So hooked by audio that I have to read books aloud. *If my reviews help, please let me know.
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.
If you have ever listened to Gaiman being interviewed, to his podcasts, or been lucky enough to attend one of his performance readings you'll understand the Gaiman experience. The experience goes far beyond reading one of his books. His voice is almost a magical instrument that lifts the words off the pages. I'm not an expert or even a follower of Gaiman's, but I've read a few of his novels, even a couple of his graphic novels. It was after listening to him read just a few paragraphs of The Truth Is a Cave on the radio that I went looking for the rest of the fable -- specifically, him reading the novelette himself. I wasn't looking for the end of the story, as captivating as it was, but rather being under Gaiman's spell during the journey.
He is a performance artist. His voice is like a ripple in time that harkens back to nights tucked safely under a cozy blanket, listening to a bedtime story...a huge, dark story more Grimm than Disney. I wasn't a child that closed my eyes and dreamed of princesses with golden hair or frogs that burst into handsome princes...I closed my eyes and shivered with delighted at the trolls, goblins, and witches that lived in gingerbread houses.
A trait I realized I passed onto my own grandchildren: one night I told my 3 little ones a story, embellishing as much as I could to compete with Spongebob Squarepants. With attention to their tender ages, and the fact that they each were expected to sleep in their own beds once the lights went out, I was careful to balance the scary tale with some sparkle. It was completely silent when I finished, and I waited to assess their emotional state...then the oldest child whispered, "tell us more about the bad wolves." They still ask me to tell them that story; they've heard it dozens of times, yet still want the experience. Gaiman reminds me that I still need an occasional *tuck in* experience, to feel swept away into far away lands where shivers can be delightful.
It's a short story I think best left to the interpretation of the listener. An award winning tale I found charming, brilliant in its sparseness and illusion, but I wouldn't say it is a work of staggering genius unless you can hear it told by the author. As noted by another reviewer, the music is part of the presentation. I enjoyed it because I expected it, but can understand that it might be distracting if you just want straight story: try out the sample. Trying to recreate Gaiman's lauded public performance of this piece didn't work entirely, so I recommend switching to the kindle version to see the collaboration with artist Eddie Campbell. His paintings, whatever you may think of his style, do add an additional dimension. At the price of a ticket to a performance, the book is worth paying for, keeping your credit for those $40 behemoth novels . *Also: You can find this complete novelette on line -- free to read. Audible won't appreciate that announcement, but you won't get Gaiman whisking you away -- and that is priceless.
I love the beautiful and heartfelt reviews listeners have thus far shared; there is so much revealed in their responses. How could there not be if they experienced this book. I say experienced because if you just listen, if you don't at some point feel something inside of you open and resonate with Gaiman's tale, you missed a dimension of this book-- as much as if you missed the secret hidden 3D pictures in those once popular Stereogram books. (You can find some at www.eyetrick.com to see what I mean. I struggled with those dang things!)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is about more than just growing up or defining an adult world with a child's mind: it is about the process and mechanisms, the loss of innocence, becoming of this world. Gaiman maps this mystical, but very real dimension--as fearful as it is beautiful; primordially familiar--yet different for each one of us. The landscape is the experiences that as children we felt but did not have the sophistication to understand; the fears, the comforts, the effects we hadn't yet aligned with cause. A world where our favorite color, or feel, or taste might materialize in some form as a landmark or grounding we understood amidst the confusion of an adult world. Gaiman presents a pure and unfiltered portrayal of that world, which he captures brilliantly.
I've read very few of Gaiman's books because I don't usually choose fantasy. Those I've read were good, but still a little like a chocolate lover choosing vanilla. As I began reading this, I thought it more like Coraline, another read suited more for adolescents. It wasn't until the picture really came into focus that something resonated inside, and I stepped into this book. I thought back -- when the babysitter told me I'd stepped on a devil thorn and a blue line would start to climb up my leg, reach my heart, and I'd die...remembered my grandma's swing tied to a horse chestnut tree, and smelled the mint along the her ditch banks... I'm sure each reader filled in their own response, or landscape to this world. It all popped out in front of me; I saw, and felt, the genius in this book. Baudeliare said, "Genius is childhood recalled at will" If that is so, then Gaiman is definitely a genius that shares his brilliance with pen and paper, and reminds us that we were (or maybe are) once geniuses ourselves.
*Having Gaiman present his work is another aspect of magic. His voice lulls you into this world; it saves you when it is dark and threatening, it comforts you when it is frightening, and it holds a hint of a child that speaks to your own inner child. Just Wonderful.