Krissy on the Shore, preferring to rather continuously hit his head on the sand than read another Murakami book

August 3, 2010 at 12:36 am | Posted in Criticism | 17 Comments

Okay, after the first half, Kafka on the Shore began being a total bore, a pretentiously metaphysical, sloppy bore.

Perhaps, behind that muddled mess of a book, there is really something he’s trying to convey to the readers. But I don’t see it. I’m not stupid, or at least I’d like to think that I’m not that foolish to fall into the manipulative traps of the author. I read somewhere that Murakami just writes everything along the way, and you can obviously see where the underlying problem of the whole thing is, not that I’m saying that that kind of writing style is not ideal but it can certainly be seen as a fault or a flaw in this case. Now I’m having doubts and wondering whether I shall still give his other works a try or not.

I have constantly suspended my disbelief for any kind of sci-fi/fantasy works I have come across but, here, I think there should be a limit on what you’re willing to overlook. The magical realist elements of the films don’t seem quite blended into the novel’s spatial environment; it seems more like they are out-of-place, have been forced to be included just for the sake of amazing or amusing the readers. Leeches and fish falling from the sky? A boy named Crow inside Kafka’s head? Collecting cats’ souls to create an otherworldly flute? Err, yeah. I don’t need an explanation to these phenomenons but are they really necessary in this tale about Kafka’s Oedipal journey and Nakata’s need to fulfill a number of tasks? At least in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, the gypsies’ flying carpet, a murdered family member’s blood flowing and making its way towards the matriarch’s location, and Remedios’ sudden ascension towards the sky are made to seem as if they’re quite natural, little things that the reader is supposed to believe is possible and likely given the situation. The magical realist elements in Kafka on the Shore seem to be there just for show, a theatrical gesture from a demigod, a fireworks display in an otherwise mediocre novel where a lot of ideas from great historical and literary figures are thrown in with a bunch of other mumbo-jumbo.

All the characters are stuck with the idea that they have no control on their decisions, fate and so on. Not that I completely disagree but one would feel completely hopeless with Murakami’s way of toying around with his characters. Kafka leaves home to escape his father and the curse his father has put upon him, only to end up fulfilling what he was cursed to do. To explain why does he continue to eat cats and collect their souls in order to create a magic flute, “Johnny Walker” uses the excuse that this is his purpose in life, this is what he is supposed to do and he can’t escape it. Miss Saeki has accepted the way things are. She stubbornly refuses to be lively and of this world, the way she was back when her lover was still alive and breathing, and merely waits for death. Nakata seems to be following orders in his head or predictions or something like that (it is never fully explained where he gets these bizzare ideas from) and to believe that it is his task to open this entrance stone. This is his responsibility, his job, his purpose in life, what he was born for, and, if he’s taking too long to fulfill this task, a being who will take a form of anything such as a capitalist icon like Colonel Sanders will help along the way to make sure everything goes the way it is supposed to be. Hoshino seems to think that it was his decision to stay with Nakata but it seems, more or less, like he was fated to assist Nakata and do the tasks that Nakata is not physically and mentally capable of doing.

If I were you, I wouldn’t try so hard to analyze everything beneath the novel’s glossy surface. I wouldn’t go so far as to call the author self-indulgent but I won’t try bothering to pick up the fragmented pieces he dropped and, voila, just made into a novel and try to make something out of it.

Now, I shall forget about all that typical stuff about how I should cherish memories (it is no coincidence that most Japanese anime seem to have the similar premises, all about how memories are very important) and prepare myself for another novel, perhaps continuing The Cement Garden, which fortunately bears no striking similarities to Kafka on the Shore other than that both protagonists do have incestuous feelings towards their sister. Oh, boy.

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