In Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, however, the curtains are not just f#@$ing blue. Indeed, every detail of this ethereal, intricate novel means something, is connected to something, is a symbol or metaphor for something, or is a key to puzzling out some of the novel's central riddles. And guess what? It's up to you to figure out what it all means. There are no easy answers.
That may sound daunting, but don't worry. The novel's far from impenetrable. And it's actually a lot of fun to try to figure it all out. But even if that sort of literary sleuthing isn't your thing, the story itself at the surface level is pretty entertaining as well.
There are actually two alternating threads of story, and they both hum along pretty quickly. Kafka Tamura, 15, runs away from his Tokyo home and takes up residence in a room in a small library (a metaphor for memory?) in a seaside town. Nakata is a strange old man who had been the victim of an mysterious accident in his youth that has left him mentally incapacitated, except for his unique abilities to talk to cats and make it rain fish and leeches. He undertakes a mission beyond his understanding with the aid of a young man named Hoshino, who is looking for meaning in his own life. There's a bit more to it that, but that should be enough to give you a flavor for the plot that provides the framework for Murakami's metaphysical playground.
As the stories converge (or don't?), the reader is left to tangle with notions of metaphor, consciousness, personal identity, fate and love. It's heady stuff, sure, but again, not completely beyond the realm of comprehension. Murakami is infinitely quotable (see quotes below) and a lot of the fun of the novel is to turn these over and over in your head to figure out meaning both on their own and also how they relate to the rest of the story.
Anyway, I loved it. Yes, Kafka On The Shore is a novel that requires (gasp!) a re-read to fully grasp. But a once-through is enough to get you hooked; that is, to spend hours combing message boards and other websites to search for meaning. There are definitely some right answers, but there's also much open to discussion. At least I hope that's the case, because I certainly don't know what all the right answers are.
"Narrow minds devoid of imagination. Intolerance, theories cut off from reality, empty terminology, usurped ideals, inflexible systems. Those are the things that really frighten me. What I absolutely fear and loathe.""Reality's just the accumulation of ominous prophecies come to life.""Actually getting closer to a metaphorical truth? Or metaphorically getting closer to an actual truth? Or maybe they supplement each other?"
"A reciprocal metaphor. Things outside you are projections of what's inside you, and what's inside you is a projection of what's outside."
"For every theory, there has to be counterevidence — otherwise science wouldn't advance." But, later, Crow says, "A theory that still doesn't have any good counterevidence is one worth pursuing."