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Library Journal Review
Murakami (Kafka on the Shore) is currently the West's most popular Japanese author, and each story in his new collection bears his imprimatur, a matter-of-fact style combined with plausible but surreal premises to produce a dizzying adventure. People lose themselves in mirrors; talking monkeys steal people's names until a clever psychologist solves the problem; a mother loses her only son to a shark attack in Hawaii and then travels to the site of the accident for a vacation every year, where surfers there are able to see his ghost. In the "Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes," Murakami skewers the staid literary establishment, whose members he caricatures as fat, blind crows, unwilling to try anything new. Magical animals and the power of natural disasters sweep through his characters' lives, transforming what came before. Yet people seem to survive, either numbed or strengthened by their ordeals. The wonderful weirdness of his vision and his unique voice are difficult to describe. They must be experienced. Recommended for all but the smallest libraries.-Andrea Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
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. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
This well-honored and avidly read Japanese writer, who is the author, most recently, of the novel Kafka on the Shore 0 (2005), extols the virtues of, as well as admits to a fondness for, the short story form ("a joy") in his introduction to this selection of 25 of his short works. Readers who fear the short story, particularly by writers with a high literary reputation, need to set hesitations aside here. Murakami is an open-armed, hospitable short story writer who avoids the obscurantism often caused by the concision that the form requires. His stories have an oral tone, a greatly appealing and embracing personal narrative voice. "Yep, that's life all right," says the narrator of "A Perfect Day for Kangaroos," on the subject of finding a suitable day--what with inclement weather and health issues--to visit the zoo. The sheer perfection of that story is counterpoised by "Tony Takitani," a longer and more elaborate but no less jolting story about a man's life, which begins and ends in loneliness. The title story is a low-key but poignant memoir-type narrative about a young man's caring for his hearing-impaired cousin, and the pleasure of "The Mirror" arises from the feel it gives of an Edith Wharton ghost story. The beauty of the author's prose style seals every story's sharp delivery. --Brad Hooper Copyright 2006 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Unrequited or lost love, unrealized dreams and bizarre experiences that unfold into deeper mysteries, in 25 stories drawn from the prominent Japanese writer's entire career. A handful seem too thinly developed to make an impression: memories of high school and youth heightened by a pop song's imagery ("The 1963/1982 Girl from Ipanema"); a satire on rampant commercialism and consumer gullibility ("The Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes"); an obsessive daily routine through which a lonely bachelor avoids "getting caught up in other people's messes" ("The Year of Spaghetti"). But more often than not, Murakami's matchless gift for making the unconventional and even the surreal inviting and gratifying creates hard little narrative gems. In the beautiful title story, a young man's paternalistic relationship with his ingenuous cousin (who has sustained permanent hearing loss) becomes the avenue to a more intense awareness of both others' sufferings and his own alienated state. A nightwatchman sees his doppelgänger in "The Mirror" (which isn't there, as he very well knows), and understands that he has somehow failed or antagonized his essential self. The vacationing narrator of "Hunting Knife" experiences several odd encounters at a tourist hotel, climaxing in a conversation with a wheelchair-bound young man whose possession of the title object amounts to a silent, secret rebellion against his fate. Successive images of loss or regret or alienation are dramatized in brisk sentences that decline to offer rational explanations, yet tease us with the manifold implications of things left unsaid. Murakami's well-known love of American jazz and nostalgic fascination with the 1960s sound recurring themes, and he's often present, under his own name or as "the writer." These techniques work to perfection in a virtuosic exploration of the phenomenon of coincidence ("Chance Traveler") and a searching Kafkaesque parable about disappearance, loss and coping ("Where I'm Likely to Find It"). A superlative display of a great writer's wares. Absolutely essential. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.