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Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey

Kafka On The Shore

Haruki Murakami
Kafka on the Shore

Kafka on the Shore
My first exposure to Haruki Murakami was Pinball, 1973. It was a tattered copy of the book in Japanese, with English on the facing pages, intended for Japanese students of English. (I think it has still never been printed in an English edition.) I took a liking to it almost immediately. Besides being a story about pinball obsession (a condition I share), it reminded me of Richard Brautigan (another obsession I had for a while). So I read some more. And then a bit more. Now, a few books later, I can say that I still like him, although the stories begin to blend together a bit. Part of the problem is that Murakami is such a consistent writer. Even though all of his narrators are ostensibly different characters, they all sound like the same character. I guess it’s hard for any of us to sound different than ourselves, but I think that is the challenge in writing fiction. I was certainly never any good at it — all of my narrators only ever sounded like me. A failure of imagination, I suppose. So Murakami makes up for it by being outlandishly imaginative with his plot and settings — so imaginative, in fact, that’s it’s almost cheating. He gets his characters from point A to point B by non-sequiters and magic. While it’s fun to read, I think I have more respect for an Umberto Eco who manages to create the appearance of magic from the cloth of mundane existence. You think you’re dealing with the occult, but it turns out just to be sinister but misguided guys in robes.
Anyway, I still hold a fondness for Pinball, 1973 — I’ve got a printed copy that I cribbed from somewhere on the Internet tucked in between all of the other books on my shelf. And I still like the occassional surreal twist in the road But I’ve probably read about as much Murakami as I need to understand his particular twist.