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Another Disappointing Read: 'Kafka on the Shore'
What is the measure of a good book? For me, if a book has a few passages which really stir my thoughts, get my cerebral juices flowing, or better, pull me deeper into the story, I would absolutely consider that a good read. A book can have long descriptions which make me want to just get past them, or storylines which could have been truncated, but if it has got those few bright spots which sing to my soul, it makes the whole effort of engaging for hours with a book worth it. Point in question the book I am reading: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.
Sample the electrifying conversation below:
“From my own experience, when someone is trying very hard to get something, they don’t. And when they’re running away from something as hard as they can, it usually catches up with them. I’m generalizing, of course.”
“If you generalize about me, then, what’s in my future? If I’m seeking and running at the same time.”
“That’s a tough one,” Oshima says, and smiles. A moment passes before he goes on. “If I had to say anything it’d be this: Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting.”
“Kind of an ominous prophecy.”
It really is perhaps the best piece of prose I have read in a while. The book has a few more bright spots like this. But unfortunately, that is where, the good things come to an end.
From that high of initial hundred or so pages where the aforementioned conversation appears (and I was excited about the story), the book gives up on telling a substantial story, takes a bizarre form close to improv and fizzles out.
The problem is that the book has no juice. ‘Kafka on the Shore’ really has just a few schticks. Two storylines unravel in alternate chapters: first, of a fifteen year old boy who has run away from his home and second, of a sixty year old man who can talk to cats but cannot read or write. Having setup these two narrative constructs, Murakami apparently forgot to also devise a story. Throughout the book, Murakami is ad-libbing as he makes up pointless details to stretch a very very thin story (?), if it can be called that, frustratingly long (almost 700 pages).
Instead of unfolding an interesting story, the chapters eternally describe the characters having breakfast, lunches and dinners with painful details of how they got to the diner, what they are ordering, where they are going to sleep, the utterly random stuff they are talking in the car etc. The sex scenes feel pointless and gratuitous, and makes me wonder why they are there. The graphic scene in which cats are tortured and murdered and their hearts are eaten is blood curdling and illuminates nothing about the characters in the story or the nature of humanity. Is it gore written to shock, or make the critics think there is something pointing towards sublime? I don’t know. What’s the story? Page after page of digressing nonsense has made my brain hurt.
I guess, I’m off Murakami for now. Reading two voluminous heaps of garbage back to back has made me cranky and bitter. I need to read something new. Something good.