BookTalkII — Part 4 — Long Arms


Warning:  BookTalkII assumes an audience that has already read George Orwell’s 1984, and attempts to compare the classic dystopian nightmare against both the novel 1Q84, written by Haruki Murakami, and V for Vendetta, a graphic novel by Alan Moore.  Broken into twelve parts, each part of the BookTalk will focus on a chronologically new section of 1Q84 and V for Vendetta while considering the entire narrative of 1984.  See the BookTalkII main page for more details and links to all twelve parts.

Spoiler Alert:  This part covers the first two chapters of Book Two of V for Vendetta and the first six chapters of Book Two of 1Q84 (up to page 486).

“Throwing cast nets” Circles appear to expand. Copyright Akiyoshi Kitaoka 2004

At some point in the story our main character encounters a plot-hole.  A lot like a black hole in space, a plot-hole stems from a massive weight of gravity enveloping itself.  When a piece of literature presents a formidable paradox, a mental vacuum opens.  And plumbing the pipes of plot-hole paradoxes is akin to traveling a wormhole and twisting time at will.  Time travel stories can be a bit of a turn off for some, which challenges the notion that stories of the future easily attract audiences.  Viewing the future is a mild form of time travel, granted.  Haruki Murakami takes a plot line and elegantly ties intricate knots, he braids Möbius strips of narrative like only a Japanese artist imitating 18th century Bavarian pretzel twisting could.

V is for Veil

What a vicious cabaret?  Pull back the curtain and enjoy the show passively, as a captive audience.  V for Vendetta spotlights the symbolic veil, the mask, the veil of democracy, the veil of ignorance.  The paranoia of conspiracy puppeteers fuels some of the adoration for drama and theater like this.  An awakening needs its sleeping masses.  Society is pacified by a scarecrow.  Winston Smith really does love Big Brother.

Why did Orwell choose to divide the novel 1984 into 3 books?  The first book focuses on Winston Smith more than the latter two.  Winston’s thoughts and recollections, his italicized handwriting bring a first person point of view to the foreground.  Compared to the love story of book 2 capped by a book within a book manifesto and the tortuous book 3 of O’Brien and Room 101, book 1 is Winston live and direct.  And just like #ComradeOgilvy materializes out of thin air, the story of #theRealWinstonSmith appears to emerge from the friction of book 1 against book 2.

Stalinist bureaucratic beetles like #theRealWinstonSmith would typically write their poetic memoirs in glorified, bound notebooks.  Only to be caught by the machine, the #theRealWinstonSmith of the #Real1984 writes his own death warrant.  A traditional reading of 1984 will place the ending as anti-climactic due to Winston’s fate being left unresolved.  Maybe Winston died earlier in the story, selling out Julia and surrendering Love, in the name of pain, raw physical pain.  Or simply the bullet that aims for the back of Winston’s neck trails the words “I Love Big Brother,” he is practically dead or already dead inside, especially after enduring Room 101.

What if #theRealWinstonSmith defied the odds?  What if Mr. Smith used his sorcery to convince his bosses otherwise?  What if book 1 is mostly the confiscated writings of #theRealWinstonSmith and book 2 is the desperate writing of a prisoner in custody forced to write a press piece for the proles.  Leaving the deranged writing of a bullish superior like O’Brien to cover the third book.  A soviet censor surely edited the entire collection.  A scarecrow erected to crush the hopes of any radical #Winstons from pilfering the harvest.

Animal Farm reminds us of how rules can be rewritten.  1Q84 cleverly checks Chekhov’s Gun Rule in an attempt to balance the violent nature of the West.  1Q84 has an equally anti-climactic ending as 1984, mysteriously so.  Both stories have their share of trite turns: love stories for the sake of publication sales.  The similarities blare like trumpet solos, ironic conceits that force the reader to reconcile fiction over fact, as in 2+2=5 and the illumination of 2 moons in the sky.  Afterwards, jazzy counter-notes ring through calling for a closer inspection.  Aomame is Julia in the 21st century.  The Little People are Big Brother.  And it’s possible that just as #theRealWinstonSmith’s story was hijacked by O’Brien and published by an editor from the Ministry of Truth, so does Tengo write his own story as well as the entire universe that centers it at the wane and wax of books 1 and 2.

Mary Magdalene
Jan van Scorel Rijksmuseum Amsterdam online catalogue, as Maria Magdalena, 1530

“Wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”  Aomame is that woman of the Anointing in Bethany.  What at first came off as a figment of Aomame’s imagination and affection, Tengo resurrects on page 455.  Tengo reveals his omnipotent nature in a humbling moment of stasis:  we are all a part of the same story, the story that is currently being told.

Be Careful in the Forest

Sweet thoughts sour quickly like uncovering a centipede in a sugar bowl.  Mr. Ushikawa — one of the coolest literary characters to ever grace the page of fiction — stamps in as the 1Q84 version of O’Brien, with more venom.  Ushikawa creeps onto the cabaret’s stage.  A Mephistopheles of a demon, Ushikawa “…does not search for men to corrupt, but comes to serve and ultimately collect the souls of those who are already damned.”  Tengo recognizes the Faustian bargain he signed upon committing such a thought-crime.  Then again, every story needs an odd character, for memory sake, the long arms of the narrative reach us all.

For all the conjecture surrounding the conclusion of Orwell’s 1984, and overwhelming negative and pessimistically bleak views are put forth, there is hope not only in the proles but in the genius of Winston too.  The optimist sees Winston as the creative writer, keen enough to outline the entire machine and draft a flawless jailbreak.  The power of Big Brother is tragically real.  The smartest Party members vaporized their former selves so completely that they escaped reality.

“He does not exist here, with me, but flesh that does not exist will never die, and promises unmade are never broken.”

Aomame’s heart will never be broken because Tengo will never exist.  Rather, Tengo never existed, so that Aomame’s heart could never be broken.  The power of Big Brother feeds on a cycle of non-existence and ever-presence.  Winston Smith is as much a #ComradeOgilvy as #theRealWinstonSmith is as much the Winston Smith that survives publication, the same Winston that loves Big Brother and forfeits Julia for the release.  The Ozymandias-ian statue piercing the sand dune of time.  Winston will live on in the stubborn mind of O’Brien.  And Ushikawa will crawl along, churning the gritty soil like an earthworm, irretrievably lost.  “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”


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