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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  1. I have to say I did enjoy reading Kafka on the Shore but I did not even begin to analyze it but just went along for the ride.

  2. Woah woah, easy. I couldn’t really tell as to when an author already crosses the border between magical realism and plain attempt for amusement, ’cause I think that supernatural beliefs vary from one culture to another. So with One Hundred Years of Solitude, I took those things you’ve mentioned as they were, without questioning how improbable or feasible they could happen, because with fiction, the possibilities are endless, much more with sci-fi/fantasy-themed ones. Try those books I’ve told you about, they’re much closer to reality. 😀

  3. I’ve read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Inabot ako ng ten years bago ko matapos. Yown lang. Makapagkoment lang. =)

  4. there came a time when i considered murakami as my ‘favorite author.’ the first that i read was after dark and thought it was, uh, cute. then a couple of his books followed. i no longer know what after dark was about. but kafka on the shore, no, haven’t read. no plans, actually. thanks for the tip. :p

  5. you remind me that i should start my onebookaweek routine! yey for bumhood! 🙂

  6. I like it that you don’t like Murakami. His stories–and his characters–do not have real backbones.

  7. Murakami books are read to be surrealist. Other than a diversion from the mundane, its being political is out of the question. It’s not political, not even sensible. I couldn’t help but think Murakami writes things while sleeping.

    I almost did a paper regarding his twenty-something short story collection, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. I tried to make sense out of the first story but gave up.

    In my opinion Murakami writes weak plots, but what I love in his works is his sensibility, his capability to merge fantasy and reality, subconscious and conscious. I just read his books like a normal day, that’s all. :))

    • Typo: Murakami books are considered surrealist. LOL

  8. alright, i need to graduate from teen fiction and read more grown up books.

    this should be a great start.

  9. Chris update na! :p

  10. Incidentally, I have just finished The Cement Garden. Definitely ditch Murakami and finish McEwan. You are right about magical realism. Novels of this genre must be ambitious, but authors should be aware that we readers don’t care about how fantastic the details are–we just want to suspend our beliefs in reality.

  11. Murakami makes my head hurt.

    I read his Wind up Bird Chronicle and I just lost it. I actually found it easy to drown in the plot but it gets so dragging and laggy and too damn depressing sometimes. 😦

    Any recommendations there? My booklist is currently empty. 😦

    • Actually, I had Kafka reserved for me by FullyBooked up until tomorrow..I liked After Dark and Dance, dance, dance. i do get some of your points, though..but i’ll read it anyway.=]

  12. Hey, you there.

    I’m here. 🙂

  13. This does not move me. To each his own, of course.

  14. Nasan ka na ba?

  15. been so long man. what’s up with you?

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