|About the Book|
Few books have infected me with boredom-induced ADD, the desire to gnaw my own foot off at the ankle, and the state of mind you might experience if forced to sit upon a nest of hornets while watching your home being burglarized, but this was one of them. It took me until page 70 to stop wanting to hop up and rearrange the spice cupboard or my sock drawer every few sentences, but then the feeling returned at page 243. Only 224 pages to go! From then on, my hatred and resentment of this book progressively grew like a dead cow bloating in the heat.“Kafka on the Shore” is a mess. It is such a mess that it makes my six-year-old son’s post-playdate bedroom look like Buckingham Palace. Loosely based on the Oedipus myth, and taking some obvious inspiration from Catcher in the Rye, this book seems to be little more than a random hodgepodge of ideas held together with pipe cleaners and raspberry jam.There was so much to hate about this book. Here are just a few things:1. Boring, unnecessary descriptions – that do nothing to further the story – of what people are wearing, what Kafka likes to do during his workout, what he decides to eat, what he is listening to on his Walkman, and so on. I wouldn’t have been surprised to read a monologue from Kafka along the lines of: “When I wipe my arse, I like to use just four squares of toilet paper, no more, no less. I count them out – one, two, three, four. Then I fold the length over once, and again. Equipped now with the perfect, handheld quilt, I wipe in a single, expert, sweeping motion – front to back. Examine the paper to determine whether I need to repeat the process. However, I would add that this is only if the paper is two-ply. For one-ply paper, I need a minimum of eight sheets, but only if they are of high quality. If not of high quality, the boy Crow reminds me, ‘Remember, you’ve got to be the toughest 15-year-old on the planet.’”2. The gratuitous cat torture scene. Johnnie Walker (him off the whiskey bottle) has to cut the hearts out of living cats and eat them so that he can collect cat souls to make a special kind of flute. There is no freakin’ point to this scene whatsoever – we never hear about Johnnie or his cat-flute again.3. The annoying way characters – Oshima in particular – deliver sermons about philosophy, art, literature and classical music. It took me right out of the story (tangled mess though it was) and smacked of “Look at me – aren’t I clever?”4. The screechy-preachy scene with the “feminist” caricatures in the library.5. Hate to be ungroovy or whatever – but I just couldn’t stand any of the sex scenes, particularly with Miss Saeki, the 50-something librarian who gets it on over and over again with the 15-year-old protagonist even though he and she both know she might be his long-lost mother. Excuse me while I go mop the vomitus off of my living room wall.After the first 100 pages I thought that I might end up giving this book three stars. Another 100 pages on, I decided two stars. By page 331 I decided one star, and by the end of this frustrating, pretentious, and completely unsatisfying book, I felt like I’d squandered so much of my precious life reading this pile o’ doo-doo that I didn’t want to give it even one star. However, since Mr. Murakami knows how to spell (or at least, I’m assuming he does since this is a translation) I will relent.In the end, love or loathing of a book is entirely subjective, and scores of critics loved this one. As for me, I feel that if I’d wanted to find meaning in a random jumble of junk, I would have had more luck going to the thrift store and sifting through the bric-a-brac box than wasting time on Mr. Murakami’s brain-omelette.