I've finished. So I'm posting my thoughts, some spoilery (marked), to get things started:
Okay, so this is my first experience of Murakami, and want to say that my first impression of him is that his prose is quite refreshing, very obtainable and the dialogue, if not always believable is always readable. In some way, I wonder if Murakami isn’t the fifteen year old Kafka, except that he is 50 now and he is still in the back room of the same library, having experienced little of life except what he read in books. There are many quotes and many music references, but little that we might recognize as everyday living. Even the library is weird—a small library, established by private funds but open to the public carrying mostly esoteric poetry, plus the random novel or biography. I might want to hang out in this library… okay, I certainly would… but could it actually exist? And if it did, how could it hire two employees? I guess stranger things have happened.
Like, for instance, the rest of the goings-on in the book. A guy with half a shadow who talks to cats and continually says he’s “not too bright”, but he knows more of what’s going on than the rest of us. A guy who “hates long stories” but finds himself wrapped up in one, who’s motives are, to say the least, mysterious. The silent librarian, the Crow Boy, Johnny Walker, Colonel Sanders (the pimp who says he’s the embodiment of a concept). And then there’s Kafka (not his real name) the 15 year old runaway for whom everything seems to just work out.
Coming to the end of the book, not much made sense. So I sat down and thought about it. Like Winnie the Pooh going “Think-think-think”, paw tapping the noggin. The key, it seems, is the stone. It’s a doorway that can open or close a path to some spirit world. The best option is limbo—the place for people who aren’t bad enough to get into hell and not good enough for heaven. People who did perhaps moderately bad stuff. Guys who deserted their unit, but because they didn’t want to kill anyone. A young girl so in love that she would rather give up on her life than on her love. A boy cursed to kill his father, have sex with his mother and sister, but he only did so in a manner of speaking. People whose lives aren’t lived out to know where they should go.
Okay, so let’s say this girl opened up limbo so that her love might endure forever. What she didn’t know is that her memories would be stolen from her, so her love would only endure as long as her memory lasted in this place where time has no meaning. Opening the door had other unintended consequences, for instance, for a class who happened to be too near the opening site, and time went all wonky. Blood appears (from a future murder/suicide) and a young boy is implicated in this bloody mess. He is in limbo and then he comes out… or at least half of him does. He is both in and out of the realm for the next fifty years. He becomes an empty shell of a man, easily utilized by those who are “strong”, who have more powers at their disposal than most of humanity.
Like Kafka, or his father, Johnny Walker. Kafka uses his strength to manipulate the half-people around him to fulfill his destiny imposed upon him by his father. His father, meanwhile, uses the souls of cats to make a flute, which has great powers.
Nataka, in his half-soul state, is a powerful mystic, able to use the knowledge of cats and can pull fish from the sky, but is limited. He doesn’t know anything but what is the most important step for him to take. Anyway, the door to limbo is closed, Kafka decides to live a real life, Nakata and Ms. Sakei die, allowing them to be whole.
That's my theory. Any others?
Although Murikami references the 400 blows often, the film I am most thinking of in this novel is The Double Life of Veronique. There are doubles, dream twins, or people who are incomplete, seeking their other half. There is a connection to the spirit world that isn’t right, but pursued anyway. There is the demand that the body and the spirit be balanced. And there are mysterious details that are emphasized, but never clarified. We gain a glimpse of the spirit world, but not enough to actually explain anything.
Are we supposed to get anything out of this novel? Does it reflect anything that we might experience? I can think about the possibility of having a Spirit Twin, who does all that I dream about. I realize that it is good that I appreciate long stories, since we all find ourselves in one. I realize the importance of music, for as important as falling in love is, I have fallen in music so much more often. I continue to ponder the question whether it is better to have useless thoughts or no thoughts at all? And I remember, no matter how strong my hopes and goals are, if it hasn’t happened yet, it isn’t real.
But for all this, I am not sure what I am supposed to get from this madman’s fevered dream. What concept is Colonel Sanders? What is the flute of Johnny Walker supposed to do? What happens to Crow Boy? And what am I supposed to get out of this?