March 24, 2005

Lost on the shore

Just finished Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami's latest. Really enjoyed it until the last third or so. About halfway into the book, I was enthralled.

Critics have often blamed Murakami of ultimate "incoherence," but I treated them pretty skeptically in approaching and reading this novel; after all, this is probably the criticism most over-applied to ambitious, challenging books. For me, the problem with Kafka was not some failure by the author to "tie it all together," but an unraveling of each individual thread. Both of the novel's plots precipitously went from page-turner intensity to slight tedium as Murakami's endearing conversational style got a little indulgent and plain haphazard. If I may put on my own critic cap: Murakami takes unlikely materials and starts building a beautiful, Gaudi-like castle, full of fantasy and primal emotions, but then can't quite realize the dream. It kinda sucks, because I'm not used to being this let down by novels. I also have to agree with Janet Maslin of NYT that the translation bordered on "needlessly jive."

Still, I'd like to read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, as I enjoyed Norwegian Wood and much of this novel. In fact, I still recommend Kafka, just read the first half and I'll tell you what happens after that. After all, any book that pulls off tasteful incest and the murder of a character named Johnnie Walker by an illiterate amnesiac who talks with cats is probably worth reading.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:00 PM

    I just finished reading Kafka on the Shore myself. It hits all the classic Murakami memes and is quite satisfying in that regard, even if it maybe isn't quite as pleasing as some of the earlier books.
    If you are around campus, let me know and, if you don't already have them, I would be happy to loan you wind-up bird chronicle, hardboiled wonderland..., and/or a wild sheep chase, as they are all worth reading.
    As a side-note, Number9Dream by David Mitchell is quite enjoyable as what is essentially a tribute to the archetypical Murakami novel.