For five months I did my best not to enter any bookshops to buy books. My goal was to read more books that I already owned instead of buying new ones that would sit around for years before I opened them. However, a book emergency happened when I was on holiday. I finished the novel I had brought with me and I had two long flights and no book. I ended up purchasing Kafka on the Shore at the airport in Kuala Lumpur.
Haruki Murakami is the type of author that intimidates me. I have it in my head that I’m not smart enough to understand and to appreciate his craft entirely. However, I spoke to several book bloggers about this and they suggested I start with Kafka on the Shore as an introduction to his work. As I sat on the plane, I opened to the first page. And I was hooked. Usually on long flights I read some until my eyes get tired and then I watch some movies or take a nap. I did neither. By the time I landed in London, I was more than halfway through the novel. I was engrossed and good thing since on the second flight there were three screaming kids on the plane. I was able to block out the noise and concentrate on the book. And I do feel for the kids. It can’t be fun for them or for their parents.
The novel revolves around two characters. Kafka Tamura is a teenage boy who runs away from home. His father, as it turns out is not nice. Yet that isn’t the only reason Kafka flees. He’s running from an Oedipal curse and he’s desperate to find his mother and sister who left years ago. The other character is the simpleton Nakata. During WWII he was struck by a mysterious illness and he never recovered fully. Before the incident he could read. When he woke up, he couldn’t. Nakata has different strengths and he learns he can talk to cats. Using this talent he becomes a finder of lost cats. One particular case sends him on a mission that he doesn’t understand but he knows he has to complete it. And it leads him to Kafka in a way.
This story may seem complicated. There are talking cats, fish that fall from the sky, and spirits that come and go. This was the stuff I was intimidated by. And I feel silly now, since his storytelling abilities are flawless. Even when he’s describing what I would normally say is impossible seemed possible while I was reading. I didn’t stop and say, “What the?” Instead I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Each twist and turn propelled me to keep on reading. And it gets a little crazy especially near the end, but it’s a fun crazy. The type that makes you wonder how one person can come up with all of this on his own. I would love to have a few drinks with him and see where the conversation goes.
Now that I’ve quieted my fear some, what Murakami book should I tackle next? This novel is on my 1001 list and this is the 74th novel I’ve read from the list. I’m hoping to make it to 100 by the end of the year. I need to get cracking and to find some really thin novels. Good thing I’ve completed all of the novels by Dickens.