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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Kafka on the Shore by Murakami Haruki 
27th-Jan-2008 11:59 pm
Murakami, Haruki. Kafka on the Shore. Trans. Philip Gabriel. New York: Knopf, 2005.
          Summary: Laboring under a curse that says he will kill his father and sleep with his mother and sister, fifteen year old Kafka Tamura runs away from home and ends up boarding in a private library where his long-lost mother is head librarian. Meanwhile, Nakata, a "hollow man" who can talk to cats, unwittingly ties up the loose ends haunting Kafka's life with the help of a truck driver.
          Comments: After not feeling any particular love for Sputnik Sweetheart, I wasn't especially eager to return to Murakami any time soon. But for some reason, I have a lamentable habit of standing in the spot where lightning (of the unpleasant as well as pleasant sorts) once struck me, and this is another example of exactly that. Fortunately, Kafka on the Shore was waaaay more enjoyable. The various subplots boast evocative yet not utterly dislocating touch of magic realism, and I found myself just dying to see where the story would go next. This was facilitated by manageably short chapters that kept one's attention riveted by frequent shifts of scenery and by relatively straightforward prose (not to mention a lovely, natural translation into English by Philip Gabriel, who is getting better at his craft with age) which seemed to be catering specifically to reluctant readers. All the underaged, "Oedipal" sex probably didn't hurt, either. This novel was, in fact, two books in Japanese, not one...and the Japanese these are especially notorious for having attention-deficit when it comes to lengthy, involved prose. Indeed, the story's trajectory remained satisfying despite a number of plot threads left dangling awkwardly throughout: Kafka dreams of having sex with Sakura, a young woman who happens to be the same age his sister would have been, and that fulfills his father's prophecy? Say what...?! What happened to Kafka's dad after Nakata met him? Was that slug supposed to be him? (^^; But never mind that. Even if Murakami isn't a truly "great" author, and I think the jury is still out on that, this novel definitely makes me want to read more, which is the most important thing.
          Notes: trade paperback, BCE; first published in Japan in two volumes by Shinchosha in 2002
          Rating: 7/10 - A solid read of reasonable quality. There really aren't that many reasons why not to read this novel...unless you object to semi-explicit sex scenes between fifteen- and fifty-year-olds or something.
2nd-Feb-2008 03:56 am (UTC)
I might have to check this one out. I haven't found a Murakami novel I liked as much as my first (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) so maybe this one will work out for me.
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