Kafka on the Shore
21 journalers for this copy...
Will have a think about what to do with this book now.
Participants so far are:
pammykn (FL, USA)
Book is currently in America, but will have to travel back to Europe afterwards.
Will get going on it this lunchtime!
Everything, we are told repeatedly, is a metaphor, but a metaphor for what? I'm happy with things like:
thick forest = confusion
shore = boarder between life and death
library = store of memories
but what about the speaking to cats business? What about the strange man/woman/gay/straight Oshima, what does he represent? What's the evil Jonny Walker/Colonel Saunders thing supposed to be? Was Kafka's curse fulfilled or not?
I've done a lot of thinking whilst reading this, but most of it seems to have been in circles!
Sometimes I think I would like to be able to talk to cats like Mr Nakata, then I remember the contemptuous expression my own cat usually wears and think that perhaps it's best not to understand them.
I didn't like the book, to be honest. Perhaps if I had read it more rapidly, it would have been easier to enjoy it. The story develops too slow to be appreciated this way.
Throughout the book I felt like giving up, but I really wanted to know what it was all about. I actually liked the ending, but was expecting a bit more from the event in the woods during WW2.
On the whole I thought it was a bit heavy going, not only how every detail was thoroughly described but also the constant citations. Everyone was always quoting someone in Kafka's part of the story...
Also, I think some of the writing used was a bit pretentious (sorry if I've offended anyone). For example:
"Listen, every object's in flux. The Earth, time, concepts, love, life, faith, justice, evil - they're all fluid and in transition. They don't stay in one form or in one place forever. The whole universe is like some big FedEx box."
«"I'd love to go to Spain someday," Oshima says.
"To fight in the Spanish Civil War."
"But that ended a long time ago."
"I know that. Lorca died, and Hemingway survived," Oshima says. "But I still have the right to go to Spain and be a part of the Spanish Civil War."»
«But metaphors help eliminate what separates you and me.»
Finally, I have to admit the main reason I wanted to read Murakami, was to learn a bit about Japan. There are references to events, people and religion, specific to Japan. I appreciated this. And there is huge loneliness in all the characters' lives... Does it have to do with it being set in Japan? I leave this question to be answered by other books by other Japanese authors.
Thanks weesisj for organizing this bookring. And again, sorry for the delay. Will send it tomorrow to Sobergirl in Finland.
PS: perhaps someone can explain why this is considered postmodernist literature in a future entry.
I read about 200 pages and realized I really didn't care about the story, what would happen to the characters, that's definitely a sign for me to give and move on to more interesting books.
However thanks a lot for arranging the bookray! I will send this to CatharinaL asap!
[25/05/06] I'm setting off on my vacation tomorrow, and I'm taking Kafka with me to read on the plane to New York. An extra addition to the total travel mileage of the book :-)
Kafka is a truly original kaleidoscope of Greek classics, the subconscious becoming conscious, mundane city life, and abundant intertexts, among other things. There's the very same, unmistakable feel of myths and mystery, sexuality and sensuality as in Sputnik Sweetheart. But Kafka is far more complete, more comprehensive & ambitious, although it lacks some of the minimalistic intimacy of Sputnik. Not as rigorously ultra-allegorical as the brain-hacking cyberpunk of Hard-Boiled Wonderland, either--I loved the way the loose ends in this book gave room for the reader's imagination. Plenty of it was actually formed/created outside the actual printed text, by the reader--this brought in the 'dream' effect.
I got to thinking about postmodernism: does the mere idea of an Oedipean time warp and a weird narrative really make this particular book postmodern? No. I think it's rather the underlying concept of a book constructed in a certain fragmentary fashion, similar to postmodern visual arts. I'm thinking visual arts here just because of the way my brain operates--I tend to translate texts into visual colors, shapes, structures, and relations rather than thinking in terms of musical compositions. Murakami, in turn, is noted for his references to and parallels with music in particular. Any attempted analogies of mine may thus prove slightly off the track... Anyway, what I see is a postmodern warp, something like Kandinsky-style modernism accelerated into another dimension. Anselm Kiefer and Pollock, maybe?
The borrowing, the referring, the twisting, the parodying of many different genres, styles, and arts, and blending them all into a self-referring collage of which every reader forms his/her own unique experience and meaning... that's what I love about postmodernism. In a way, I felt as if this book actually worked on a meta-level in relation to postmodernism itself: the self-conscious narrative incorporated just about everything, as if all of the postmodern issues and philosophy were on display in one form or another. Art as process, interaction, intertextuality, myths, mimicry, borrowing, pluralism, "the fragmentation of time into a series of perpetual presents", subverted order, sense of disorientation, confusion, fragmentation and decentered self, multiple, conflicting identities, androgyny, alternative family units, new ideas of history, nostalgia, pop culture & hybrid cultural forms, consumerism, content transforming into styles... Add to this list the composition and the little details of the book, and voilà! Considering the novel's humorous side, I'd even be tempted to read some of these as ironical/parodical representations of the style/genre itself.
I'm adoring Murakami more and more every day. Thank you so much for this bookring, weesisj! I'm mailing the book to samulli Monday next week.
