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Tue, Feb. 21st, 2006, 02:13 pm
Reading List: Kafka on the Shore

Read: Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami.

I guess it’s a bad thing that I’m still writing about books from January when it’s mid-February, but the past two weeks haven’t precisely been conducive to any writing except the mandatory sort. Fortunately I’ve been reading a lot of silly thrillers that don’t really deserve their own reviews.

Kafka on the Shore, on the other hand, most certainly deserves a review of its own, and likely a more insightful one than I can give it. I’m a big Murakami fan; I love his particular brand of magic realism, which leaps across genres to give ears, sheep, detectives, cats, or truck drivers a mystical significance. This particular book features an old man who can’t read, but can talk to cats, and a young boy whose mother and sister disappeared long ago and who has run away from home to look for them. Over the course of the book, the two characters never meet, but their stories intertwine through plot incident as well as metaphor.

My favorite parts of the novel were also, unfortunately, the ones that were least successfully carried through to the end of the book. The scene with Johnnie Walker was genuinely chilling, for example, but I’m not sure that the Johnnie Walker/Colonel Sanders thread was ever really resolved. Then again, Murakami doesn’t seem to entirely believe in resolving his plots in any of his novels, so for him, the redemptive experiences of each of the characters at the end of the novel are pretty good closure. As long as you don’t expect the plot to make more than allegorical sense, the book is just wonderful - the writing, the characters, the well-drawn incidents and the flights of fancy will keep you with Murakami all the way to the end.

If nothing else, I’m going to read this book a few more times because someday, I want to be able to talk to cats and live in a library.