Kafka on the Shore

Monday, August 3, 2015

Kafka on the Shore
by Haruki Murakami

I was so intimidated to read this author. For years I've seen people recommend his books, but I never took the plunge. Murakami has such a strange reputation and it's definitely not unwarranted. In Kafka on the Shore we have fish are falling from the sky, cats that talk, a pimp named Colonel Sanders, and a Oedipal curse. Throw in a bit of Picnic at Hanging Rock, Stargate, and a dozen other odd pop culture elements and you've got the novel. But at the same time it's about philosophy and literature and finding your identity.

It's a weird book but it's not hard to follow. There are two main plots that eventually wind together. One follows a 15-year-old boy who has run away from home and renamed himself Kafka. The other follows an older man, Nakata, who is unable to read or write after an accident in his youth.

Kafka ends up at a small private library in Takamatsu run by the aloof Miss Saeki and Oshima, both of whom have their own secrets. Nakata hitchhikes with a truck driver named Hoshino. I actually enjoyed Nakata’s sections more, though I can’t put my finger on exactly why.

The book doesn’t follow a normal arch of a novel and many things are left undetermined by the end. I was surprised that this didn’t bother me more. The strange thing about this book is that I didn’t feel like I needed to understand the “Why” behind everything that happened. It was just enough “out there” stuff that I could just accept it and go along for a ride. I don't think this book would work well if you did focus on knowing every detail and having an explanation.

BOTTOM LINE: If you've never tried Murakami, this is a fascinating one to start with. It's strange, but in a wonderful way. He's not my new favorite author, but I am curious to read another of his books and see how it compares.

“There’s only one kind of happiness, but misfortune comes in all shapes and sizes.”

“Reality is just the accumulation of ominous prophecies come to life. You have only to open a newspaper on any given day.”

One Hundred Books Famous in Children's Literature

Friday, July 31, 2015

The gorgeous Lilly Library in Bloomington, Ind. has an exhibit on "One Hundred Books Famous in Children's Literature" right now. So of course I had to check it out.
It was wonderful! There are first or early editions of so many famous books. There's Madeline and Winnie-the-Pooh and dozens from the early 1900s. The exhibition goes all the way back to the 1700s with copies of Gulliver's Travels and Robinson Crusoe.
There was also a sweet side exhibit on Alice in Wonderland in honor of the books 150th anniversary!
So many of the books I saw, like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Little Prince are favorites of mine.
 I loved seeing how so many of the classic children's books included detailed illustrations. Each one was like a piece of art.
The books we read as a child seem to stay with us for the rest of our lives. Those formative years, before we become teenagers and crushes and gossip seems more important than losing yourself in a story, we thrive on those books. I can still remember reading Black Beauty and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH for the first time. This exhibit was such a lovely trip down memory lane and it was a great reminder that books provided entertainment for centuries before there were TVs and video games.

Wordless Wed: Smithsonian Castle

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Smithsonian Castle in D.C.
More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.