Hmm...I get the feeling that Murakami, in the process of writing this book, wrote all of the characters names, various places, etc. on pieces of paper and flung them up in the air, letting them fall where they may. I think Murakami then wrote this book based upon where those pieces of paper fell, essentially drawing a map to connect the dots, lines becoming roads that converge and diverge wherever and whenever. When, that metaphorical road hit a crossroads, rather than taking a single direction, Murakami wrote about both possibilities, in effect, forcing us as readers to choose whichever course we would like these characters to follow, as the story comes to a close. There’s one section in Kafka’s story, somewhat near the end, where a paragraph begins one way and ends in a way that’s completely opposite. Needless to say, this was a critical scene to the story, and we as readers are placed into the situation of choosing to believe whatever we want...both answers that are provided are equally plausible. It reminded me of Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman
, that book where there are three endings—one taking place a third of the way in; the other two occurring at the end. The reader chooses which ending they prefer—classic postmodernism. If you like that kind of book, you’ll probably love Kafka on the Shore
. If you’re like me, and tend to like some sort of finality when you reach those final pages, you will probably feel frustrated when you finish it.
That said, I still liked it. In some ways I felt that Murakami drew upon the animated films of Miyazaki when he was writing. There’s that same sort of animated visual quality to the writing...some of the images produced...that world beyond the entrance stone...that final battle scene with Hoshino and the creature...I could easily picture these scenes in a Miyazaki film...that sort of otherworldliness mixed with reality. Juxtaposing images, yet It’s interesting, easily drawing you in. The same is true for Mr. Nakata and the cats. His sections of the story were my favorite parts of this book. They’re so visual. When I close my eyes, I can easily picture him: little old man, rubbing his short hair and talking to a cat. Even though what’s being described is out of the ordinary, it’s so real and natural at the same time. Murakami makes these sections even better through the addition of Hoshino. When Hoshino comes onto the scene, both he an Nakata make a wonderful combination, easily complementing each other. It’s great and so much fun to read.
Then there’s Kafka’s story.... There’s only one real summation for him: He’s a stupid boy. Kafka’s whole journey is hypocritical. Trying to escape some awful oedipus-linked prophecy his father tells him when he’s a mere boy, he comes to the conclusion that the only way to successfully be rid of it is by fulfilling it. One of Kafka’s favorite statements is that he hates the idea of killing; it sickens him. Yet, he fails to realize that there are other ways of killing a person, and that the course he’s currently pursuing will not only “kill” him, but others as well. Even if things only happen in dreams—if they’re vivid enough they can easily kill, destroy or maim memories and feelings associated with a person—ultimately corrupting these memories and associations, which in turn can corrupt the self as well as others. Even when Kafka’s inner self, the boy named Crow, tries to turn him away from his current pursuits, he seems to willingly choose to ignore it—desire taking complete control of his senses. As I continued reading these sections of the book, I continually found it more and more difficult to come to terms with Kafka’s crazy fatalistic attitude that just eclipses all reason.
As a side note, a Doctor Who-type character makes a cameo appearance! It’s brief, but it’s certainly noteworthy, since this character, like Doctor Who, tries to restore and maintain the natural order of the world.