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Men Without Women: Stories Hardcover – May 9, 2017
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One of the Best Books of the Year: The Washington Post, NPR, and Esquire
“[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
About the Author
Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages, and the most recent of his many international honors is the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award, whose previous recipients include J. K. Rowling, Isabel Allende, and Salman Rushdie.
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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.