(100 books) 3 – Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Next in the 100 Books challenge is a far more recent read — Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. For the past few years, I’ve been slowly working my way through the mythic fiction reading list from the very-much missed Journal of Mythic Arts. I say “slowly” because, summer break excluded, my reading time since becoming a teacher is pretty much limited to ten minutes or so snatched before bed a few nights a week. If it weren’t for Audible, I would probably be one of those Americans who only reads a book a year.
Well, probably not one of those Americans. But maybe only ten books . . .
Anyway, I’m always happy to find books from the reading list on Audible, so last spring, I downloaded Kafka on the Shore. It completely transfixed me. I actually found myself inventing errands that involved driving just to keep on listening to it. Part of that is the performance — Oliver La Sueur and Sean Barett do a phenomenal job of bringing Murakami’s characters to life. But the performance alone doesn’t explain why I eagerly picked up my own paperback copy of Kafka on the Shore while at Powells a few months later, along with another of Murakami’s books, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
Kafka on the Shore hit so many of my buttons that I can hardly list them all. I have a soft spot for characters who live so much inside their head that they need to talk to other versions of themselves, so Kafka hooked me right from the beginning with The Boy Named Crow, who keeps teenage Kafka company. The novel also has enough intertextual shout-outs and allusions to classical literature to keep my English major/Latin minor heart happy.
Murakami’s characters are also engaging. Nakata, the finder of lost cats, is quirky and endearing, especially as read by Sean Barett. And I adored Oshima. It’s rare to see three-dimensional transgendered characters in mainstream fiction, but Murakami did a great job of making Oshima’s gender only one part of his personality, instead of his only defining characteristic.
To tell you the truth, I don’t know yet quite how Kafka on the Shore has affected me. In some ways, I feel like I’m still chewing on it. I know I’m going to read it again, probably several more times. All I know is that, when I finished this novel, the world looked a little bit different to me. And really, isn’t that the mark of any good book?