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Bookmarks Issue: 
25-Nov-Dec-2006
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24 Stories

A-Blind Willow Sleeping Woman.epsJazz fan Haruki Murakami presents a number of bebop literary improvisations in what he calls his "first real short story collection" since 1991’s The Elephant Vanishes. Stories previously published in The New Yorker join other short works dating back as far as 1980. Juxtaposing the real with the surreal (as in "Where I’m Likely to Find It"), interpersonal distance with social exclusion and emotional absence ("Man-Eating Cats," later incorporated into the novel Sputnik Sweetheart), and fictional narrative with autobiography ("A Folklore for My Generation," "Nausea 1979," and "Chance Traveler"), Murakami continues his compelling literary explorations.
Knopf. 352 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 1400044618

Baltimore Sun 4.5 of 5 Stars
"There is no author more adept than Murakami at capturing the void of life lived under what he calls ‘late-stage capitalism.’" Joan Mellen

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"Although [Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman] doesn’t have the coruscating brilliance of Kafka on the Shore, his most recent novel, or the emotional and thematic coherence of After the Quake, his recent collection of stories linked by the 1995 Kobe earthquake, it will more than satisfy the hunger of Mr. Murakami’s ever-widening circle of readers." Charles Matthews

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"This collection shows Murakami at his dynamic, organic best. … Murakami demonstrates brilliantly the perils of trying to squeeze life into prefabricated compartments." Antoine Wilson

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 of 5 Stars
"… a fine distillation of all the defining characteristics of the author’s work. … In less assured hands these stories would just not work, but Murakami, unorthodox though he might be, is a writer of great skill." Kristofer Collins

San Antonio Exp-News 4 of 5 Stars
"He approaches the large subjects sideways, through mood and bizarre occurrences, and always trusts his reader to be moved." John Freeman

Hartford Courant 3 of 5 Stars
"His tales are mind-bending metaphysical romps … that never really get resolved. They just get weirder and weirder." Dan Pope

Philadelphia Inquirer 2.5 of 5 Stars
"One wonders how dissimilar one protagonist is from another. … Panning for gilt in this murky collection yields more fool’s gold than the effort is worth." Edward Champion

Critical Summary

"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.

Recently Reviewed

Kafka on the Shore (2005): The story of a teenage runaway runs parallel to that of an old man who can speak with animals. ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection Mar/Apr 2005)