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Men Without Women: Stories Hardcover – May 9, 2017
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“[A] beguilingly irresistible book. Like a lost lover, it holds on tight long after the affair is over. . . . Part allegory, part myth, part magic realism, part Philip Marlowe, private eye. . . . Murakami puts the performance in performance art.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Time and again in these seven stories, Murakami displays his singular genius. . . . The stories in this collection find their power within the confines of common but momentous disturbances that linger on in memory.” —Los Angeles Times
“Mesmerizing tales of profound alienation. . . . Murakami is a master of the open-ended mystery.” —The Washington Post
“Beautifully rendered. . . . Murakami at his whimsical, romantic best. . . . [He] writes of complex things with his usual beguiling simplicity—the same seeming naivety found in the Beatles songs that are so often his reference points. The stories read like dirges for ‘all the lonely people’ but they are strangely invigorating to read.” —Financial Times
“Classic Murakami. . . . [His] voice—cool, poised, witty, characterized by a peculiar blend of whimsy and poignancy, wit and profundity—hasn’t lost its power to unsettle even as it amuses.” —The Boston Globe
“A whimsical delight. . . . The seven stories in his fourth story collection present another captivating treasure hunt of familiar Murakami motifs—including cats, jazz, whiskey, certain cigarettes, the moon, baseball, never-named characters, and—of course—the many men without women. . . . Murakami always manages to entertain, surprise, and satisfy. . . . Sanity might be overrated, but Murakami is surely not.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Wise stories. . . . Moody and melancholic as [they] can be, some of them offer comparable hope that these men without women might emerge from their long and isolating loneliness, acknowledging the hurt, pain and even rage they feel rather than folding in on themselves and ceasing to fully live.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Men Without Women has the familiar signposts and well-worn barstools that will reconnect with longtime readers of Murakami: magical realism, Beatles tracks and glasses of whiskey. Yet, except for a few tales, the magic is watered down and it’s reality that is now poured stiff. . . . This collection is a sober, clear-eyed attempt to observe the evasion and confrontation of suffering and loss, and to hope for something better.” —New York Daily News
“It’s been a few years since we’ve gotten something new from Japan’s master of magical realism, but this new seven-story collection draws us right back into his signature realm—one of lonely men with wandering imaginations, mysterious cats, and subtle-yet-surreal narratives that reveal the supernatural layer operating beneath our everyday lives.” —W Magazine
“Vintage Murakami. . . . Compellingly odd. . . . A glimpse into the strange worlds people invent by the always inventive [author]. . . . Elegant.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Thought-provoking.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Superb.” —SF Weekly
“A new Haruki Murakami book is always cause for celebration. . . . These stories are filled with all of the luminous, magical elements that make Murakami's writing so fascinating.” —Bustle
“Funny and surreal.” —io9
“A funny, lovely, unmistakably Murakami collection.” —BuzzFeed
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'Drive my car' begins the collection in a good way. It's simple, easy Murakami, a great way to get into the groove. This eases the reader into 'Yesterday', arguably the second best story of the collection. But of course this story was published in the New Yorker, so I've read it a couple of times. It's still available free online.
Next we have a couple of rather ordinary stories (by Murakami standards): 'sheherazade' and 'an independent organ '. Both are written in the Murakami style, but neither really serves to grab the reader's attention.
Following these is 'Kino', which is certainly the best story in this collection and arguably rates among the author's best short stories, in my humble opinion. This story alone pushes my rating to four stars instead of three. I pondered this story for days. It really sticks with you.
Finishing the collecting are two stories that are good, but really pale after reading 'Kino'. 'Gregor Samsa in love' is a fun twist on the old Kafka story. It's a nice tribute to one of Murakami's biggest influences. And finishing the collection is the title story, little more than a few pages of musings by a vague protagonist.
All in all average compared to previous collections by Murakami. I'd say read this if you're a fan, otherwise start out with earlier collections. But as a Murakami fan, it's worth the purchase just for Kino.
