Tuesday, July 28, 2009

So long, Murakami, and thanks for all the fish

I was finally going to get to join Sonya's Juhu Book Club for one of their famed meetings. The entry fees: reading Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. He and this book have got a lot of press over the last few years, and even if I've been ducking the reviews and interviews alike, I remembered it as an important book, and more importantly as one I didn't have to rush out and buy, having been gifted a copy that had lain pristine in our new bookroom for over a year. Fine, sue me for being lazy but I'm going to trot out the now well-worn excuse of being mother of three and fulltime worker...

I made sure I wouldn't keep any easier reading material around to tempt me on the flight, and during that and the long drive to Mimi's place where I was staying on vacation last week, I had gotten through a good two-thirds of the book. It was a rivetting read, in which you get engrossed in the characters and their lives. It went pretty fast. It had unforgettable imagery, from fish and leeches raining from the sky to the serenely lovely Komura library, the isolated cabin in the forest and the horrifically savage cat-story ( which made me want to throw up).

I'm not sure how I feel about the book and its author, though. I didn't get emotionally entangled in the lives of the characters, and that's something I like to do. The book didn't lead to a resolution of the events in the neat way that one would like. I still don't understand a good chunk of the events and characters...

However it made for a very lively discussion. Shubho thought its lack of neat endings was very Eastern as opposed to the linear progression of western thought. There was tremendous symbolism to be uncovered, from the yin-yang of Nakata and Miss Seiki to the detailed descriptions of food and sex, the cheshire-Cat-ish Colonel Sanders and Johnnie Walker. There were many arguments back and forth and insights about why this or why not that...

And I realised that though I may never pick up another book by Murakami, it was a terrific experience to have read him once. For the pure intellectual challenge of trying to interpret him, for the fun of engaging in a stimulating debate about the whys and wherefores. For the spurt it's given me into finally trying to start up a book club in Delhi. And of course, for the name-dropping value, I mean how much more intellectual can you get?

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