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The Elephant Vanishes: Stories Paperback – June 28, 1994

4.3 out of 5 stars 138 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The virtuoso Japanese novelist presents 17 playful and darkly comic existentialist conundrums.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This collection of 15 stories from a popular Japanese writer, perhaps best known in this country for A Wild Sheep Chase ( LJ 11/15/89), gives a nice idea of his breadth of style. The work maintains the matter-of-fact tone reminiscent of American detective fiction, balancing itself somewhere between the spare realism of Raymond Carver and the surrealism of Kobo Abe. These are not the sort of stories that one thinks of as "Japanese"; the intentionally Westernized style and well-placed reference to pop culture gives them a contemporary and universal feel. Engaging, thought-provoking, humorous, and slyly profound, these skillful stories will easily appeal to American readers but must present something of a challenge to the Japanese cultural establishment. At their best, however, they serve to dispel cultural stereotypes and reveal a common humanity. Recommended for libraries with an interest in contemporary fiction.
- Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll. Lib., N.Y.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (June 28, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679750533
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679750536
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is perhaps the best collection of 20th/21st century urban short stories I have ever read. Murakami's ability to create compelling characters in just a few paragraphs, and place them in absurd situations, is unrivaled.
Murakami is right on par with Raymond Carver, maybe even more challenging and interesting -- since Murakami's story premise is more often absurd and surreal, unlike Carver's "around the house and in the yard" focus. But the clipped sentences, the meetings of strangers, and the very self-aware male narrators, are quite similar.
"The Kangaroo Communique," which appears in this collection, is one of my all-time favorite pieces of short fiction -- and it actually reminds me more of Borges than of Carver. It is about kangaroos, and customer service at a department store, and stalkers, and the nature of self-representation.... well, just read it.
Thematic similarities between Murakami and Carver: lapses in communication, people just missing each other, chance encounters between urban strangers, etc. One major difference between the two writers is that Murakami is always in awe at the (sometimes incomprehensible, sometimes cruel) beauty of the world, while Carver tends to border on the morose.
Personally, I much prefer Murakami's stories to the one novel of Murakami's ("Hardboiled Wonderland") that I read -- his succinct, slightly neurotic, slightly dreamy first-person style is (in my opinion) best suited to the short story form.
Overall, these are exquisite short stories, perfect for the age of chance meetings, lonely drifting souls, and cyber-disconnectedness.... If you like these stories, you may also like Murakami's very imaginative and inventive novels.
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I was going on a road trip and needed something to read ... other than Sputnik Sweetheart, I'd already read all of Murakami's work, so I thought I'd give The Elephant Vanishes a shot. Am I ever glad I did!
Murakami shows off his trademark humor, wit, and versatility while spinning tales about his favorite topic: humanity. That's the best explanation I can give to someone who wants to know what kind of writer Murakami is: he writes about what it means to be alive. Love, death, life, Murakami deals with the whole spectrum of human existance with amazing skill and grace.
Listing my favorite stories in this work without listing the entire table of contents would be a challenge, but I think it would be fair to say that my favorites were "The Silence," "The Wind-up Bird" (from a longer Murakami novel), "The 100% Perfect Girl," and "The Kangaroo Communique." If you haven't read Murakami before, this would be a great book to get your feet wet with. If you're a Murakami fan but haven't read this one yet, what are you waiting for? "The Elephant Vanishes" is Murakami at his best.
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Format: Paperback
A good book is like travel. Sometimes it's not the final destination that matters. It's the journey itself.

To really appreciate a Haruki Murakami novel it's important to adopt that perspective. I enjoy his writing, characters, and stories but often am frustrated at the end. They just stop. The main character comes to a certain growth point, and Murakami walks away from the plot and stops. He often doesn't tie up the loose ends or explain exactly what happened. Presumably it's not important.

The Elephant Vanishes is a collection of Murakami short stories. They all have his unmistakable tone and style.

Some of them have the same frustrating ending. A few are more traditional and wrap up nicely.

Despite the frustrations, I did enjoy the book immensely and have no problem recommending it. Just be prepared for more deliberate loose ends than a pair of leather pants with fringe.

One thing that is fairly common in Murakami's novels is that characters are very accepting of their situation. They don't question things, but drift with the current and do what they're supposed to do. This passage is the epitome of Murakami:

Stretched out in the back seat, long and stiff as a dead fish, was a Remington automatic shotgun. Its shells rustled dryly in the pocket of my wife's windbreaker. We had two black ski masks in the glove compartment. Why my wife owned a shotgun, I have no idea. Or ski masks. Neither of us had ever skied. But she didn't explain, and I didn't ask. Married life is weird, I felt.

Page 44

The book is filled with lines like that. And lines like that are why I keep reading Murakami books.

As I put this review together, and as I thought more about the stories, Murakami's main theme became clear.
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Format: Paperback
I'm a big fan of Murakami's, but I love his short stories much better than his novels. it is the book you have to read to feel great to live on this planet with Murakami.some people say he is too American and his stories dont make any sense. why does a story have to make a sense? this life doesnt make any sense sometimes. I think his cute, little but deep and touching stories can touch your soul.They are strange, but beatiful. In some stories it is impossible to happen in your life time. but we can dream and imagine whatever we want. Call him a dreamer, and sentimentalist, but so are you.
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