There is a bit of range in the styling of these. They do carry a common theme of men on their own, even when other characters, particularly women, have strong parts. Even though there are some related elements, such as infidelity, each one is distinct. The central male characters, their situations, and even the tone of the stories feel different.
One thing that I love about Murakami's works is that they prominently feature the characters. Sometimes I will read things and the writer seems to be focused on an idea or plot point more than the character. Murakami is almost opposite of that. I love how we can delve into the characters' mindset and understand the pain, joy, confusion, etc. that is the crux of these moments. This might just be the best collection of Murakami stories.
Top international reviews
The women in the stories are invariably more poised, mature and autonomous than the men, who don't actually say 'Women, eh!' but come close, musing on the difficulty of understanding women, which is maybe a bit disingenuous for an author who has been married for over 40 years, has an enormous female fan base, and has created many convincing female characters in past books.
Six of the stories are up to Murakami's high standards with well-developed storylines, unusual but plausible characters sympathetically described, and the deft use of similes ('phones ringing in the middle of the night sound...like some savage metal tool out to destroy the world'). I particularly enjoyed the more upbeat story of Samsa in Love, a reverse take on Kafka's Metamorphosis, where an insect (?) wakes up as a man in war-torn Prague and falls in love with a feisty hunchback locksmith. The last story, Men without Women, is less a story than a stream of consciousness about love and loss and was (unusually for Murakami) unconvincing and self-pitying.
That aside, Murakami fans and lovers of short stories will not be disappointed with this collection.
Most of the stories are great. I remember one or two duds, mainly the ones that are surreal and not wholly grounded in reality. People think Murakami does this well, and maybe he does OK, but I don't really believe so. Give me the other stories instead, that tell me something about human beings getting by, that are well-crafted and whole-feeling, that have meaning lurking just beneath the page to be pondered on and teased out. There aren't many firm answers with Murakami's stories and characters, mainly just themes and moods. Gosh, he's just the best, isn't he?
For fun, re-read each story and drink the whiskey the character drinks, while listening to the jazz the character drinks. Now you're Murakami, just like every character Murakami ever wrote, and just like every fan who ever read him.
Would recommend. Would urge actually.
here the author is mostly interested in men + how they relate ( or don't ) to women
a mirror image to Anita Brookner - who's mostly interested in women + how they relate ( or don't ) to men
melancholic tales ( mostly about loss + regret ) with endings that often raise more questions than they answer
the influence of Kafka can be felt throughout
not least in the story entitled "Samsa In Love" in which a beetle awakens one morning to find its body has metamorphosed into that of a man !
with an appendage that does strange things when a woman comes calling !!
Bless you Murakami!
I will never Forget reading Samsa In Love, it is certainement à Worthy follow up to Metamorphosis.
Here we meet Scheherzade, as mysterious as the heroin of Arabian Nights, who makes love and then tells a story, and then becomes the story herself. We meet Kino, who does not know whether he is in love or not, Samsa, who is positively in love and then positively heart broken... so much that he can become the oblivion he wishes to become. Each story of a man, a woman in his life, an inability to hold the woman he so dearly wants to hold and then regret. At the end, there is regret.
The reference to Japanese life is refreshing. Here is a glimpse of another culture, another people, another way of thinking, another life. One has read too much English fiction set in America or Britain, and lately India. But the men and the women... they are the same. Nothing dramatic happens, yet one feels the joy and the sorrow, the latter more often than the former.
Murakami writes not for the young. Not for those who have not seen pain and loss in relationships yet. The men in his stories have lived their lives, have experienced love and loss and are now at a stage where they can look back at their lives, the women they had and grieve about what could have been but isn't.
Murakami paints an unrealistic portrayal of women, but the collection is about the MEN without them, so I think it is forgivable.
The penultimate story (Samsa in Love) lost me a bit, but I’m not really a fan of Metamorphosis anyway.
I’ve read Wind Up Bird Chronicles and Norwegian Wood by Murakami and I’d place Men Without Women behind both of those. However still very enjoyable.