Kafka on the Shore

So what do I think of Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami? It has gems of epiphanies set in a tarnished silver setting that will probably be worn to B-list events. Or so it goes. Having been a long time fan of Murakami, I find that he is recycling some old premises, yet the familiarity is comfortable.

The protagonist Kafka Tamura is another cookie cutter Murakami character: seemingly indifferent with no motivations in sight, infinitely perseptive, well educated and unopinated, set in a mystical, magical, "Like Water for Chocolate" world. He acts through inaction and through inaction all sorts of really cool and weird shit happens to him. He is the nexus for all sorts of really weird stuff- a Murakami-esque black hole of weirdalities, if you will.

So do I like it?

Yes, because Murakami continues to wow me with incredible situations and tidbits of zen and he takes me into his strange world of the occult and mystics without it seeming occult or mystic.

The story is about Kafka Tamura (it's not his real name.), a 15 year old boy who's mother left him when he was a young boy with his adopted sister that decides to run away from his comfortable life with his father to escape or search for something- he's not entirely clear on why he's leaving. He ends up in a strange town in the outskirts of Tokyo that has a library for Japanese Tanka and Haiku writers complete with a hemophiliac transvestite librarian and its' former number one popstar heiress, an old man who can talk to cats and when he was younger was in a mysterious coma, a hairdresser that thinks it would be wonderful to be Kafka's sister while giving him a handjob, and a man named Johnny Walker that kills cats, eats their hearts and embalms their heads in jars because he says he is making a flute that can capture souls. All this and I'm only halfway through the book.

As ridiculous as this sounds, you will be drawn into the text and it will entrap you until the ride is over. Murakami always puts gems into the text that make you perk up your ears...pause...relish the words, reread the words, etch them into a part of your skull...ponder them over and over and just when you think you're over it, he comes up with another. It's like getting high. Literature works as a fix. For example, Tamura starts to read about Adolf Ikeman, the man who orchestrated the Holocaust and he pondered over and over the numbers and methods for disposing of the jews. When Ikeman went to trial he couldn't understand why he was on trial. He was "just a technician" afterall. "He was doing what any good bureacrat would do." He was so lost in his imagination that he never thought of the moral implications of what he was doing. Murakami writes, "It's all a question of imagination. Our responsiblities begins with the power to imagine. It's just As Yates said, 'in dreams begin responsibility'...If there was no power to imagine no responsibility can arise."

It is all about perspective, afterall.

I would read it. It is more sexually explicit than his other books, which caught me off guard- but this could be because he has a different translator or because he is trying to go mainstream :(


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