The Japanese author's long, unsatisfying book was a big disappointment after years of hype
What is the sound of one book flopping? Or is it three books flopping?
It's no exaggeration to call the English-language publication of Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 the most anticipated literary event of the year. Two years ago, on the release of the first two volumes of the novel in Japan, the Guardian reported that Japanese fans were in a state of near hysteria: "Five years of pent-up anticipation found release" when the books hit the stores.
In April, American fans (and how strange it sounds to refer to a novelist's readers as "fans") had their appetites whetted by a 27-minute review on You Tube featuring the handsome covers of the Dutch edition, and on September 15 the New Yorker printed an excerpt. By the time 1Q84 was published in the UK and America in October, it seemed as if the only genuine purpose of critics was to give us their blessing. On October 30, the Guardian's Douglas Haddow called 1Q84 "a global event in itself [which] passionately defends the power of the novel." He continued, "With midnight openings, queues around the block, magazine covers and un-precedented pre-orers, it receveid a level of attention typically reserved for established cross-platform franchises."
But now that 1Q84 has landed, what was its impact? The answer seems to be, with each passing week: silence. The novel hit the New York Times bestseller list in the number-two spot on November 13, an extraordinary achievement for a serious work of literature. By the following week it had dropped to number six, and by December 11 it was out of the top ten at number 12. You would have thought that after such oceans of hype, word of mouth would have sustained sales. So far, that doesn't look to be happening.