Saturday, September 13, 2008
Kafka on the Shore
I was pretty excited to read this book. A teacher friend of mine who knows I love reading, emphatically recommended it to me by yelling across the library. Of course I wrote it down. Then I saw it on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list and popped it on my choices for the 1% Well-Read Challenge. When my roommate and I decided to have a traveling book club this summer, she bought me Kafka and I couldn't wait.
Noted: This was probably not the best book to bring to Peru. Naturally, it was read in short spurts during the peak of exhaustion. Murakami deserves much closer attention than that... especially his novel that John Updike refers to as a "meta-physical mindbender." Due to lack of sleep, overexertion, and the excitement of travel... my mind was already bent.
That being the case... I enjoyed the beginning of the book. There are two distinct plots that gradually intertwine as the novel progresses. The odd chapters follow Kafka, a fifteen year old boy who is facing a series of crises and discovering that life rarely makes sense (but I think it made more sense to him than it did to me). The even chapters follow Nakata, a friendly elderly man with an unusual developmental delay and the ability to talk to cats. Each character sets out on a journey and the reader follows.
I'm not going to pretend like I understood this book. Talking it over with my roommate we both agreed that there was a whole lot more going on than what we picked up. One element we struggled with: all the sex! There's a very graphic retelling of a sex dream in a letter that doesn't relate to much, and a few different potentially incestuous relationships (Kafka and a girl he suspects to be his older sister, and Kafka and an older woman he suspects to be his mother). I'm not against sexuality in books, but I do like to know why! The only explanation in my friend's bookclub for it was, "Well, the book was written by a man." But surely, there must be more to it. Murakami himself describes the book as being written in riddles that have no answers, but that the riddles themselves will take you closer to the meaning of the book. He also notes that the book requires more than one reading.
Seriously, why did I read this in transit?
Recommendation: If you've read other Murakami books successfully, you'll probably be thrilled. If you don't have the time or energy for close and multiple readings, wait until you do.