Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Murakami: Kafka on the Shore

It is easier to be bewitched by Haruki Murakami's fiction than to figure out how he accomplishes the bewitchment. His novels -- in America, the best known is probably ''The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle'' -- lack the usual devices of suspense. His narrators tend to be a bit passive, and the stakes in many of his shaggy-dog plots remain obscure. Yet the undercurrent is nearly irresistible, and readers emerge several hundred pages later as if from a trance, convinced they've made contact with something significant, if not entirely sure what that something is. Murakami's latest, ''Kafka on the Shore,'' is no exception, although it is a departure for this Japanese novelist in other ways.” --Laura Miller (see link below)

Miller captured my experience of reading my first Murakami novel, Kafka on the Shore. I was entranced, horrified, and utterly blown away. Humans who converse with cats, Con-cepts that eat cat hearts, a boy named Crow, sex dreams that redefine reality, and characters who exist on the edge of this world and interact with parallel truths. Crazy stuff. But highly engaging, and a breath of fresh Japanese air. Read it. Why not?

Memorable Quotes
(page numbers from hardcover library edition)

“I fumble around in the bushes, but all I touch are branches, hard and twisted like the hearts of bullied little animals.” (65)

“Works that have a certain imperfection to them have an appeal for that very reason—or at least they appeal to certain types of people.” (102)

“Kafka, in everybody’s life there’s a point of no return. And in a very few cases, a point where you can’t go forward anymore. And when we reach that point, all we can do is quietly accept the fact. That’s how we survive.” (148)

“I happen to like the strange ones,” the driver said. “People who look normal and live a normal life—they’re the ones you have to watch out for.” (174)

“A life without revelation is no life at all. What you need to do is move from reason that observes to reason that acts. That’s what’s critical. Do you have any idea what I’m talking about, you gold-plated whale of a dunce?” (255)

“We’re not metaphors.”
“I know,” I say. “But metaphors help eliminate what separates you and me.”
A faint smile comes to her as she looks up at me. “That’s the oddest pickup line I’ve ever heard.” (273)

“Anyone who falls in love is searching for the missing pieces of themselves. So anyone who’s in love gets sad when they think of their lover. It’s like stepping back inside a room you have fond memories of, one you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s just a natural feeling. You’re not the person who discovered that feeling, so don’t go trying to patent it, okay?” (276)

“Having an object that symbolizes freedom might make a person happier than actually getting the freedom it represents.” (292)

“The strength I’m looking for isn’t the kind where you win or lose. I’m not after a wall that’ll repel power coming from outside. What I want is the kind of strength to be able to absorb that outside power, to stand up to it. The strength to quietly endure things—unfairness, misfortune, sadness, mistakes, misunderstandings.” (293)

“I feel like I’m exactly where I belong. When I’m with Mr. Nakata I can’t be bothered with all this Who am I? stuff. Maybe this is going overboard, but I bet Buddha’s followers and Jesus’ apostles felt the same way.” (301)

“That’s what love’s all about, Kafka. You’re the one having those wonderful feelings, but you have to go it alone as you wander through the dark. Your mind and body have to bear it all. All by yourself.” (335)

“That’s right. a reciprocal metaphor. Things outside you are projections of what’s inside you, and what’s inside you is a projection of what’s outside. So when you step into the labyrinth outside you, at the same time you’re stepping into the labyrinth inside. Most definitely a risky business.” (326)

“Without those peak experiences our lives would be pretty dull and flat. Berlioz put it this way: A life without once reading Hamlet is like a life spent in a coal mine.” (352)

“The music that had been playing in my head vanished, leaving behind some faint white noise like a taut white sheet on a huge bed. I touch that sheet, tracing it with my fingertips. The white goes on forever.” (369)

“. . .the forest tries to threaten me. Blowing a chill breath on my neck, stinging like needles with a thousand eyes.” (370)

“Every one of us is losing something precious to us,” he says after the phone stops ringing. “Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads—at least that’s where I imagine it—there’s a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in a while, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you’ll live forever in your own private library.” (432)

Useful Links

Official Haruki Murakami website (worth a click!)

"Book of the Times: Adrift in a Universe in Flux Like Some Big FedEx Box” New York Times Review by Janet Maslin

“Crossing Over” New York Times Book Review by Laura Miller

“Subconscious Tunnels” New Yorker Review by John Updike

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