I’ve started Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

– unknown (I’ve seen it attributed to both Confucius and Lao Tzu)

Mathematically, of course, this quotation is quite true – although I wonder how many have actually completed a thousand-mile journey on foot. I actually remember using the quotation once with a stranger I encountered in Zion National Park, I think in 2004. I had been hiking up the West Rim Trail “all day,” and I was nearing the rim of the canyon when he came around the corner hiking down. He told me he had come from Lava Point, which is probably a good 10 miles further up the trail from where we were. He said cheerfully, “It’s amazing how far you can travel just by putting one foot in front of the other.” I responded with “Like they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!” This was an encounter that probably lasted all of ninety seconds, but I remember it as if it happened yesterday. Perhaps the relative isolation of encountering another human being has something to do with it, or perhaps it was just our joint realization of a “classic truth.”

(below: near the top of the canyon on the West Rim Trail)

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Anyway, I’m always reminded that quotation when I start reading a long book. Like this week when, thanks to Bellezza at her excellent blog, Dolce Bellezza, I was tempted into buying and downloading Haruki Murakami’s latest effort, 1Q84. My exposure thus far to Murakami has been only in the form of a couple of short stories that I read as part of my 2011 Short Story Reading Project. In one of the stories in particular (“Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman”) I caught a glimpse of his brilliance. I already had him tagged for additional reading, but when Bellezza gushed about him, I couldn’t help myself and he jumped to the top of my TBR list.

I’m about 320 pages into it thus far (of 1040 pages on my Nook reader) and have really been enjoying it. It’s quite unlike anything else read recently. I mean how would you react to this situation: You begin to notice some subtle differences in the world around you. It’s the same world you’ve always known but it becomes more and more clear that something has changed, and that everyone else remembers certain things a little differently than you do. This is what one of the two main characters, Aomame, encounters in the early chapters of the book, which is thus far being told from two viewpoints, her’s and the writer, Tengo’s, who are linked by a “minor” (well, not to Aomame) encounter when they were schoolchildren. They are also (at this point in my reading) on a collision course due to events happening in this slightly changed world of 1Q84 (not 1984, where the novel begins).

I’ve had a lot of stuff that I was supposed to get done this weekend, but instead my time has been hijacked by this novel. It’s somewhat sexually graphic at points, but as long as that isn’t something that “bothers” you, you might want to look into this book as well. I’m possibly being premature, but it will likely be one of the contenders for my favorite book of 2011. Stay tuned…

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