fact, gets pretty thoroughly explained., reviewers say, is left unexplained, the ending is too ambiguous. But that Murakami himself is clearly aware of the easy criticisms you could lob at 1Q84 — and a lot of his work in general — doesn’t mean they’re not true. If you don’t want people to say your ending is too ambiguous, you write a different ending, one where all the other plot strands don’t slowly fall away until even the A-plot falls away into another world.

So, yes, the ending is ambiguous. It would almost have to be. The magic, of Little People and Air Chrysalii, is vague. Would the book be better if Murakami explained what the Little People eat for breakfast? I haven’t even mentioned the absolutely impressively miserable sex scenes, which I’m pretty sure aren’t actually meant to be gross, they’re just written from a purely Male Writer’s Perspective, there’s truly no attempt made to see it from any other angle. But does any of that matter that much when the journey is so riveting? Does any of it matter when the prose — translated by go-to Murakami translators Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel — really, genuinely manages to engross in way that makes me go, oh, yeah, the absolutely wild thing that’s happening right now makes total sense? It really doesn’t.

Of course, the quality of the audiobook specifically also goes a long way to why I feel that way — narrated by Allison Hiroto in the Aomame chapters, Marc Vietor in the Tengo chapters, and then in the third volume by Mark Boyett in the Ushikawa chapters, each character’s respective reader so fully embodies both the story and the character that when Aomame and Tengo are finally reunited in the final chapters and their readers voice their dialogue in the other’s chapters, it moved me in a way prose never could have. They’ve not just reunited, they’re talking to each other.


  • 1
    This is… relative, but the practical effect is as described.
  • 2
    The magical kind, not the process, ritual, work stuff I describe above, which, in fact, gets pretty thoroughly explained.

Analysis: “Wreck-It Ralph” (2012)

Also posted as a review on Letterboxd, derived from a thread on Mastodon.

Never got around to the sequel, thought I’d go for a refresher on this one first.

Their respective games’ fellow characters are bigoted towards Ralph and Vanellope in essentially the same ways — total social exclusion through rigid enforcement of arbitrary rules designed to exclude them — but for different reasons.

Where Ralph’s exclusion is because he’s “the bad guy” who wants to be let into “good guy” spaces, approaching almost a faux “trans predator” thing, this idea that no matter what, in the ideas of Gene and the others he’s always gonna be pretending,

Vanellope is excluded because she has a disability, her “glitch,” when confronted she calls it “pixlexia,” the other racers’ mockery resembles common mockery of physical and learning disabilities, her peers make no effort to try to understand.

Felix, in this read, is the well-meaning cis liberal, the guy who on paper is totally fine with Ralph, but can’t bring himself to prioritise Ralph’s well-being over his own status because doing so would endanger his “hero privilege,” a limitation he only overcomes by figuring out a way to make himself the lead character of part of the story.

Unfortunately in the end Ralph and Vanellope’s conflicts are overcome not because Gene and the other penthousers learn to accept and love Ralph for who he is instead of who he was written to be, but because he “earns his medal” by saving the day, literally just trans exceptionalism, and not because reasonable accommodations are made to help Vanellope thrive but because her glitch is essentially brought under control, her disability “medicated,” the thing that made her unique transformed into something nobody finds too uncomfortable.

I realise 2012 is a different country, but there is simply no goddamn way anybody like me — trans, autistic — was involved in the production of this fucking movie.

We will never be able to look to Disney and truly see ourselves, it’s just never gonna happen.

Anyway, fun video game movie. Cute aesthetic, the fictional games fit right in with the real-world ones. Kinda proves these things can work as a movie in a way nobody has quite managed to do since. I say, actively not looking at the Mario movie.

Hello world!

Repurposing the “Hello world!” post not as an introduction post but as a chronological marker. Posts on this blog dated before this one — the morning of 23 August, 2023 — are necroposts. You may be familiar with that term from forums, where it is sometimes used to mean, “posting in a long-dead thread, to the annoyance of other forum users.” In blogging, I’ve seen it defined instead to mean, basically, “accurately dating old writing.”

On second chances

This is a necropost. A version of the following was originally posted as a Reddit comment on 7 August, 2023.

For context: This was in reply to speculation that an upcoming Big Finish announcement might involve the return of actor John Barrowman to the company’s Torchwood range after he was dropped, and a big anniversary story went unreleased, by the company in light of a pattern of repeated, open, and enthusiastic sexual misconduct. Wikipedia at this time calls them “allegations,” but Barrowman and his co-stars were openly talking about this behaviour in public on stage at conventions. It wasn’t a secret then, and it’s not a secret now.

If you’re a Doctor Who fan in the places where I’m a Doctor Who fan, you may have seen calls from other fans to bring him back in some way despite all this, because some people prioritise their fondness for a character over the safety and wellbeing of the cast and crew around the actor portraying that character.

This was my response to one such call, asking for Barrowman to be given a second chance.

I’m preserving it here mostly because I’ve got a feeling this will keep coming up, and I’ll want to be able to pull it back out to repost or reference.

John Barrowman has had his second chance. He behaved the way he did throughout the 00s until he was forced to apologise for it in 2008, both behind the scenes for how he was on set and publicly for doing it on Radio 1, and then… openly kept doing it, consistently, at least as late as his time on Arrow, where he was walking around his co-stars’ trailers naked and sending them pictures of, again, him naked, that he made a crew member take.

He claims in his 2021 apology that his behaviour has changed since 2008, but that’s clearly a lie, then, isn’t it. Perhaps it didn’t include crew members who might not have felt comfortable speaking up or saying no back in 2008 and that’s what’s changed? There’s “another chance,” and then there’s, why would you ever employ this walking liability again?

So, when I say, “RTD knows better,” what I mean is, RTD is a PR-savvy showrunner whose previous run on Doctor Who was mired in controversy that he has somehow managed to escape significant public scrutiny over. Even in the best possible scenario, after a thorough redemption tour for Barrowman — which could happen, but won’t start at Doctor Who — bringing him back, even just at Big Finish, would at the very least attach controversy to the show’s brand that, surely, RTD is sensibly trying to avoid. Why do that to yourself? Why do that to the show?

19 December 2023: Here’s a paragraph I think I might add in the future.

In general, I’m against the idea of permanent banishment as punishment for behaviour in different times, right, but there does come a point where I’m fine saying, actually, yeah, this person probably shouldn’t work in this industry ever again, and John Barrowman is on the wrong side of that line. Every opportunity given to him should instead be given to an up-and-coming queer person who’s not gonna commit sexual violence the second they get a chance.

© Alex Daily. Powered by ClassicPress. The theme is Blogging Here by me, Alex Daily. More information in the colophon.