21.7.13

KAFKA ON THE SHORE, by HARUKI MURAKAMI

Book reviews force one to examine a story more closely. After all, while I am no expert on anything but the art of compulsive reading, I'm supposed to tell you about a book and what makes it good, right? This one has me stumped. Is it magic realism? Is it fantasy? It is just out there and who cares why? But when an old man raises his umbrella and leeches rain from the sky, what's a reader to think? And the old man can talk to, in fact has fascinating conversations with, cats; what do we make of that?
Actually, the old guy, reviled because he is stupid, is a charmer. And the role he plays is very deep.
While a teen protagonist is usually the main character in a Young Adult (YA) novel, this is not the case with our young hero; this is definitely adult fiction. Kafka Tamura is an amazingly - at times, unbelievably - mature, well read, and articulate fifteen year old school drop-out and runaway whose life with his distant, sculptor father has become intolerable. Through a series of adventures, he winds up in a private library where he finds a sort of refuge.
The book starts with a conversation with the boy Crow. Who is Crow? As the story unfolds, Crow's real identity becomes clear. But not much else does, as the tale spins farther and farther into fantasy, until all the seemingly disparate strands begin to come together.
I hate spoilers, so I'm not going to tell you any more. If you enjoy a wide-ranging tale with a lot of improbable but charming characters (including a few felines), this could be a book for you. The drawback that I found was that everyone is willing to go into these hyper-detailed explanations of motivation and intent and history, which becomes by the midpoint of the story, a little trying. Nonetheless, this award-winning author has written an original and fascinating story. It's a 3+ for me, with a fair amount of sex - tops out at maybe a 3 - from time to time.