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Book Review: Kafka on the Shore

Book Review: Kafka on the Shore

TA Margaret Z. ’17 reviews Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

“Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom.

As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder. Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.”

This inside cover summary does not begin to display the metaphysical and surreal nature of the book. Kafka on the Shore is a winding, complex, confusing, philosophical adventure that will keep you turning the pages. However, despite its intriguing and original premise, a few flaws that made it hard for me to put the book on an all-time favorites list.

The only two prominent women in the novel are viewed almost entirely through a sexual lens, not serving much purpose in the plot other than their sexual encounters with the men. In the second half of the novel, another woman — a prostitute — makes an appearance. Her only significance in the story is that she has sex with one of the men. This detail doesn’t change the course of the plot at all, and her character never appears again. The scene is arbitrary and does not add much to the novel except — well, a sex scene.

Also, every time Kafka runs into his love interest, Murakami feels the need to describe each article of clothing that the love interest is wearing. Yes, I get it — she’s wearing the same blue blouse and pearl necklace and skirt from last time. No need to repeat it every single time.

Additionally, there’s a transgender character in the novel, and while I was originally ecstatic to see this, the way Murakami portrays the character confuses me. Oshima, the transgender man in the novel, is described to never have gotten his period and to never to have developed breasts. To me, this setup felt like Murakami was trying to almost make him “less transgender” and make readers think of him as “more masculine” in order to justify his identity. However, I also understand that Kafka on the Shore was originally intended for a Japanese audience, an aspect that likely affected the portrayal of Oshima. Furthermore, Oshima may have been intersex, but if so, the novel did not make that clear.

Lastly, the resolution of Kafka on the Shore felt anticlimactic. Much of Haruki Murakami’s work is open-ended and leaves room for interpretation and conjecture, such as Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage. However, Murakami doesn’t reach a point in this story that gives the reader enough material to actually interpret; instead, he leaves readers grasping at tendrils of smoke. Kafka on the Shore contains too many arbitrary details whose purposes are unclear. While I normally love bizarreness if it plays even a small role in the plot, many central mysteries of the novel that kept me reading — the fish falling from the sky, the ability to talk to cats, the mysterious flute — are never resolved or explained.

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February Book Swap!

February Book Swap!

"Precarious Pile of Books" by Lauren Orsini on flikr is licensed under CC by NC.

“Precarious Pile of Books” by Lauren Orsini on flikr, licensed under CC by NC.

The library will be hosting a book swap during the week of February 8th through 12th, which means we need books! Starting on Monday February 1st, bring us gently used books that other Casti students might like to read. The week before February break, stop by the library to peruse the collection and pick up some “new to you” books for all your vacation reading needs.

We will donate any leftover books to a good cause.

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Book Trends: Retold Classics

Book Trends: Retold Classics

Humans are continuously telling and retelling stories, adapting and updating them to remain relevant to the current time and place. So naturally there are a whole lot of retellings of classic novels out there, and with the upcoming release of the movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, we thought a round up of lesser known retellings of classics would be fun.

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Jane by April Lindner

 

 

First up is this modern retelling of Jane Eyre, where Jane is a college dropout after the death of her parents. She takes a job at Thornfield Park working as a nanny for Nico Rathburn, a world famous rock star. Jane and Nico become close, but he has secrets that threaten to tear them apart…

 

 

 

 

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

 

 

Spies. Secrets. Space. That’s basically all you need to know about this retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, but let me expand anyway. Persis Blake is sixteen, known to be the silliest socialite in court, and is also The Wild Poppy, a spy whose sole mission is to rescue aristocrats captured by the neighboring nation of Galatea. She of course falls in love with a Galatean, and must choose between love and loyalty.

 

 

Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers

 

This quiet reinterpretation of Cyrano de Bergerac focuses on Karl, a reserved, dyslexic 18 year old who is posed a challenged by his girlfriend Fiorella: Write her a letter, telling her of his innermost thoughts and dreams. As Karl has no faith in his ability with words, he strikes a deal with an aging novelist. The novelist will write the letter, but only if Karl agrees to a series of interviews so the letter will be authentic. Reflections on love, loss, moving on, and an intergenerational friendship ensue.

 

 

 

The Beast of Cretacea by Todd Strasser

 

This is the book that inspired this entire post: Moby Dick in space. There’s an alien whale. A whalien, if you will. The Beast of Cretacea is a very faithful homage to Moby Dick, except the earth’s water cycle has been so disrupted that there is no water left. Resources are imported from off plant, and colonization of other planets is humanity’s way forward. In this strange new world, Ishmael signs onto the Pequod, hoping to earn enough money to finance his family’s move off planet. But the captain’s all consuming desire for revenge against his great white whale leads the ship into danger.

 

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Our Favorite Books of 2015

Our Favorite Books of 2015

As we’ve just put some of the best books of 2015 (according to sources like National Public Radio and the Young Adult Library Services Association) on display in the library, we thought it would be a good time to share some of our personal favorite books that came out last year as well.

Ms. Huyck-Aufdermaur loved…

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

 

 

Ms. Seroff loved…

I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

 

Ms. Bergson-Michelson loved…

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

 

 

So if you’re looking for something librarian loved and approved and recommended, try one of these!

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A Review of Lapham’s Quarterly by Kiana B. ’16

A Review of Lapham’s Quarterly by Kiana B. ’16

Museum-goers come in many varieties: there are those who invest in headphones to delve into self-guided tours, there are the ones who hop from exhibit to exhibit with no particular pattern; some like to sit with a painting for thirty minutes, some are content with a brief glance. Lapham’s Quarterly is a lot like a museum. You may be the type to read Lapham’s Quarterly from beginning to end, taking in the wide range of content as curated by the editors. Or, if you’re like me, you get overwhelmed and excited by all the ideas and perspectives packed into this magazine, and tend to flip to a page at random, savoring what it has to offer before venturing into other content.

Lapham’s organizes itself around a particular topic, gathering various pieces of writing and art to amalgamate into a big museum for readers, full of exhibits and secret corridors, gardens with endangered plants, and gift shops with theoretical and coloring books alike. What I’m trying to say is this: Lapham’s Quarterly has a lot to offer. Topics thus far have included Fashion, Spies, Philanthropy, Intoxication, Death, Youth, Ways of Learning, and more. Contributors range from Marx to Amanda Palmer, Machiavelli to Walt Whitman. Looking at the table of contents is an adventure of its own. When I surveyedwhat was in store for the Fashion volume of Lapham’s, I was delighted when I saw John “I pride myself on the fact that my work has no socially redeeming value” Waters and Homer on the same page. Magical and hilarious juxtaposition of contributors are abundant in Lapham’s Quarterly (Quentin Tarantino and Aeschylus! I could go on.).

Lapham’s Quarterly may also be the best shot we have at time travel. All the entries in the magazine are organized by location and date, so Lapham’s is as much of a reading and learning experience as it is a time- traveling experience. Venice in 1596? Sure thing. 1972 Kyoto? Don’t mind if I do! Examining the pieces in Lapham’s Quarterly through the lens of the time and place they were created adds a whole new layer of ideas to consider. As a historical magazine, Lapham’s intentionally leads readers through time and history, helping us understand the changes and continuity our world faces through the lens of specific topics. It makes history interactive by allowing you to make connections, question authors, agree with arguments, and look at some really gorgeous photos and illustrations along the way.

If history class is your happy place, if you ask yourself questions as often as you crave baked goods, or you’re really into cool graphics, go pick up a volume of Lapham’s Quarterly!

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