I’ve been meaning to write this post for about a week, now, but I keep putting it off. I think the lesson I’ve learned here is not to read a Murakami book twice because I won’t like it as much. The only other one I’ve read twice is Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, which had previously been my favorite novel. Until that second reading, after which it was replaced by Kafka on the Shore. Well, I’m in the same position now, and all of this is rethinking my devotion to Murakami. It’s not that it’s a bad novel, or anything. I just didn’t like it as much. I certainly understood more of it this time around, even though it had been a few years since I’d read it, and maybe that’s why I didn’t like it so much. Or maybe not. I’m just a bit confused.
Kafka on the Shore is about a kid named Kafka Tamura (he changed his first name) who runs away from home, partially because he doesn’t get along with his father, a famous sculptor, who prophesied that Kafka would kill his father and sleep with his mother and his sister. Kafka ends up in another town at a private library. Then things start to get weird in a way only Murakami could think up. There’s also an older man named Nakata. When he was young, something mysterious happened to him and his classmates, and all of them recovered except him. He seems a bit autistic, and he can talk to cats. He gets aid from the state and supplements his income by finding people’s cats. On the trail of one of these cats, he finds himself in an empty lot where one had been last seen. A big dog appears and guides him to the house of a man who calls himself Johnnie Walker who does terrible things to cats to collect their souls to make a flute. (Yep, that’s the plot.) Nakata kills him, and it turns out later that Kafka’s father had been murdered, but apparently under different circumstances. And then more Murakami-ish things happen, some of them involving fish falling from the sky.
Yeah, it’s a strange novel – as are all of them. Most of Murakami’s work is magical realism, kind of like Gabriel Garcia Marquez‘s One Hundred Years of Solitude. That’s one of the reasons I like him so much. He’s certainly one of the best living authors (and so is Marquez, though he quit writing). I’ve read every one of Murakami’s novels published in English, even the hard-to-find ones like Pinball, 1973. I didn’t especially like A Wild Sheep Chase or After Dark, and I’m still considering giving them a second read because I should like them. And there’s 1Q84, which plain ol’ disappointed me. All of the others, though, I really like. Even the two I’ve read twice – it’s just that I don’t like them quite as much as I did the first time I read them.
If you haven’t read any Murakami, pick up one of his books at the library. I read somewhere that Norwegian Wood is his most accessible because it’s the most realistic, and I can agree with that. There’s also the movie coming out sometime soon. My first Murakami was Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. I was browsing the shelves at the Urbana Free Library in Illinois and thought the title was too interesting to pass up. I think The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is probably his best, and as much as I loved it, I don’t think I’ll read it again anytime soon because I don’t want to be disappointed on the second go-round.