Paquita Maria Sanchez's Reviews > Kafka on the Shore

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
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Feb 23, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: literature

I feel compelled to say something about this right now, simply for the fact that I have seen a lot of Murakami bickering on goodreads over the years, and it has done nothing but increase in frequency in the moments leading up to, during, and beyond the release of his mammoth novel 1Q84, meaning the last couple o' months. I guess I just feel a need to state my case for the man, since he seems severely divisive in this striking way. Sure, I could certainly compose a lengthy list of love-or-hate writers I've witnessed throughout my stint on this website, but Murakami is one of the dudes who seems to catch oddly equal amount of rapturous praise and sneering vitriol. When one considers reading his work and attempts to decide whether or not to invest the time based solely on the thoughts others have shared here on this website, it must make the head do some Exorcist-spins.

It has been nearly a decade since I first jumped into Murakami's world, and the majority of my readings of his works were conducted in the rapid-fire process which ensued almost immediately after my cherry-popper, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Having always been a classics sorta girl, occasionally dipping into beat and dystopian works, it was a strange experience to approach something so far-removed from what I was accustomed to appreciating. I loved it, though...passionately loved it at the time, and stuck with him over the years as a consistent replacement for the dreams that I do not ever remember having. Like, ever. I find myself increasingly disappointed by the Murakami I read, though, and I'm not sure if that is a matter of growing out of him, or simply reading his best works first, and his lesser works after.

However, this is a great book. As I recall. I will continue to note it as a favorite if only for the fact that at the time, I felt something stirring in my subconscious which had previously been silently stewing. He manages to orchestrate a veritable dance of imagery with his bizarro story-lines, and he is pretty insightful on the subject of dark emotional landscapes in his stilted, very Japanese way. This *is* a great book.

I want people to love him and his novels as much as I do. In fact, I want to still love his novels as much as I remember that I did when first exposed to them. I did read one of his short stories much more recently, though, (Tony Takitani) and I definitely found it to be a haunting and ethereal seance of death-fears, lost loves, and regret which reminded me of all those big, intangible emotions type-o-thangs that made me love his work way back when I was a drunken, reckless, irresponsible art school kid who had barely just evacuated her mother's birth canal and spent most of her time poor, painfully morosely hungover, clutching a cigarette in her fixer-stinking hand while muttering various cynicisms to herself, and perpetually wondering what the fuck she was doing about anything and everything. Alright, almost everything I just said still applies, but at least I acknowledge it now.

Basically, I should reread his works and reconsider my perspective. I doubt I will ever do that, though. I'm sorta fond of my fond memories of fondness. All the same, if you read this or similar novels by him and think they suck, don't give me grief about it. I remember him in that way in which you recollect a lover who may have been a horrible match, but treated you well enough to warrant an occasional "what if" type of idealized bullshit reminiscence. I'm glad I read him when I did, but I must confess that as soon as I held a hard copy of 1Q84 in my hands, made note of the necessary time commitment, and considered the number of books of equal length that I desperately want to read, I just knew that Murakami and I were basically through. I will still go in for the occasional quickie, but I just don't think I'm ready to settle down with him and get serious again. That was then and this is now. Know what I'm sayin'?

He's still a wonderful storyteller, though. I hope that if you two have yet to meet, it's under the right circumstances when you do. He's a lovely fella.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Such a great review. And thanks for recommending this one to me. My relationship with Murakami has been a bumpy one, but fifty pages into Kafka and I can feel the spark reigniting.

message 2: by Mitch (new)

Mitch This is more about you than the book, but I enjoyed reading it anyway. 1Q84 was actually the first of his that I read and quite enjoyed it. I didn't realize so many people hated him.

Eric Slyter Murakami has also been one of my longtime favorites, and I comment only to tell you that, since your descriptions seem to be characteristically in line with my own thoughts on this author, you absolutely must read 1Q84. It is a true masterpiece; one that I feel he has never surpassed and maybe never will. It's a long one, yes. But I'm one of those people who has difficulty paying attention long enough to read any work of fiction and I wish this book had been even longer than it was. It's just one of those that when you're finished, you feel like a piece of you has gone with it.

Cams What Eric said. Finishing 1Q84 made me sad because it was over and I wanted it to carry on.

I'm 41 and have a degree in literature. I say that just to give you a point of reference.

Kafka on the Shore made me feel something deep inside and is up there with some of the Russian and English lit that's supposedly classic literature. In fact, besides Crime and Punishment and the Brothers Karamazov, and perhaps Les Mis, I've enjoyed Murakami's writing more than any other. Is it sacrilegious to mention Murakami alongside Dostoevsky? From some of the vitriolic reviews I've read of Murakami, to some it undoubtedly *is* sacrilegious. I feel like I'm out on a limb here, but, like you, I just wanted to say how much Murakami's novels move me.

message 5: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 26, 2013 09:52PM) (new)

"...and stuck with him over the years as a consistent replacement for the dreams that I do not ever remember having. Like, ever."

you just put into words why i love murakami so much. i remember reading one of his novels in my undergrad days (interestingly enough, my first was also the wind-up bird chronicle) and i felt as if i had fallen into a surreal world that was still familiar somehow... like discovering a new place, yet feeling strangely nostalgic about it. after being over-exposed to the same old dry classics i'd half-heartedly written about so many times before, murakami was a revelation--and i still look to his novels for a small escape, knowing full well i'll wander in a strange, long circle and still love every minute of it. anyway, i don't mean to word-vomit about my love of murakami to you, but i really wanted to thank you for writing this.

Rebecca Macneal I didn't know people were so bothered by his fantasy aspects either. If you understand Japan's mystical culture, you can see how he weaves it into his work with such beauty....

Demetrius Burns I think I love you. Haha, jk. Great 'view

message 8: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Gobin This book is actually perfect. The switch between stories is sometimes annoying because I got so interested in one side of the book that I didn't want to move on until I was done with the specific plot. I mean, who wouldn't want to run away from home only to live with so many different people and build so many new friendships. It's the exact book that an nervous teen should read. It's bold, new, and exciting even after 12 years. Something about this book is stellar and no wonder it was ranked high from a lot of my friends. Kafka is a brilliant character who learns so much on his quest to find his mother and sister. Truly a great book.

Laurie I will never stop thinking about this book. This is my first Murakami, and holy hell, it wore me out. Excellent review.

Carlos Aleman I loved the switching back between stories. It was all very interesting to me. Once Murakami is in your head, he never leaves.

Caroline I've also seen numerous comments debating the ethics, morals, and just aspects of Murakami's works. Sure, he seems a little obsessed with risque topics, but it works with his books, especially this one. Kafka's coming of age story was the most interesting aspect of this story, in my opinion, seeing as I am slightly older than his character. I identify with his need to be "the strongest 15 year old," and have the same sense of adventure. Nakata's story seemed so unreal, not just because of the talking cats or raining fish, but the fact that someone like him could interact so normally with someone, or in his case, something else. People normally perceive people who are mentally retarded to have no thought process whatsoever, but Nakata surely did.
This book is definitely my favorite of Murakami's and I would read it again and again.

Andrew Anderson This was my second Murakami, and I am now hooked on his style. It may not be for everyone, but then what is?

Lauren Thank you for this beautiful review.

message 14: by Hell (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hell A Thank you.

message 15: by Paul (new) - added it

Paul Gibson Yes it's a simple and descriptive style which quickly becomes addictive.

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