Four hundred pages in, the links between the two characters representing the two narrative threads are a lot clearer: they held hands once when they were ten years old, and now they are somehow linked forever, though they haven’t met since. Both are confronting a shadowy religious conspiracy. But there’s a fundamental weirdness, with one of them apparently having slipped into a parallel world imagined by the other. Suspense is building, as both characters find themselves in increasing jeopardy.
But the thing I’m having the most trouble with in Murakami’s weird universe is a basic real-world setup: one of the characters, Tengo, has rewritten someone else’s story at his editor’s behest, in order to make the story win a new-writer contest for a literary magazine. Apparently, in 1984 Tokyo, winning this contest is a big deal, with huge press coverage, and if it ever gets out that Tengo rewrote the story, there will be an equally huge scandal. Huh? Knowing nothing about Tokyo in 1984, I have no sense of whether this is realistic. But I’m pretty sure no one cares about awards from literary magazines in my neck of the woods….
I’m having a lot more difficulty with this than I am with the more straightforward fantasy elements of the story. OK, so one of the characters sees two moons in the sky; little people spin themselves out of a sleeping character’s mouth and make a dog explode. I’ll buy that. But a press conference about a short story???