Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore


This review originally appeared in the Portland Mercury, February 2005

Kafka is a Tokyo teenager, who runs away from his home after his father tells him he is destined to murder his father and sleep with his mother and sister. (And you thought the sex talk with your parents was uncomfortable.) Kafka flees to a historic rural library, where he befriends a transgender librarian and talks to the ghosts of the living. Meanwhile, a man dressed as the Johnnie Walker logo murders neighborhood cats, and Colonel Sanders appears as a helpful spirit world pimp to arrange a night of passion between a truck driver and a philosophy major. In his latest book Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami continues to write magical realism for our media immersed reality–Marquez by way of High Fidelity–and includes an appropriately abundant number of cultural references: Prince’s Little Red Corvette, Plato’s Symposium, Coltrane, Radiohead, Truffaut’s 400 Blows, and the millennium-old Japanese novel Tale of Genji all make repeated appearances. The characters also have a bizarre tendency to point out the novel’s symbols and metaphors and expose them for what they are. Yes, Kafka is one of those biggish, kind of important seeming foreign books, but don’t be afraid. You’re not going to find yourself stranded 200 pages in and totally bored. The sex scenes are pretty steamy and it’s made up of short chapters with cliffhanger endings.

Read the complete article at the Portland Mercury.

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