Sunday, October 30, 2011


Saturday brought to hand two big books that have been on the horizon for a while. Wasn’t sure that both would arrive on the same day, but that’s the way it happened, adding a little weightlifting exercise to my day, with the combined pages of the two coming to 1,581 pages. Not possible to have already read very many of those pages, so the purpose this time is to briefly introduce the two books in advance of saying more about one or the other in a longer and future post. The author of the first is hugely popular, the subject of the second a name on everyone’s lips recently.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

The title of this novel is a play on the Japanese pronunciation of the year 1984, a reference to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. The Japanese reading of the title is Ichi-kew-hachi-yon and the letter Q and the Japanese number 9 are homophones, a type of wordplay not uncommon in Japanese literature. Prior to the publication of 1Q84, Murakami announced that he would not reveal anything about the book, feeling that pre-release talk had diminished the novelty of his previous books. Despite the secrecy 1Q84 received an unprecedented number of advance orders.

The book was first published in Japan in 2009 and 2010 where the first printing sold out on the day of the book’s release. An English translation was published on October 25 of this year by Knopf, the translation by Jay Rubin (volumes 1 and 2) and Philip Gabriel (volume 3). The English translation is three volumes in one binding designed by Chip Kidd and Maggie Hinders.

Before reading even the first lines of Murakami’s novel, the book’s size and design are impressive. There is a look to the whole package that impresses. First off is the almost three-pound weight of its 925 pages, but heavy or not, immediately clear is that this Knopf edition was beautifully put together to accent the author’s story. There is none of the expected in opening the book and turning over the first few pages. Chip Kidd and Maggie Hinders have given 1Q84 a look all its own from front cover to back. Facing pages are interesting for the way title and page numbers appear on left and right margins, straightforward on the left but flipped on the right, as if reading through a mirror.

The first two chapters have me eager to continue on.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

It’s a good guess that Simon & Schuster will have a hard time keeping up with demand for the recently released biography of a man whose influence reached into personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, digital publishing and retail marketing. In August of 2011 Apple become the most valuable company in the world. There was something Olympian about Steve Jobs and the impact he had on many of the things that occupy a majority of people in the twenty-first century. Forget the fact that Jobs has long been something of an enigma. Apple developments of the past year leading up to, and including his death on October 5, played out like a storybook of greatness, the timing of everything happening in such a way that by October 6 the man and his company stood at a pinnacle of greatness. And nineteen days later a biography of Steve Jobs by the highly respected Walter Isaacson hits bookstores. The presses must be working night and day.

The biography is based on more than forty interviews with Jobs, and more than a hundred others with family, friends, adversaries, colleagues and competitors. Jobs asked for no pre-publication agreements, or opportunities to read any of the chapters prior to publishing. He gave Isaacson total control over the content, asking only that he write the story honestly, including the recollection and opinions of anyone interviewed. There is no gilding of the lily in this biography.

As a longtime Apple fan and buyer of at least one of everything the company has ever made, it's no mystery that Isaacson’s book has been on my wish list. Published on October 24 by Simon & Schuster, the Steve Jobs biography, like the Murakami book is also a hefty read of 656 pages weighing almost two and a half pounds. So far, there’s been time to read only the introduction, but that was enough to assure that I will have to steal some time from the reading of Murakami’s book.

Another one I am itching to get back to.


  1. The Steve Jobs book sounds fascinating. I don't know if I could last that many pages. Maybe all I need is a book review. I listened to his 2005 Darmouth Commencement address and liked that very much. A man with no college degree and with that much knowledge does intrigue me. What a shame to lose his knowledge so early in his life.

  2. Well, good Lord. If the books turn out to be less than advertised, they can become doorstops that no known breeze in Nature will move. Doubt they end up as that. Writers too good and no doubt subject matter to match. Always exciting, isn't it?--getting new volumes that seemingly hold such mystery and must be cracked and read.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America