One of the reasons I am always drawn to Murakami’s writing is because it makes one extremely cynical and critical of their own likes and dislikes and how they view life. I sometimes find myself judging my own self rather than the content and the context: Did I really like this book? Do I relate to these feelings, am I scandalized or appalled or simply approving? Of course these ruminations are not mandatory, but if one does find themselves over thinking after reading a Murakami book, it is not a reason to be surprised or much too perturbed.
The mystical, the supernatural and the sexual overtones of his work are a manifestation of feelings, perspective and desires. It would not be fair to say that his writing is food for thought, but it is definitely a decadent dessert worth the money.
Kafka on the Shore is one of those books which keeps you completely immersed till the very last page and then leaves you feeling extremely confused. You find yourself questioning whether you actually did like the book or if you liked it just because the book carries a certain reputation, falls into a specific genre you usually like and is heralded by people who might be considered fashionable enthusiasts in your social circle or on the Internet . Murakami does have an exclusive and ardent fan following. Either or tether ways, his books do make for great reading and one will enjoy reading him if the reader enjoys literary fiction.
While reading the book, I went through several motions; the assertive yet esoteric tone of the book got me hooked early on. The chapters alternate between Kafka, a fifteen year old runaway, and Nakata, an old man who can speak to cats, tracing their bizarre journey and interesting accomplices. It keeps one engaged, as the tone and tenor of both the parallel stories are quite different. While Kafka’s is sexually charged with a familiar youthful angst, Nakata’s is spiritual and calm with wonky wonders that balances the tone. Interestingly, all the violence is depicted in Nakata chapters.
The book starts rather dramatically with young Kafka running away from home and provides the alternate and rather detailed explanation of a mysterious incident that changed Nakata’s life forever. The author is able to draw the reader deep into the story and into one’s own mind. The plot is mesmerizing, slightly spooky and convoluted, with elaborate philosophical and spiritual musings of Ms Seiko, Oshima and Kafka, the principal characters. These musings are unrealistic and over the top but carry strong content, which really keeps one pondering over them. Nakata’s characterization is brilliant and endearing. The sequence of events flows steadily, but Murakami just drops certain explanations from the book, never to be answered. The reader loses track of the layered references and the engaging mystery.
Bizarre and supernatural sequence of events like leeches and mackerel falling from the sky, talking cats and ghostly spirits are easily weaved into the plot — characteristic of Murakami’s work. However, this book definitely feels more controlled than Murakami’s other great book Dance Dance Dance, where one is sure that the writer has let his pen, feelings and imagination run wild and bouncing.
The book ends on a disappointing note. Too many loose ends make the plot unsubstantial. One might find themselves re reading certain parts of the book; certain parts definitely need going back to, especially the part where a ghostly spirit – Captain Sanders makes an appearance. But the ending may be forgettable for some.
All in all, the book is still recommended for the undeniable brilliance in Murakami’s prose.