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Kafka on the Shore
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2014 Book Discussions > Kafka on the Shore - Chapters 1 though 20 (No Spoilers) (November 2014)

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message 1: by Edgarf (last edited Oct 31, 2014 09:33PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Edgarf | 44 comments This thread is for your general impressions of Kafka On Shore. Restrict this thread to content in the first 20 chapters please.


Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments As it happens, I have just now finished Chapter 20. First impressions: this is Murakami, alright. Magical realism, descriptions of food, western music, and the echos of WW2. Check, check, check and check! A good read so far.


Edgarf | 44 comments I'm glad to hear that, Peter, this my first Marakami read so from you are saying I have a lot to look forward to as I finish Kafka On The Shore and begin to explore his other works.


Evisa Rami | 8 comments This is my first book from Murakami too. Will start as soon as I finish what I am reading right now.Very excited!


Whitney | 2088 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "As it happens, I have just now finished Chapter 20. First impressions: this is Murakami, alright. Magical realism, descriptions of food, western music, and the echos of WW2. Check, check, check ..."

And of of course cats!

This is my second read of Kafka since it first came out. Aside from the similarities with his other books, I'm most struck by how many common factors it has with 1Q84 in particular.


Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments And of of course cats!

This is my second read of Kafka since it first came out. Aside from the similarities with his other books, I'm most struck by how many common factors it has with 1Q84 in particular.


Ah, yes, cats -- I should have caught that. Even more than 1Q84, Kafka on the Shore reminded me of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, what with the sheer volume of unexplained weirdness and the numerous events that that you have to ponder if they literally happened or were perhaps figurative.


Edgarf | 44 comments And of course cats!

When I first first began reading Kafka On The Shore I thought, "Oh, No! This is going to be like The Master and Margarita". So far that could not be farther from the truth. So far I love this book and I suspect it may become one of my favorites.


Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I just started reading this last night, so I haven't gotten very far. The tone is very Murakami, but it also reminds me, in some odd way I can't quite put my finger on, of The Islanders. I think it is something about the tone.


Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments KotS reminds you of The Islanders? Could you expand on that? If it reminds me of anything other than other Murakami books, it would be Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood, although that mostly in the later parts of KotS.


Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Edgar, while both KotS and The Master and Margarita are both wonderful books, are both classed as magical realism, and both feature cats in important roles, they are very different books, and informed by very different religious views. As Lacewing noted in the spoiler thread, an undercurrent of Zen Buddhism runs through Murakami, while Bulgakov's underlying mythology is Russian folk Christianity. And the two view cats very differently.


Whitney | 2088 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "Ah, yes, cats -- I should have caught that. Even more than 1Q84, Kafka on the Shore reminded me of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, what with the sheer volume of unexplained weirdness and the numerous events that that you have to ponder if they literally happened or were perhaps figurative..."

Also seeing the Wind-Up similarities. There's even a point where Kafka describes a clearing looking like the bottom of giant well. 1Q84 also had the questions of "what really happened". A big similarity with 1Q84, which I'll spoiler to be safe, (view spoiler).

There's a few other things that are popping out from other books. Should we start a separate topic for comparing Kafka to Murakami's other books, to minimize annoyance to people who maybe haven't read them yet?


Edgarf | 44 comments Whitney wrote: "Peter wrote: "Ah, yes, cats -- I should have caught that. Even more than 1Q84, Kafka on the Shore reminded me of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, what with the sheer volume of unexplained weirdness and ..."
Opening a new thread sounds like a great idea, Whitney. Would mind doing the honor of opening it? It took a toll on my brain power figuring out how to open the threads I have opened already.


Whitney | 2088 comments Mod
Done.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I can relate to how Kafka feels about libraries. Being in university I spend so much of my day inside a library that it feels like a second home. Besides it's warm in the winter, chilly in the summer and there's coffe, what more could one ask for? It's also the perfect place to escape from my relentlessly chatty roommate.
I actually have a list of libraries all over the world that I would love to visit some day.


Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
The part about libraries also struck a chord with me. When I was in college, I spent a lot of time at the multiple libraries on campus. The main library was huge and wonderful, but there were also smaller libraries scattered around focused on particular subjects, like science, or art, or Near Eastern Studies. Walking across campus to one of these libraries and settling in was so much better than trying to study in my dorm room, where I would find endless distractions.

Murakami creates a wonderful atmosphere for the Komari library as a sort of refuge from the world. So much of the book has this dreamlike quality to it, but the library seems solid and real.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2305 comments Casceil wrote: "Murakami creates a wonderful atmosphere for the Komari library as a sort of refuge from the world. So much of the book has this dreamlike quality to it, but the library seems solid and real."

It has been awhile since I read Kafka, but I do remember the library and how it seemed like a safe and sane place. Like Casceil, I love libraries and liked to study in them, especially the one at my law school.


message 17: by Lily (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Linda wrote: "...Like Casceil, I love libraries and liked to study in them, especially the one at my law school...."

Fortunate ladies! I love libraries and making use of them; however, I've never known a public one in which I was particularly fond of studying. (A periodic spontaneous exercise for years on the Western Canon board has been to post pictures of "dream libraries.") Anyone know a "real" library that they think might reflect the Komari library? My mind conjures something starkly modern -- with essences of ancient flourishes. Lots of natural light. Open stairwells.


message 18: by Casceil (last edited Nov 03, 2014 03:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I don't know that I would call it a "dream library," but you would probably like the main Phoenix library.

https://www.phoenixpubliclibrary.org/...

The top floor has walls of windows on opposite sides of the building, and an open gallery the width of floor. It is very modern, with open staircases. There are also skylights that line up to produce interesting effects on the longest day of the year.


Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Getting back to the book, I would like to discuss events in Chapters 11-13. I will put my comment in a spoiler for those who have not read as far as the end of Chapter 13. (view spoiler)


Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Casceil, (view spoiler) It almost certainly means something, but with Murakami it can be hard to tell just what.


Maureen | 124 comments Just got my hands on a copy today, so I get to start reading tonight! I can't wait to find out what all of you are experiencing!

One guarantee, it will be better than trying to follow election results on tv, no matter what issues I may care about!


Edgarf | 44 comments Maureen wrote: "Just got my hands on a copy today, so I get to start reading tonight! I can't wait to find out what all of you are experiencing!

One guarantee, it will be better than trying to follow election r..."

Be ready for one heck of a ride


message 23: by Lily (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Link to Murakami's site.
Haven't fully explored this yet. The visuals are delightful. However, even for KotS in the Library, some may consider there to be spoilers, so beware if you care:

http://www.randomhouse.com/features/m...


Violet wells | 354 comments Just about to start. 19q4 was the most disappointing novel i've read this year. Started in classic Murakami fashion but then began rambling and endlessly repeating itself.


Maureen | 124 comments Edgarf wrote: "Maureen wrote: "Just got my hands on a copy today, so I get to start reading tonight! I can't wait to find out what all of you are experiencing!

One guarantee, it will be better than trying to f..."


I must say that I am getting ready to start Ch. 18, (I know; life has gotten in the way of me proceeding faster - ugh), but Edgarf is right - it has been "one heck of a ride"! Chapter 16 with Nakata and Johnnie Walker was not a good choice to read before falling asleep last night! Luckily I read Ch. 17 before closing my eyes. The back story on Miss Saeki was just the cushion I needed!

Onward!


Evisa Rami | 8 comments Just finished Chapter 12, and I really do not know what to expect from this book! Is it gonna be a thriller/horror/drama/romantic book? I mean there is a lot going on, and I have no idea where is the author headed...


message 27: by Lily (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Evisa wrote: "Just finished Chapter 12, and I really do not know what to expect from this book! Is it gonna be a thriller/horror/drama/romantic book? I mean there is a lot going on, and I have no idea where is t..."

Hope you are enjoying the ride, Evisa. I did find what you are experiencing part of my early reactions to Murakami's writings. I believe I started with KotS.


Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Murakami books tend to resist classification, which is why they are sometimes classed as "slipstream", which sort of means "none of the above, but kind of weird". But they typically contain elements of SF, fantasy, horror and history. Or to misquote Whitman: Murakami's writing is large, it contains multitudes (of genres). ;)


Evisa Rami | 8 comments Peter wrote: "Murakami books tend to resist classification, which is why they are sometimes classed as "slipstream", which sort of means "none of the above, but kind of weird". But they typically contain elemen..."

That is very interesting, thank you Peter! I never heard of slipstream, but yeah this book is very different. I am very glad to have picked it up. :)


Evisa Rami | 8 comments Lily wrote: "Evisa wrote: "Just finished Chapter 12, and I really do not know what to expect from this book! Is it gonna be a thriller/horror/drama/romantic book? I mean there is a lot going on, and I have no i..."

I am Lily! I can't wait to finish the first 20 chapters, so I can read your discussions, in the thread where spoliers are allowed :)


Whitney | 2088 comments Mod
On a lighter note, Murakami is a finalist for the "Bad Sex in Fiction" award:

http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketco...


message 32: by Lily (last edited Nov 14, 2014 07:43AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Whitney wrote: "On a lighter note, Murakami is a finalist for the "Bad Sex in Fiction" award:

http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketco..."


[g] I have a vague recollection this may not be a first nomination for Murakami!

(A good Google search might prove my memory faulty.)


Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Murakami's sex scenes have often been a bit on the odd side...


message 34: by Marc (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2589 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "Murakami's sex scenes have often been a bit on the odd side..."

A Twisted Tale of Tumescence just narrowly missed being the title instead of Kafka on the Shore, but it's said that Murakami disdains too much alliteration...


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

Whitney wrote: "On a lighter note, Murakami is a finalist for the "Bad Sex in Fiction" award"

Wow. That is a weird award to have. Who comes up with this sort of things?!


Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Giorgia wrote: "Wow. That is a weird award to have. Who comes up with this sort of things?!"

People with too much free time on their hands?


message 37: by Lily (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Peter wrote: "Giorgia wrote: "Wow. That is a weird award to have. Who comes up with this sort of things?!"

People with too much free time on their hands?"


Marketing and publicity honchos for publishers?


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 397 comments I started listening to the novel a couple of days ago, and it is unmistakably Murakami - cats, several plot lines and several narrators, allusions to classical music and classical literature.

Many of you have already mentioned that there is a lot of foggy stuff in Murakami's fiction, which is also his typical feature. It is as genre-bender, as Peter mentioned in his post, and the mysteries and twists in Murakami's books are eventually solved, but not in the conventional way. In my experience, there is always something weird that defies any explanation that happens in his books. It can not be explained in layman's terms where everything is clear and makes sense, and his books never leave me with the feeling of intellectual satiation where everything is explained with the feeling of intellectual closing, but somehow I still want to read them.


Kristen | 5 comments I completely agree, Zulfiya. There is something so elegant about his style. I can't think of many authors that could write about(view spoiler)in a way that isn't silly or campy. Yet it works so well for Murakami.

I love the new term that I just learned from this thread, too -- "slipstream" -- thanks Peter!


message 40: by Jan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jan Notzon | 100 comments I've just read the first 20 chapters or so, and I find this to be one of the most entertaining novels I've read. (I recently finished the last one, WHICH I WON'T MENTION BECAUSE THAT'S A DIFFERENT THREAD!).
Murakami is incredibly inventive and, I think, profound in a non-pretentious way. It seems he sort of seduces you with a simply-told story--although, granted, extraordinarily creative and diverse.
"Slipstream." Was that genre title invented for him, or are there other writers that fit in that rubric?


Edgarf | 44 comments Jan wrote: "I've just read the first 20 chapters or so, and I find this to be one of the most entertaining novels I've read. (I recently finished the last one, WHICH I WON'T MENTION BECAUSE THAT'S A DIFFERENT ..."

Your post made me also wonder where the term slipstream came from. I looked it up on Wikipedia and found it the term was coined by Bruse Sterling

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slipstre...


Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments I found the Wikipedia entry rather unsatisfying, this article, titled Slipstream 101, while having its own axes to grind, does a better job in my opinion.

