Saturday, May 24, 2008

Haruki Murakami blow me

I have lots to say now but first foremost I wanna screech loud at HARUKI 'I AM TRYING TO MEET OPRAH' MURAKAMI. I bought an audiobook of his recent 2nd-to-newest novel KAFKA ON THE SHORE for something to listen to on my drive, having read several other of his novels and liked them mostly w/o remembering why even right after I was done. The first 5 discs out of 15 in the set got me super-amped on the story. He had it so right. Several very compelling vaguely related setups all converging with this weird energy. Children fainting in masses, a woman bleeding out of her vagina after seeing some shape in the sky, a guy who can talk to cats and make leeches fall as rain, a kid living in a room in a library, other strangeness.

By disc 10 though, while driving home from Baltimore (more on that later), I was punching the dash and screaming obscenity at HARUKI MURAKAMI for absolutely blowing the dick off what could have been an incredible novel.

Around the halfway point in the book, he'd pretty much reverted to scenes of long discussion between the major characters, discussing psychological and philososophical ramifications of what had happened in the first third of the book. Long 'emotional' conversations rehashing thought on things that'd happened, who felt what about who, soap opera soap opera. Scenes with little to no development, no interest, just babbling on and on about what it means, what it could be, saying the same thing over and over in endless uninteresting ways, totally Oprah-izing the fucker. I swear, I literally could not believe how shitty the book turned into, how completely amateur and stunted and warmed over to the point of making me literally almost swerve into a truck carrying other cars because I was screaming at each line, asking why the line was there, why the fuck he couldn't stop saying the same thing over and over, using lines like 'Everybody is in a dream, aren't they?' and talking about the subtleties of Truffaut and how it relates to some jazz band, trying to draw thematic overtones and ending up just sounding like a jerk, all in the midst of what could have been a creepy, fucked story. I couldn't even finish it.

Every strand of the story that had power and image behind it was explained away, tied up with bows, placed on the reader's lap and then discussed what it meant. Fuck, HARUKI MURAKAMI, do you think all of your readers are absolute dogshit morons? Can we have any thread left to puzzle on our own? I have no idea why certain authors feel the need to explain to death the why and how of any mysterious elements in their storylines, though this happens most with prominent figures. Perhaps that's why their books sell. People don't like to not know. I don't like to know, or at least leave some of it undone! Otherwise the work has no purpose being a book.


KAFKA ON THE SHORE also is a great example of how pop culture references in fiction can take away from the story. I was cringing all through this thing. Mainly it was his references to music. Really, if all you know about is Bob Dylan and the Beatles, don't bother to name names of what your character listens to. No one cares. Murakami would talk about how the main character would put on Prince while he worked out. He'd listen to the White Album. There are ways that could work, even with obvious references, but here it just sounded like an insertion. A name drop for no other purpose than to name drop, though names that couldn't be more bland or overused. It added absolutely nothing, it involved no aura, it only made me groan and know that the author has a very limited understanding of modern music.

Someone could take this book and edit 75% of it out, using only the declarative sentences and no conversations, using only the scenes without all the surrounding description and resolution, and it would be 50 times better.

Shit, I might do that. Blacked out copies of KAFKA ON THE SHORE. But then I'd have to buy the shitty motherfucker.


Bradley Sands said...

I haven't read it, but someone posted this quote in the bizarro forum:

"Kafka on the Shore contains several riddles, but there aren't any solutions provided. Instead, several of these riddles combine, and through their interaction the possibility of a solution takes shape. And the form this solution takes will be different for each reader. To put it another way, the riddles function as part of the solution. It's hard to explain, but that's the kind of novel I set out to write."

And then they said: Murakami said one will understand after reading the novel over and over.

I have read a bunch of his novels. I liked The Wind-up Bird Chronicle a lot. The rest disappointed me.

Gene said...

I'll send you my copy to black out. I liked Hard-Boiled Wonderland, but Kafka on the Shore I don't even remember.

I blacked-out The Canary once, and ended up with a really good poetry journal.


ok that quote convinces me that murakami thinks his readers are dumb as rocks. i had the thing figured out before i was even halfway through. it was beyond obvious, and the whole thing just kept repeating. how he thinks it would take several reads is an absolute head trip. what a dick.


gene yes that would be awesome maybe i'd actually do it. haha i'd like to see the canary

Ken Baumann said...

ahhh man. i'm only 80 pages in and now i know what to look forward to.

what the hell


ken, oh yeah i forgot you said you were reading. whoops. maybe it comes off different on the page? i was also in a very disgruntled mood.

Tao Lin said...

all of his other books that i've read, like five or six of them, i think, i think all are not explained and end with feelings of things not being explained, so maybe he wanted to do something different with this book, or maybe by now how he felt before about 'not explaining things' has changed so that he now wants to 'explain things,' i can understand all of that

i feel like i've changed a lot in two or there years, and have a completely different prose style, you can see just from reading the archives on my blog, and then from two or three years ago i changed a lot from two or three years before that

i think all of jay rubin's translations of his books use a lot of cliches and idioms and philip gabriel and the other person's do not

i think maybe 90% of haruki murakami doesn't explain things



it's not the explaining part that really got me: it's that the explanations were so poorly done. boring/trite/repetitive, completely uninvigorating. moreso it was not only that it answered questions, but it went over those answers over and over and over again with absolutely no power. he could have edited these down and still left the explanations and it would have been better then also.

i am all about an artist changing, but in this case it seems like a misstep more than a metamorphosis. maybe it is more compelling on the page. but i can watch soap operas on tv, i dont need haruki murakami for that.

Ani Smith said...

I haven't read Kafka On The Shore, but that was going to be my next Murakami choice (having read Wind-Up Bird and After Dark and really liking them both).

Do you think it's possible that the overt references to jazz and Prince and Truffaut come across differently to a person with a different background, an older Japanese person, for example?

Reading things translated from their original language always leaves me feeling suspicious, like the translator could have messed something up and I wouldn't know.

I speak Spanish, but English is my first choice for everything, however, I will not read English translations of Garcia Marquez.

I do always like reading your thoughtful take on things.


ani, it's entirely possible. in fact likely. i am just being rash and over-angry at the way i felt in the car. yes the translating issue could be huge. there's no telling how different the original versions are, esp coming from japanese.

you should read kafka and compare notes with me.

i heard marquez said he actually perferred his english translations to the originals, oddly enough. can't remember where i read that.

The Kasdan Family said...

I read Kafka on the Shore a while back and didn't quite have the same violent reaction to it...

I agree with an earlier commenter that the most memorable Murakami that I have read is definitely Hard-Boiled Wonderland...



hi MK,
yeah i liked hardboiled alright. overall i think murakami is a touch overrated though. his concepts never live up to themselves in my mind.

Anonymous said...

"Every strand of the story that had power and image behind it was explained away, tied up with bows, placed on the reader's lap and then discussed what it meant. Fuck, HARUKI MURAKAMI, do you think all of your readers are absolute dogshit morons? Can we have any thread left to puzzle on our own? I have no idea why certain authors feel the need to explain to death the why and how of any mysterious elements in their storylines, though this happens most with prominent figures."

lol. you should read a wild sheep chase and dance, dance, dance then. most people hate murakami for exactly the opposite of what you're accusing him.

i think you're too hard on the book otherwise, though i think the criticism that the books goes from progressing plot to lumbering "let's talk about what everything means, and dreams," is on point.

as for randomly posting on your journal (i don't know you), i found this by googling "kafka on the shore what the fuck".