The novel was lush, the characters well-developed, and Woolf dealt with all the themes from the other novels I have read by her (gender, sexuality, cl...moreThe novel was lush, the characters well-developed, and Woolf dealt with all the themes from the other novels I have read by her (gender, sexuality, class, religion, patriotism, essentially anything of importance) and dealt with them well. I feel that the reason I don't love it is that some of the plays were difficult for me to understand with my limited knowledge of English history, but that's hardly the fault of Virginia Woolf.(less)
This is my sixth Murakami novel. Every time I read Murakami I groan and complain and throw the book at the wall and swear I'll never read another. I a...moreThis is my sixth Murakami novel. Every time I read Murakami I groan and complain and throw the book at the wall and swear I'll never read another. I also (usually) devour his novels in a matter of days and always read another Murakami book. What's the deal?
A lot of authors claim to be inspired by jazz. Murakami is the only author that I've read where it is deeply engrained in his style. His plots are usually linear, but morphing, never predictable, never settling into any obvious patterns. Murakami is not afraid of changing the directions of his plots three-quarters through his novels. There are certain recurring themes and ideas that are to be patiently expected by fans (the most notable being the ones that appear in most of his works, such as cats, tiny bikinis, making a 'simple meal'), but they hardly ever drive the unfolding plot. Thus, I like Murakami when I relax and let his meandering, capricious novels wash over me.
Like jazz, Murakami's novels are adept at creating nuanced moods, surrounding the reader with the fog of his characters' ennui, longing, or confusion. However, that's all that Murakami is capable of doing, recreating those few emotions in an impressive array of ways. For many fans this will always be enough, but after six novels, I begin to tire of being in this fog. There is nothing beneath it. The various 'metaphors' in Kafka, awkwardly mentioned by the narrator(s) and discussed by the novel's characters, are either clichéd, far too vaugely drawn, or complete nonsense. Not only is there no way to figure out 'what happened' in the novel (Who is Crow?, What is the entrance stone?, etc.), these situations also have little to no metaphorical meaning in any way discernable in the text. Murakami admits that he essentially makes up his novels as he goes. Do his readers accept this? Or will they continue to believe there to be some worthwhile analysis of Hegel just because a prostitute throws out some quotations? Will they continue to think that Murakami Kafka has anything to say about Shinto because he has his characters talk about living spirits from The Tale of Genji?
I hear the argument that Murakami would want the reader to draw her own conclusions and create his own metaphors for the occurances in his novels, but do you really want the novel to be nothing more than an elaborate rorschach blot?
I almost wish Murakami had got into playing jazz, or directing films, because I feel that he is good at mood, good at developing interesting imagery, good at storytelling in general. But the very best novels in my opinion, suceed at doing all of those things and at discussing ideas. Murakami has nothing to add here.
Thus far I've been generalizing about Murakami's work rather than tackling Kafka in particular. What I've said applies in varying degrees to all six novels I've read. I consider them all entertaining fantasy novels with much less depth than his readership imagines. And yet some of them I really enjoy: Wind-up Bird was as much of a metaphorical mess as Kafka and yet far better. All of the novels I have read thus far by Murakami have been better.
In Kafka on the Shore, borrowing from Greek tradition (as Murakami draws attention to in the text half a dozen times), all of Murakami's characters are led by fate and their always-correct intuition. Few decisions are made by the two lead characters. The novel is a roller coaster, in that the characters are on set rails and there may be false thrills, but no real sense of danger or tension. Sure, all novels only occur one way, but by doing away with that false sense of the characters' autonomy, the novel suffers. The best parts of the novel are the parts featuring Hoshino, a truck driver who tries to faithfully help one of the fate-plagued protagonists. Hoshino is one of the only relatable characters in a novel filled with characters drawn with mysticism and gibberish. His discovery of Beethoven's Archduke Trio is one of the few real moving situations in the novel. It is small. It is not fated. It is the level at which Murakami works best. It is a mere few pages where Hoshino is not having to deal with the general 'Indiana Jones'(mentioned in text - by Hoshino actually. I never will claim Murakami is not self aware) level bullshit of the rest of the novel.
