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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.
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"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.See all Editorial Reviews
Harukisan, you've done it again. What a master! I have always loved your novels and have read them all. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Kristina Jones
The stories develop unique highly personal perceptions of small day-to-day seemingly incidental moments in the lives of each narrator. Read morePublished 2 months ago by J Doe
I often make the mistake with short story collections of reading them end-to-end, like a novel, so that I am struck by the discontinuity of the tales – which typically have unique... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Stan Prager
When I read Murakami, I sometimes feel that he is living inside me taking notes on my feelings and my observations about people I’ve met years ago or even this morning. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Joe Da Rold
This is a book of short stories and Murakami is a much beloved Japanese author. He writes beautifully, but do not expect to see any "aha!" moments. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
Murakami is one of my favorite writers for good reason. I currently have ALL his translated English works in my collection. I've read them each at least four times. Great buy.Published 7 months ago by Osiris
After reading numerous novels by this author, and many of them being large and syrupy tomes which are not easily skimmed, I was somewhat surprised to find short stories. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Miami Bob