Murakami is more often classed as magical realism than slipstream, BTW, but I will note that this Goodreads Slipstream list includes a lot of Murakami, so I'm not the only one classing him that way.


Whitney | 2088 comments Mod
The term was originally coined by Sterling, who also popularized "cyberpunk", so blame him for these stupid monikers :-)

Sterlings original article from 1989 can be found here:
https://w2.eff.org/Misc/Publications/...

I like James Patrick Kelly's take on it: http://www.asimovs.com/_issue_0312/on...

And if you still haven't had enough, here's an article with some good stuff, and links to a bunch of other stuff.
http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/abstracts/a...


Violet wells | 354 comments I suspect how much you enjoy this book will depend a lot on how many murakami books you've read. Murakami's one of those love at first sight writers. You're besotted when you first enter his world. However the more you read him, the more you begin to feel he keeps writing the same novel. This is my sixth Murakami novel and I'm continually getting flashbacks from his other books, to the point where I feel I know fully what to expect. I was thinking of david Mitchell yesterday and how massively influenced he was by Murakami early in his career. But there's a sense now that mitchell has a greater reach than his former master; that his novels pioneer out into a wider world. I'm just seeing the same repeated characters in Murakami novels, the same unresolvable mysteries, the same props. It's almost as if the more novels Murakami writes the more limited his scope begins to appear.


Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Violet, I couldn't disagree more. I've read three Murakami books: 1Q84, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and now Kafka on the Shore. I found them to be three very different books. There are some similar themes and motifs that come up, but for me the "feel" of each book is very different.


message 46: by Lily (last edited Nov 23, 2014 09:45AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Casceil wrote: "Violet, I couldn't disagree more. I've read three Murakami books: 1Q84, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and now Kafka on the Shore. I found them to be three very differen..."

I'm with Casceil on this one. Although I have heard others speak as Violet does, I have found each Murakami to be quite different, even if certain tropes do become familiar. I started with KotS, probably still my "favorite," and moved to TW-UBC, then Norwegian Wood, the most conventional, and most recently 1Q84. I'm not convinced that the writer who created the kind, lusty truck driver Hoshino and transgender Oshima and the two whinny feminists in the library in KotS (2002) was yet ready to create the righteous feminist Dragon Lady of 1Q84 (2009). I will need to revisit a TW-UBC to more fully understand the historic Japanese-Chinese conflicts encoded in the stories. I sense from comments of reviewers and critics that some earlier Murakami stories are useful to fill in the blanks -- I may go there next rather than to his newer works. Murakami is a writer my mind held at a distance; I wasn't a fan like Ilana Simons, who was the blog-writer/author who introduced me to his work. I now rather hope he can withstand and remain creative under the intense scrutiny he and his work needs must endure.

I have not yet broken the code for reading David Mitchell, I will admit.

It is a heavy burden that Murakami now carries for his fame as a story-teller in and to our age.


Whitney | 2088 comments Mod
I'll add my voice to those of respectful disagreement. His books frequently have similar concepts, and many have a similar tone. I'd say the same thing about Faulkner (and many others). I've read nine books by Murakami, some of them multiple times. I don't find them repetitive, but more that they resonate with each other.


message 48: by Zulfiya (last edited Nov 23, 2014 11:48AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 397 comments I am with Whitney. They are all similar in style and tone and his quirky features (cats, unreal/real, dreams, classical literature and classical music), but they are also quite different. This is my third Murakami, and the two others were also very good and conducive to discussion, but this novel stands out for me for its literary complexity, compassion, humanity, love, delightful weirdness, and as a journey of self-discovery for its characters.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) | 11 comments I am sorry, haven't commented in this group for a while and I am late starting this book. Read the first chapter. it's funny reading this right after his short story a strange library. Both books, on the surface, deal with a boy living, or being forced to live, in a library.


Franky | 104 comments Sorry, late to the discussion. Just started this one and look forward to it. Love the comments and I'll try to chime in one I get to chapter 20.

This is my third Murakami read (I read Hard Boiled Wonderland and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and loved them both).


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