I didn't have very high expectations, because I've read Naoko's Smile by the same author earlier this year and it left me completely unimpressed (to be honest, I can't even rememeber what it was about or if I even finished it). And although I am not at all a fan of Franz Kafka, I think Kafka Tamura will stay with me for a long time. Just like Mr. Nakata, who was able to talk to cats and stones (I don't know which one of these abilities I found more impressive).
Murakami's writing style definitely takes some getting used to, but the story here just carried me away. I’m sure I didn’t get half of the underlying meaning of everything, but I don’t care, because it never was one of my hobbies to analyze a book to death. As long as the story can stand on its own, it’s all right with me. And this one certainly can.
Thanks weesisj for sharing it.
I already have E-J-V's address and the book will go in the mail this afternoon.
Thank you, samulli, for sending it.
I really liked it, even though I'm not sure I understood all the 'hidden meanings' of the story. This book will certainly keep my mind busy for a while :-)
16/08/06: Sent to SqueakyChu today. Enjoy!
Thank you so much, E-J-V, for the lovely postcard and greetings from Paris!
I like the idea of talking to cats. Wish I could do that.
The characters of Johnny Walker and Colonel Sanders were great. Those two reminded me of Steve Pastis' comic strip "Pearls Before Swine" in which Pastis often borrows characters from other comic strips. It's fun.
I like the way the book ended, although I was surprised at the end to remember that this was the story of a 15-year-old boy. By the time I got to that point, I thought he seemed so much more mature.
I can't wait to get into other Murakami writing. Thank you, weesisj, for making this book available for me and having patience with me as it took me a while to read it. Murakami really is for savoring rather than skipping quickly through the pages.
The book is now in the mail to lightwavz.
I have pammykn's address, so this one is moving along in today's mail! Thanks for the ray, weesisj!
I especially like Murakami's ability to transform ordinary (though somehow interesting) persons and ordinary lives slowly and almost without you realize it into something otherworldly, but in this case the strange things are there from th very beginning. And the story has a lot of crueling moments, but none of them is really that much discomforting - it is just too far away somehow. And in many aspects, the book lacks a special atmosphere - the part taking place in that forest misses any atmosphere at all, in my opinion. But OK, I have my own ideas about how a forest looks and feels like and they obviously differ from what Murakami wants to tell here.
The only character really interesting to me is Mr Hoshino, who is so normal and easily to picture that I can relate to him. And his behavior is closest to that of a normal person, even later on when at the end of the novel he has this very strange fight.
The Colonel Sanders / Johnny Walker character I didn't understand at all, but maybe that's simply because I'm not familiar with those icons of american advertisment industry...
Still, I managed to get through the whole book and I didn't think for a single moment about skipping pages. So at least Murakamis intriguing language got me.
I was PM'ed and asked if I was thinking of having this as a bookray, and since it's on so many wishlists and the 1001 books you MUST read before you die list, I will start another ray for this book!
* Please journal the book once when you receive it and once when you are done with it and it's about to leave your hands.
* Please PM the next person in line and send it off to them (Give the next reader a week to reply to your PM. If there's no reply, please PM me (so I can make a note in the list) and then PM the next reader in line
* If at all possible please try to read the book within 4-6 weeks (I don't care if it takes you longer to finish, but please PM me, so I won't worry)
* Most of all enjoy the book - - this is not a school assignment :)
PARTICIPANTS: (subject to change)
1. RustyReader2 (CANADA) - finished
2. aunt-sophie (CANADA) - finished
3. GateGypsy (CANADA) - int'l
4. totoroandmei (JAPAN) - surface int'l
5. meexia (SINGAPORE) - singapore -- has own copy
6. sprockitt (SINGAPORE) - int'l -- skipped
7. boirina (PORTUGAL) - prefers Europe -- BOOK HERE!!!
8. Qimp (NETHERLANDS) - prefers Europe
9. cats-eye (ENGLAND) - int'l
10. celticstar (ENGLAND) - int'l
11. NICNIC2 (ENGLAND) - int'l
12. Bjorg (ICELAND) - int'l
13. CarynPic (USA) - USA only
14. olered (USA) - Canada/USA
16. literarylover (USA) - prefers USA
17. rooshill (USA) - prefers USA
18. Dusties (USA) - Canada/USA
19. passiontoread (USA) - int'l
20. titihood (CANADA)
21. ajsmom (CANADA) - int'l
22. Mary-T (GREMANY) - int'l
23. okyrhoe (GREECE) - int'l
24. nawoo82 (AUSTRALIA)
25. froggirlwendy (AUSTRALIA) - prefers Australia
***The last person on the list gets to keep the book!!!! Please try to keep it going some how, be it another bookring/ray or RABCK...
Will be sending off to aunt-sophie in the next couple of days.
Mailed to GateGypsy on July 11.
Thank you so much, RustyReader2, for raying this out to us!
