Thursday, August 28, 2008

Beginnings, Endings, and Fuzzy Middles

Here is the sunset behind our house last night...beautiful and luckily, quite common. It is probably caused by the pollution from the Calaveras Power Plant, but I'd rather not think about that.

Friends and Readers - I have a HUGE favor to ask. Actually, it is more of a challenge. Yes, that’s it! I’m challenging you. Somebody (anybody) please read Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. Then tell me what it means!

I am a huge fan of Murakami. He is kind of like a Japanese Dean Koontz, only way better (no offense to Koontz). BUT I am often left feeling dazed and confused after reading a Murakami story. And kind of stupid. I think I’ve understood a few of his books. But Kafka on the Shore is a complete mystery to me. A beautiful, intense, freakishly interesting mystery; but an unsolved mystery, nonetheless. I’m sure I’m exposing myself here, and someone is going to say, “Are you kidding? You didn’t understand that book?” At least I hope somebody says that! I am so preoccupied with this book that I am in the process of drawing a flowchart of the various scenes and events, trying to draw a connection between them. There MUST be a connection! I’m sure there is. I know there is. There is, right? I need it to make sense in a bad way.

Maybe reading Murakami books is a metaphor for life. It seems that I am often examining the somewhat disconnected strands of my life, trying to make sense of it all and tie the threads together. Could that be his point? Maybe that is one reason people like to read stories in the first place. At the end, there is an end. Everything is explained. Everything makes sense. In reality, does this really happen all that often?

So anyway, why would I loyally read an author I don’t understand? Well, first of all, he is simply a wonderful writer. Even with the manuscripts being translated from Japanese, a process that most certainly loses some of the subtle nuances of the stories (and he is all about small, slight little hints, nuances, metaphors, and symbolism), the writing is simply beautiful. Once I get to the point of ignoring the running dialogue in my head that has the characters talking in the short, clipped manner of the voice-over actors in the old Japanese movies (somewhere around chapter 6), I just melt into the stories. Most of Murakami’s stories are about consciousness – at least I think they are. Finally, I love reading Murakami for the sheer challenge. With every book I start I think, “Okay – this is the book I’m going to finish and be done with it! I’m going to close this book knowing what happened – what was real and what wasn’t. I’m not going to spend days trying to figure out what it all meant.”

In the beginning it certainly seemed that way with Kafka on the Shore. I truly felt I was turning a corner. Sure, a lot of weird stuff was happening (talking cats, UFO’s, a place sort of like heaven but not quite, and a disturbing Oedipal theme) but it just seemed as if it was all heading somewhere. I started each new chapter believing with all of my heart that it was going to explain the previous chapter, or at least parts of it. But as I crossed the halfway point and the pages on the right side of the book began dwindling down faster than my unending questions, it became apparent to me that the answers were going to be few or none. And I was right. The last page was simply the last page. I mean, it didn’t just “stop”. The quest had ended, journeys had been completed, bad entities had been destroyed…so it was time to end the story. But none of it had been explained for the slower members (including myself) of the reading audience who needed it all tied neatly together with a little bow on top. Sigh. I might have to write my own final chapter, just so I can get some sleep at night. So seriously, read the book and then we’ll all decide what the heck happened!

So let’s see…onto bigger and less satisfying mysteries known as the day to day humdrum of my life. We still have a couple of more weeks before everything starts back up again. This was technically the first week of school for the kids in our area. We celebrated this by going to the pool and having it all to ourselves.

A few years ago Jules reached a milestone by being the first of my children to “not” start pre-school (both Ellie and Joel suffered through this particular and somewhat useless custom). I was very aware on that morning that he was not starting pre-school, which by its very definition does NOT mean “school” but “before” school (hence my confusion over treating it as if it were real school). I rose early and instead of waking Jules and packing him off with his little backpack, I tiptoed into his room and snapped a picture of him dreaming soundly with Little Green Bear. I imagined his many 4-year-old counterparts who were already nervously assembled in Cirlce Time, having crossed over and broken an invisible barrier that probably only a few of them were ready to cross. I tip-toed back out of his room, wanting him to sleep and dream as long as he needed. That is still my goal in homeschooling today - giving my children all the time they need to dream...

How was it that with Ellie and Joel I was so willing to believe that I, who had up until that moment, taught them everything they needed to know, was suddenly ill-prepared to continue singing, reading, playing, and learning with them? Suddenly, that torch had been handed to someone who didn’t know my children at all, because that was the way things were supposed to be, even though that is definitely not the way things had always been.

On Monday, Jules and Little Green Bear celebrated “not” starting the fifth grade, by dreaming soundly until 10:00 am, at which point they jumped out of bed to spend time with the chickens before scrambling eggs and making a general mess in the kitchen, and then climbing back into bed to spend the rest of the day reading.

Monday would have been Jasper’s first day of pre-school. We celebrated by not noticing it at all. Nice. So, much like Murakami’s characters, we have ended up in a very different place from where we began. And not entirely sure how we got there.

Sardine Mama

1 comment:

  1. I would read the Murikami book for you,except I am SURE I would not understand it. I enjoy mysteries, and can even figure out "who did it" some of the time, but this is in very straightforward books. You are the language person in my life! You are the one who is supposed to explain symbolism and the like to me. I totally miss all that stuff.

    And,even reading very linear books,I forget what is going on. I often have to go back and check what was happening from just the day before.

    So, I will be happy to listen to your analysis, but I doubt I will be much help. However, if you have a math problem you need solved, I'm there for you!