DoubleBooked | AFTER DARK vs. KAFKA ON THE SHORE



THE DUO HERE, with something new for you! Introducing, DoubleBooked: a novel collaboration comparing our latest reads, lit-erally. Each month (hopefully), in an effort to read more, we will be reviewing two trending titles so you know what to check out next.


WHAT TIA READ: After Dark 


The Cover ★
What's not to love, honestly? It captures the pensiveness of the book, the darkness, and (quite literally) the face of one of the primary characters in the work. I like to think the dots have some symbolic relevance—like stars in the night sky, placed into patterns that may or may not exist, depending on hard we're looking for them.

The Plot 
There isn't a strong path in this book, but rather a surreal escape into the whimsical world that exists between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. It follows a variety of characters, but mainly concentrates on Mari, a 19-year-old girl with a lot on her mind. Staying out late, she runs into many interesting figures (a boy she once blind-dated, an owner of a love hotel, a young prostitute) and we learn more about what's going on in the deepest recesses of her mind as she interacts with them. 

The Characters 
The narrator of After Dark sounds a lot like a man describing a film he is watching, event by event, in extreme detail. He goes into rooms all over the city, following a string of connected characters: the bookish, quiet Mari, Mari's sleeping sister, a man being hunted down by a Chinese gang, and a boy in a band. The strongest character in the book, however, is undeniably Tokyo at night.

The Writing 
Murakami always wins as far as writing goes! He is as lyrical as a poet, but embraces Hemingway-level simplicity with his vocabulary. With stories as symbolically complex as this one, with a pinch of magical realism to really capture the weirdness of nighttime thoughts, simple writing keeps things grounded.

The Aesthetic 
Imagine walking below neon signs through an empty city, wandering through the dead of night, and slipping in and out of dreams. This book is all coffee breath, cigarettes, and the nearness of two people walking side by side, but not touching.

Comparable Titles

It's really hard to pick comp. titles for a book like this, which is so wildly different from anything I've read before. I chose Ulysses by James Joyce because it takes place in the span of one day, which I feel is in the same vein of After Dark, which is restricted to a very short time period as well—the night. The Wong Kar Wai film Fallen Angels captures a similar visual aesthetic of a city at night. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway I thought was written similarly in its careful, but meaningful simplicity. And finally, I chose The Stranger by Albert Camus because of how surreal the book became at times.

For more, check out Tia's new blog!

WHAT VICTORIA READ: Kafka on the Shore


The Cover 
I think the cover accurately reflects the image of the main character I imagined while reading the book. A slightly emotionless and borderline bookish youth with a unique and not very childlike view of the world around him. Not to mention, the muted shades and high contrast of the cover sort of puts you in a mood that gets you settled into the book.

The Plot 
The most basic way to describe the happenings of this book would be to say a young boy runs away from home and tries to make it on his own whilst a senile old man tries to track down a missing cat. The paths of these two characters seem completely unrelated to each until we begin to see parallels in their lives in more ways than one. 'Kafka' was ultimately like a great huge puzzle that had me on edge the entire time I read it as I tried to piece together seemingly absurd pieces of the characters' timelines. Tia can vouch for me when I say this book had me going crazy!!

The Characters 
I can't say that I was particularly drawn into the characters as much as I was into the general framework of the novel. The young runaway, Kafka, isn't exactly the most interesting kid ever when it comes to his personality. He is very driven by routine and he was often depicted doing the same exact thing every single day which I found surprising for a child in middle school. Aside from that, he is going through puberty and doesn't forget to take some time out of his routine to admire his penis...which I thought was interesting and maybe necessary to add to remind us that Kafka is indeed an adolescent. I honestly do not have much to say about the older character, Nakata. I'm pretty sure just as much as the character was mysterious and confusing to me, he himself was probably just as puzzled about himself and basically everything. 

The Writing 
It was definitely well written -- that's basically a given for Murakami and why I continue to read his books. Reading Kafka on the Shore reminded me of when I was reading one of his other novels, 1Q84. I often felt like I was trying to guide my mind through a maze of information and carefully dropped clues that would suddenly make everything make sense. And when I was finished reading both books I was still left with the pretty huge question: WHAT JUST HAPPENED? I kind of like how a book could still have me thinking about it even days after I have finished it, and this one will definitely still be on your mind!!

The Aesthetic 
In the beginning the book has a very leisure-like vibe that comes with the backdrop of a small town outside of the city. But slowly all of this came to seem unreal to me or more so I started to wonder what is reality anyway? And ultimately I just began to question my perception of everything....

Comparable Titles

As I mentioned before, this book definitely has you feeling a certain type of way just like Murakami's other showstopper, 1Q84, does. There are many allusions to the story of Oedipus and I think it could be valuable to delve into this novel after just having read Sophocles' Oedipus Rex. You might be able to draw some similarities others wouldn't notice while reading. Also, this book has inklings of the Adventures of Huck Finn because, duh, it's partly about a runaway.

TL; DR: Would this impress the hipster barista at your local coffee shop? 

T: Probably! I think Murakami in general is pretty impressive in the hipster community.
V: Of course! Even if they didn't know Murakami they would probs be sold on the cover alone. 
T: I totally agree. I'm obsessed with the cover of After Dark. It's just one of those books that looks good on your shelf. Like I would not be embarrassed to be seen reading it on the subway.
V: They do make for a good Instagram!

xoxo,

THE DUO