I hope 1Q84 is good and look forward to it's English-language publication in 2011.(less)
Cartwright, the film he helped shoot destroyed* and his person threatened, is pushed to engage forces and individuals before (if ever) he can fully co...moreCartwright, the film he helped shoot destroyed* and his person threatened, is pushed to engage forces and individuals before (if ever) he can fully connect them to himself or each other. Likewise, I'm pushed to review the novel feeling two steps behind Cartwright's progress, dizzy in "the great multiple field of impinging informations". Reading Lookout Cartridge means enduring a near constant barrage of information, with few moments of calm before the connections one makes during the sunny respite are again disrupted and must be reconfigured. Any "master narrative" one may expect is open to uncountable intertwined systems and extends beyond the book. It can be comprehended more than I have, but not utterly. So, despite having read the final line, I'm still midcourse, and that's okay.
Is the book more than its ardous but incredibly successful form (and how the form forces the reader to interact with the text)? It can be quite thrilling. McElroy creates these diffused setpieces where details click into place over hundreds of pages. One, involving a swerving maybe-crashing helicopter above NYC is developed from page one and adds a tension that extends over the whole novel. He also, as friend James has pointed out, has success with small and quiet, sometimes domestic, moments of poignancy and is one of the best at writing children (and one (en)danger(ed/ous) teenage daughter).
I highly recommend the novel, but note that I enjoyed Women and Men more. W&M is built around a city and a family rather than a plot. Its architecture gives its characters far more room to breath away from plot's maelstrom. W&M is also more linguistically playful with punning and words smashing into each other. So, if you aren't scared by 2.25 Lookout Cartridges fitting into 1 W&M, start with the latter. If you like it, you're probably going to go for the whole oeuvre.
I read this when it was being released in singles. Slice-of-life comic revolving around the travels of Megan, a loner, seeker type who is very relatab...moreI read this when it was being released in singles. Slice-of-life comic revolving around the travels of Megan, a loner, seeker type who is very relatable in her fallibility. The art by Ryan Kelly was the draw for me 100% of the time, with Brian Wood only delivering perfect scripts about 75% of the time. I feel that a couple issues there near the end were rushed, especially the finale, which I felt was very weak. Which is insane, because those issues were being delayed months late when this was first published.(less)
Drunken and misanthropic like Baudelaire but with his own hallucinogenic style (absinthe and opium were favorites of Rimbaud). I enjoyed the prose poe...moreDrunken and misanthropic like Baudelaire but with his own hallucinogenic style (absinthe and opium were favorites of Rimbaud). I enjoyed the prose poems (particularly Delirium I) much more than the more typical symbolist poems which seemed a bit obscure, but everything had some worth. Rimbaud himself, again like Baudelaire, is fairly hatable. Everyone feels like those two at times, but it would be a terrible world if one were to glorify and give in to their every impulse.
Haruki Murakami seems content sticking to writing from raw dreamstuff. Characters are impossibly quirky, most scenes are surrealistic and involve the...moreHaruki Murakami seems content sticking to writing from raw dreamstuff. Characters are impossibly quirky, most scenes are surrealistic and involve the misplaced or the random, and the plot is pleasantly aimless. (less)
Scott Pilgrim continues to capture my roughly defined subculture (at least as we [in my case, a post college graduate still living in his college town...moreScott Pilgrim continues to capture my roughly defined subculture (at least as we [in my case, a post college graduate still living in his college town and working part time jobs, occasionally playing old NES and SNES games, and somewhat often attending local shows:] stood or stand in our early to mid twenties. I'd like to think I've already somewhat moved out of the scene which Scott Pilgrim seeks to describe) better than any other work of art in any medium. In this particular volume, Scott continues to reap the consequences of his cluelessness, resulting in the supposed "darkening" of the series that seems completely natural to me. However, amidst the darker tone, the jokes come swiftly and effortlessly, and many supporting characters provide breaks from Scott's troubles. This volume is great because compelling arguments could be logically made for the narrative to go in so many directions (I'm a Kim shipper at this point, but I don't necessarily know it's going to happen), all of which will have interesting fallout. It's totally awesome! Read it!(less)