Sunday, January 13, 2008

Blind Willow Sleeping Woman

Title: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
Author: Haruki Murakami
Genre: Fiction / Short Stories
Pages: 352
Edition: Paperback

Translated from Japanese by Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin.

I am a short story buff. Just nibble your way through a few pages and you have a perfect little nugget. I never knew about Murakami until I read Lotus' review about one of his novels 'After Dark'. Much intrigued by her post, I picked up his short story collection 'Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman' thinking it might be a wonderful way to break the ice... If you have never read Murakami before, let me assure you. You are in for a surprise!!!

'A Perfect Day for Kangaroos' is a story about a couple who visit a zoo to get a glimpse of a baby kangaroo. That's about it. Nothing more.

In 'Nausea 1979', a guy vomits everyday for almost 40 days. Every time he throws up, he receives a phone call from an anonymous caller who just says his name and hangs up. You think the story is getting somewhere..right? Well, one day the vomiting stops and so does the anonymous call. Now, Who is the caller? And Why or How did his vomiting stop? Only Murakami knows.

In 'New York Mining Disaster', a man meets a woman at a party who tells him she killed someone who looked just like him by throwing him into a beehive. They say 'Good bye' to each other and the story ends there. Then What?? Go figure...

'Where I'm likely to find it' has an interesting prelude, though. A man who lives in the 26th floor of the apartment mysteriously disappears on his way back from tending to his mother on the 24th floor. His wife hires a detective who is determined to solve the mystery. Everyday, he walks up and down the staircase between 24 and 26th floor looking for clues. But, his efforts go futile when soon after, the lady's husband shows up one day (though in an altered state). The sleuth moves on thinking his search will continue somewhere. "A search for something that could very well be shaped like a door. Or may be something closer to an umbrella or a doughnut. Or an elephant. A search that, I hope will take me where I'm likely to find it." The story never reveals how the man turned up all of a sudden or what happened to him.

Even though some stories are just banal, a lot of them are noteworthy of mention. In 'Dabchick', a man with a crumpled envelope in his hands sets out to win a job he desperately needs. After meandering his way through a labyrinth of tunnels, he arrives at the doorstep greeted by a guy in his bathrobe (!!). An eight letter password should get him through the door. And what would that password be? Very interesting story!! 'Chance Traveler' chronicles Murakami's strange experiences & observations and 'The Mirror' is a brilliant story that can scare the heck out of you. 'Sharpie cakes', 'Firefly' & 'Tony Takitani' are some fantastic stories that will keep you riveted to the book.

I must admit some are mundane; some are obscure or even pointless; but some are over the top. May be they are just vague at times, but they are so unique. May be you will go nowhere with it. Or May be you will. I guess that's just Murakami. His stories rely so heavily on reader's assumptions and judgements. May be that's what makes his books interesting. Its a sort of invitation / challenge to leap beyond your creative boundaries into a unique, imaginary realm that's even surreal. Are you up to it?

My Rating: 3.8/5


tanabata said...

Nice review. I'm reading an older collection of his stories, The Elephant Vanishes, right now. Very similar in that some of the stories just stop, leaving you wondering what happens next. I've come to expect that from Murakami and he's very much a 'need to be in the right mood' read for me. Luckily I'm enjoying them a lot this time.

Radha said...

I can't believe the coincidence!! Just this weekend I walked into a bookstore & picked up a collection of short stories by Murakami. Mine is called 'After the Quake'. i'm only on my third story but so far i'm loving it. They all are short & have inconclusive endings; but they're to be savoured while they last!!

Happy Reader said...

@Nat ~ I was just toying with 'Elephant Vanishes' at Borders y'day wondering if I should buy it. I rushed over to the bookstore to get a copy after reading your comment. How unlucky, the book was gone :( Anyway, I'll get it online.
@radha ~ I realize I'm getting addicted to Murakami as well. I just bought 2 of his novels today('Kafka on the shore' and 'Hard-Boiled Wonderland'). Pls do post your thoughts on 'After the Quake'.

Literary Feline said...

After my last short story collection, Breathless in Bombay, I'm really getting into the short story mood. :-) This one sounds like a good collection. I haven't read anything by this author, but I know I have a novel on my shelf somewhere around here. Thank you for the recommendation!

tanabata said...

I haven't read Kafka on the Shore yet but Hard-boiled Wonderland is probably my favourite of his books that I've read so far. Enjoy! :)

Ladytink_534 said...

I've never read anything by this author before but I recently won this book in a contest. It sounds really interesting, can't wait to read it!

Happy Reader said...

@Wendy ~ Wonder what murakami novel is lurking on your shelf ;)
@Nat ~ I sure will :) Your comment about 'Hard-boiled wonderland' makes me want to read it right away..But, I have so many books on my shelf screaming for my attention :)
@ladytink ~ Thanks for stopping by. Lucky you!! I hope you do enjoy it...Give me a Murakami anyday :)