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Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (Vintage International) Paperback – October 9, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [Signature]Reviewed by Lily Tuck One of my favorite Haruki Murakami stories is "The Elephant Vanishes"—part of an earlier collection published in 1991—in which the narrator watches as an elephant in a zoo grows smaller and smaller until finally the elephant disappears. No explanation is given, there is no resolution, the vanished elephant remains a mystery at the same time that the narrator's life is changed forever.Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Murakami's new collection of 25 stories, many of which have appeared in the New Yorker and other publications, also describes these epiphanic instances. In the title story, a character who is half deaf, alludes to a John Ford movie, Fort Apache, in which John Wayne tells the newly arrived colonel that if he actually saw some Indians on his way to the fort that means there weren't any. Everything is a bit off—including of course the blind willow trees whose pollen carry flies that burrow inside a sleeping woman's ears—as in a dream, where explanations are always lacking but where interpretations are plentiful. In "Mirror," the narrator sees someone who appears to be both himself and not himself in a mirror and then finds out the mirror does not exist; the disaffected woman—a lot of Murakami's characters are handicapped or incapacitated in some physical way—in "The Shinagawa Monkey," loses her own name; in "Man-Eating Cats," the narrator's girlfriend disappears and as he searches for her finds that "with each step I took, I felt myself sinking deeper into a quicksand where my identity vanished." Murakami's stories are difficult to describe and one should, I think, resist attempts to overanalyze them. Their beauty lies in their ephemeral and incantatory qualities and in his uncanny ability to tap into a sort of collective unconscious. In addition, a part of Murakami's genius is that he uses images as plot points, going from image to image, like in the marvelous story "Airplane," where, while making love, the narrator imagines strings hanging from the ceiling and how each one might open up a different possibility—good and bad. It is clear that Murakami is well acquainted with the teachings of Buddhism, western philosophies, Jungian theory; he has a deep knowledge of music and, also, I have been told, is a dedicated, strong swimmer. In his stories, he roams freely and convincingly through all these elements (and no doubt many more) without differentiating to create a world where cats talk and elephants disappear. In the introduction to this collection, Murakami writes how, for him, writing a novel is a challenge and how writing short stories is a joy—these stories are a joy for his readers as well.Lily Tuck's most recent novel, The News from Paraguay, won the 2004 National Book Award.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

"Everything I write is a strange tale," Haruki Murakami says in his preface to this collection. Admittedly, his fusion of Eastern and Western elements of story and reality to create a uniquely surreal landscape of human and otherworldly experiences may be a little too strange for some readers. In addition, he asks more questions than he answers about his protagonists and their unusual situations. Yet those accustomed to his weird ways will find a lot to enjoy here, including many of his most popular New Yorker pieces. While it's clear that many of the stories are sketches made in preparation for the grand artistry of his novels, most, if not all, stand very well on their own.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400096081
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400096084
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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65 of 69 people found the following review helpful By C. E. Stevens VINE VOICE on August 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (BWSW) is an amazing collection of short stories. Spanning 25 years of Murakami's career (the oldest story was originally written in 1980, while several were penned in 2005), the stories in BWSW show off Murakami's amazing skill and versatility. Murakami's stories are often described as defying typical genre classifications, and while this is true, it would be a mistake to interpret this as meaning that all Murakami stories are the same. The stories in BWSW will alternately leave you scared, laughing, amazed, and confounded. Although everyone will have their favorite stories, my personal favorites were Firefly (later expanded into Norwegian Wood), Hanalei Bay, Tony Takitani, and The Mirror. I felt the first three best represented Murakami's patented ability to tap into the tightly-linked joy, loss, and loneliness of the human condition, while the fourth was enjoyable as the pure "ghost story" ... while this genre is a staple in Japanese literature, it is a departure from the rest of Murakami's works.

If you are new to Murakami, I think that his short story collections (either BWSW or The Elephant Vanishes) are the best place to start. Murakami's works are best "felt" rather than "analyzed" and short stories are the best way to get acquainted with his talent and style. If you like his short stories, try a novel. Which one is a matter of personal taste ... interestingly, while Wind-Up Bird is typically his most popular work in the West, it is his earlier works (notably Norwegian Wood, Hard-Boiled Wonderland, and Dance, Dance, Dance) that remain even more popular in his native Japan to this day.

If you are an old Murakami hand, you might be wondering what is next. Unfortunately the future is a little murky.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Crazy Fox on October 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
Murakami Haruki has been sorely misrepresented in English. Equally adroit at the novel and the short story, this prolific writer's novels seem to get all the attention in translation--okay, most of it, anyway. As a book, then, "Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman" goes a long way towards righting that imbalance, filled as it is with twenty-four fine short stories expertly rendered into English by two of Murakami's long-time translators, Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin. Unlike the novels with their gradually convoluted spirals into the twilight zone, the short stories herein are more like short day trips there and back again. For all that, though, they are quintessentially Murakami: understated tales of love, longing, and loss from the slightly eccentric to the downright surreal--and yet so surreal as to ring true, convincingly grasping life's little mysteries and synchronicities in a deadpan, matter-of-fact manner. Genres blend and identities blur, reality and illusion overlap and interplay, all amidst the familiar psychological furniture of our contemporary consumerist planet with its internationally hodgepodge culture. The occasional dash of postmodern irony only accentuates these unsettling explorations of the human condition, and yet for all that each tale is enjoyable and highly entertaining to read. Almost deceptively so.

The stories exhibit quite a range, too. Some are very early works of Murakami's when his style was still in its formative stages, others are quite recent and show the sure hand of an experienced craftsman. Some are clearly allegorical while some are more confusing than anything.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John Kwok HALL OF FAME on December 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
"Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman" demonstrates Haruki Murakami's mastery of the short story genre. It is quite simply one of the most intriguing short story collections that I have read recently. Much to his credit, Murakami has a marvelous ability of transforming the mundane into something that's quite interesting, and often profound, as demonstrated by so many of his short stories published in this volume, which deal with relationships between men and women. Though set primarily in his native Japan, his stories - which are well-translated by his long-time translators Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin - have an almost universal quality to them, as fascinating examinations of contemporary modern culture from the perspectives of both men and women. All of these stories feature Murakami's usual literary tricks of the trade, ranging from his mordant humor to constant references to contemporary pop culture, and last, but not least, his keen ear for dialogue between the sexes. These stories truly demonstrate why Murakami isn't just one of Japan's greatest living writers, but more importantly, why he ranks amongst the world's finest.

It's hard to pick among twenty-four terrific tales for personal favorites. Two of the best, "Firefly" and "Man-Eating Cats", were revised later to become separate chapters in Murakami's novels "Norwegian Wood" and "Sputnik Sweetheart". Another compelling story is his realistic fantasy "The Ice Man", which could have been written by Harlan Ellison. "Dabchick" is an intriguing, almost Kafkaesque, battle of wits between a young woman and a receptionist in the office of a mysterious Japanese tycoon. "Hanalei Bay" is an emotionally riveting tale about a woman's ability to cope with the loss of her only child, a son killed by a shark while surfing in Hawaii.
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