I started reading it maybe two weeks ago, but between research assignments in all of my college courses, I had gotten only four or five chapters in. This week I put my back out somehow, so I had lots of resting/leisure time that I couldn't spend glued to my computer (it's much easier to read on one's back than it is to type!) and I finally made the mad run through to the end of the book. As I went, I tried to relate the basic essence of the story to my fiance. When I'd started, I was telling him about how very uniformly odd and "out of left field" modern Japanese Literature seems to me (at least all of it that I've had the chance to read), and how Kafka seemed obsessed with his desire to find his mother and his sister. Blair bet me $1 that his sister would turn out to be his mother, though I told him chances were better that he'd find his mom and she'd be a ghost or something like that. (Hey, I'm good at this guessing!)
I thought the added "and your sister" part of the oedipal curse was going a bit far, and I did not buy how it was resolved. (but how can you "go too far" in a book like this?)
Like nearly everyone else who has read this book, I too thought of how nice it might be to be able to speak with cats. (I love that most of them said, when the found Nakata could understand them, "So, you can speak?" That's probably how any of us would react if one of our cats just opened up and said "Hi," too.) I wondered, as well, if I were suddenly struck down mentally, as Nakata was, would I be willing to accept and find solace in conversing with cats, or would I be bitter? He was most likely wonderfully lucky (if he can be considered so at all) that he didn't really remember what it was like to have his full faculties, so he couldn't feel such keen regret at no longer having them. Nakata was a wonderful character, and I really enjoyed his storyline ... all, except the Johnnie Walker thing. Gyack, that was rather aweful. Speaking of which, I didn't understand why, if Nakata killed Johnnie Walker, and that turned out to be Kafka's father, and it was all over the news, what happened to all the cats? The cat killing wasn't a figment of Nakata's imagination. Didn't the police find them? And were Johnnie and the Colonel the same creature? Or, why did The Boy Named Crow encounter Johnnie in limbo? (I would have rather never seen him again, frankly.)
(And, outside of all that confusion, I wonder if Johnnie Walker Whiskey took offense to their icon being labelled "infamous cat killer" or if KFC resented their image being turned into a somewhat esoteric back-street pimp? I mean, certainly if you use someone's material you have to ask permission, don't you? Or are the rules different if you write in a different language?)
Still, despite my sense of confusion, irritation at loose ends, etc, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I quite liked being introduced to thinkers and music, and I hardly minded the quoting at all. I learned some rather interesting things from the biographies summarized, and was very pleased when the philosophy student quoted Bergson's Matter and Memory "The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory." I didn't feel particularly "talked down to" by this book (though I have had that sense in others and couldn't finish, myself, so I understand the feeling.) I enjoyed some of the turns of phrase, like on page 266, during the storm, there was "Unimpressive thunder, a lazy dwarf trampling on a drum." Always in translations I wonder about how much of what is said is truely the author's intended phrasing, or how much is adapted by the translator. Like, I know that when Nakata talks about his "sub-city" and that his brothers work for a "minis-tree," I understand the point being made, but know for a fact those words are different in Japanese, so I wonder what plays were emplpoyed in the original to make the same point.
Anyway, again, I am thrilled to have had the chance to read this, so thank you for sharing. Even if it was confusing and out in left-field, I certainly feel that this book was more worth the reading than some of the other 1001 books I've been exposed to recently. The book shall be on its way back to Japan to visit with totoroandmei as soon as I can get it to a post office.
CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES:
It is finally continuing on it's journey.
Thanks for the opportunity to read it.
Update 10 June: Kafka is unpacked and I started reading this week.
Books which are written in a foreign language other than English I usually try to read in my native language, Dutch. I think here I made an exception because there was no bookring of this book in Dutch. I regretted this decision because the English in this book felt a bit funny. There were a lot of 'street' words. In the parts written from the viewpoint of Kafka, this isn't so strange, but in other parts, it felt quite unnatural. However, because I'm not a native English speaker, I thought I might be wrong in this. But it seems I'm not the only one who felt this way: "However vague its allusions and overbearing its pretensions, however needlessly jive its English translation ("Jeez Louise"), this book makes for a beguiling and enveloping experience." Janet Maslin wrote in the New York Times.
Thank you for organising this bookring, RustyReader2!
28 June: I PM'd cats-eye for her address. She replied that she has a copy of her own, so I sent a PM to celticstar.
10 July: no reply from celticstar. I sent a second PM in case she didn't receive the first one.
19 July: still no reply. PM sent to NICNIC2.
20 July: NICNIC2 just finished reading another bookring of Kafka on the Shore. PM-ing Bjorg.
22 July: Received Bjorg's address, will be sending the bookring on later this week.
I have PM´ed CarynPic twice but am still waiting for an answer, will wait a bit longer before I contact the next person.
The bookring will now keep on travelling and next go to olered :)
Am ready to send to the next person on the list - literarylover.
I loved the seemingly random plotlines that all connected eventually, like the web of life. The "loose ends" that seemed to bother others didn't bother me at all. I came to a feeling of acceptance as I read this book; like nothing is wrong or strange or not-enough, it just is. You don't have to understand it all.
Much to ponder here: past lives, parallel existence, karma, love, evil, fate, chance, identity...
A very satisfying, and despite its often "difficult" subject matter, a somehow soothing read.
PMing Dusties to get this well-travelled, and well-worn, book on its way.