Murakami has a very distinct surreal style, but it’s usually one kind of surreal (the surreality of boring daily life starting to slip away from you) versus the other (the acid trip surreal). This book is both, which is awesome. And supposedly it’s some metaphysical Hegelian dialectical blah blah blah all the way through, but when I read it in 2003 there’s no way I was really going to understand any of that, and I loved it anyway.
The plot on its own should be enough to make you want to read it. It’s two intertwined stories: one is of a teenage boy named Crow, who runs away from home attempting to escape an Oedipal prophecy and takes shelter in a silent library run by a hemophiliac transsexual. The other story is about an old man named Nakata who (get ready) was on a field trip gathering mushrooms during World War II, when a flash of light in the sky rendered all the children unconscious. While the other kids woke up soon afterwards, Nakata was unconscious for weeks, and when he came to, he had become a somewhat of an idiot savant who can communicate with cats. In his old age, he runs a service finding lost cats. There’s a murder and a trucker and a mountain retreat that all revolve to bring these two characters (who may be doubles or shadows of each other) together in the end.
HOW EXCITING! Read it.