In Haruki Murakami's own words:
"It's all pointless--assuming you try to find a point to it." Kafka on the Shore
"It's not that meaning cannot be explained. But there are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words." 1Q84
I read this book last year, my first HM read, which I jumped into with no knowledge of the author, and having read no reviews of the book at all. Since then I have read several of Murakami books, and not because I am an enthusiastic fan at all--I actually found myself a little disturbed by Kafka on the Shore. I was bothered by the wierd sexuality, the blurry boundaries and constructs, the pointless ramblings, the silliness I thought bordered on insult to the reader. I read interviews Murakami had done, I read about his background, I read very dissected critiques by scholars of Murakami books, and still held on to a bit of repulsion towards Murakami's books. But...I kept reading his books! I was drawn to them; they haunted me, they stayed with me, persistently colored my mind.
When 1Q84 was released, I bought it impulsively,then wondered why. I realized that Murakami writes for the reader; I understood that what brought me back time and time again to HM was the fact that somewhere in me, I knew that in HM's books I was in the presence of genius. I could read/listen to HM and drift through a dream, like closing my eyes and floating on a raft in the pool, I didn't need to make sense of the journey--I just enjoyed it.
I relate this only to try to explain the experience I had with Kafka on the Shore, It was in many ways magical and lasting. I'm not sure I loved it, but it captured me. I could compare it to the other books of his but I will not because it has been done--I will leave you with my experience and say that Murakami, like any author, is not for everyone--just like Beethoven or Mozart are not for everyone--but their genius cannot be argued. I am looking forward to listening to 1Q84--just picking the right time to be consummed. If you are compelled to find meaning in every event, to right each word with your own understanding, read again the top 2 quotes by Murakami...you may "find" something that isn't even really there at all.
"The first thing you must know about me is that is I am colossally fat. I eat what I want, and furthermore, I eat whenever I want...and I do feel very shy and sort of encassed in something, as if I were a cello, or an expensive gun..." so the character Arthur writes about himself in an unflinching confessional letter to a former love whom he has not seen for decades..when he was merely "plump." The self-described grossly obese Arthur is given a distinguished and compassionate voice by narrator Keith Szarabajka, in a remarkable performance that brings real heart and soul to this wretched lonely human being.
On the opposite end of the physical scale is Kel: tall, blonde, high school heartthrob that leaves his letter jacket on the shoulders of his girlfriend, then drives off in his BFF's BMW. But, Kel crosses the tracks and goes to a run down home, to a mother he disdains for her weaknesses; she is passed out on a sofa wearing a holey T-shirt that reads: It's 5:00 Somewhere! His father walked out when he was 4--he is so sure that his father is the source of his own tall good looks, his extraordinary athleticism, and all that is good in himself; while Mom represents imaginary illnesses, excuses, failures, and all he deems repellent. Also in this wonderful cast is Yolanda, the tiny pregnant Latino cleaning girl, whose sequined-sneakered feet dangle over the sofa when she breaks to watch her favorite soap on TV, and who yells at the honking cars during a huffing Artur's first arduous walk in years, "Hey! I'm pregnant here!"
Heft is a superb character-driven novel that had me in tears more than once. From Arthur's apprehensive yet straighforward introduction, to Kel's self-aware confessions of sorrow and regret, and the streetsmart directness of sassy Yolanda--- Moore has written a bittersweet intersection masterpiece that will etch itself in your heart. With such a significant novel...it is hard to conform to M. Twain's advice: "when you catch an adjective, kill it!" With apologies to Twain...Heft is elegant, beautiful, unforgettable, wise, tender, hopeful, humble, and what it is to be HUMAN; one of my all time top picks. I hope you enjoy this one.
Can't say what drew me to this odd title--I knew that Ben Fountain received the PEN/Hemingway Award for the collection of short stories, Brief Encounters With Che Guevara--but I hadn't read the reviews or the publisher's summary. I didn't know that some critics are calling Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk this era's Catch 22, (oh! did we love Yossarian!) and THE best novel about the Irag war. I just saw this title on a list of suggested Beach Reads; "Beach" and "Read", two of my favorite words, and I was in. Turns out this was an unexpected treasure, the perfect approach, and an experience I won't be forgetting soon. So, I don't want to go into details and ruin your experience other than to say....WOW; I loved this book!
I thought it was almost perfection, from the very concept, to the brilliant depiction of Billy's youthful naivety and his contrasting soldier's wisdom, to the sentence structure, and every perfectly placed word. It was laugh-out-loud funny, then at once sobering, like laughing at someone that just biffed it on the stairs, then realizing the tumble resulted in a compound fracture. There are a lot of cliche's as far as characterizations go, and Texans probably won't like this one, but the powerful message contained in this short read goes far beyond little criticisms--indeed to the very core of what we as Americans value. The detailed description of the football team's equipment (in it's context) was as powerful and perfect as anything written, and could alone justify getting this book.
A short listen, at just 6 1/2 hours, but what an experience--what an impact. I'm just sorry that what I am sure will be the highlight of my summer reading is over before summer even begins.