It took many months but last night I finished reading Haruki Murakami's 'Kafka on the Shore'. The reason it took so long to get through it is that, to be honest, I really wasn't feeling it. I'm mean for saying it since Meghan was so kind to lend me her copy, but I found 'Kafka' to be a tedious read. Murakami's 'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle' is probably my favourite book: I savoured every page. But with 'Kafka', I wasn't at all compelled by the storyline or the characters. I found the whole thing to be juvenile, slow and frustrating. Even the setting (Shikoku, one of my favourite places) did little for my enthusiasm. The only element of the story that really intruiged me was the WWII subplot at the start of the book, which was not so much unresolved as it was abandoned.
What bugs me is that Murakami seems to rely on very specific types of characters in every one of his full-length fictional works. After a while, it's hard to tell the stories apart. And you start to wonder if it would be possible for him to, you know, try something different. Sure, authors always have a writing style: Murakami's into thick description and far-out storylines. But Murakami has a character dependency which goes beyond style...
The archetypical Murakami protagonist is an every man, no-one special. This every-man is somehow free of the contraints that most other Japanese men endure: career and family obligations, the need to earn money... He's got nothing to hold him down, everything he needs is provided to him. The main character is always extremely cool and level-headed: he's constantly buying supplies, cooking simple fare, sitting quietly, listening to high-brow music, being sensible. He couldn't be more straight-laced. The male character, despite his sensible ways, makes his major decisions based on feeling: he's always drawn along by some unknown power. And this protagonist always has easy access to casual sex from an equally straight-laced, intellectual female hottie who has some sort of urgent and deep-seated need to get it on with him. And there's almost always a cat in the story. Unless it's a sheep.
I don't care that Murakami's stories are implausible (that's the point, I guess) and I don't care that there is never a resolution (Japanese literature ancient and modern doesn't require ends to be neatly tied up). But still, I was very disappointed by 'Kafka on the Shore'. Sorry, Meghan!