About a quarter of the way into the book, some thoughts on Murakami and his novel:
No pretty prose, stark imagery of detailed description rather than any use of simile or metaphor (although I reserve that for the cats that crop up), a bit wordy and plainly written. It is interesting, well planned and easily read, but nothing so far has caught my attention as a wow factor.
The chapters alternate between the two stories of the boy Kafka who has run away from home and of the investigative report and subsequent tale of one boy who was indeed affected by the unconscious state that affected the sixteen children on that mushroom hunt in Japan during the war. Nakata, now grown, is on state subsidy and is considered dumb, his job is finding lost cats because he can understand what cats say.
There is a theme of the cats and the unconsciousness and loss of memory that has begun to tie in the stories; the boy Kafka has found himself waking in a strange place with blood on his shirt and not knowing what happened. He seeks the help of a girl he met on the bus trip, and one chapter ends with his petting a cat. We also find that "the boy called Crow" is a pretend friend, or a voice in his head. Both the boy and the man are alone in the world, and I do see them coming together eventually since Murakami seems to lead us onward towards that end. One thing that struck me about Kafka is that even as he strikes out on his own, he is a creature of habit, meticulous in his personal care, seeking the routine of the gym or the library and the same diner for dinner in his freedom. I’m not particularly sympathetic to him since he stole quite a sum of money from his wealthy father to make this break and he is rather free-spending as one would think a son of a money would be.
The intrigue of what happened to Nakata is the main interest in that story line, and of the other, the whereabouts and reasons for Kafka’s mother leaving and taking his sister but not him when he was a toddler. Kafka is clearly seeking an answer to this question and not merely escaping from his father, so I am expecting that more will come of this that more fully develops his character.
The surrealism of Nakata’s conversations with cats is a welcome delight, though I’m wondering if there’s not something I’m missing in a metaphor here.
With some more active conflicts arising in Kafka’s tale, I should be back shortly with more insight.