Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite contemporary novelists, and his imagination and storytelling are virtually unparalleled.  Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is a collection of 24 short stories that span a quarter century of Murakami's career, the first being written in 1980 and the last couple in 2005.  It's a superior collection of stories, and several are among the best I have ever read. 

At his best, Murakami's work ranges from touching to horrifying, scary to surreal.  His short stories are no different.  "Tony Takitani" is an insightful exploration of love and grief, while the next one, "The Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes," is extremely strange and creepy.  "A Shinagawa Monkey" is about a criminal, well, monkey.  Whether his characters are in the mundane everyday of their lives, discovering their sexuality or experiencing an unexplained year of nausea, Murakami understands exactly what they are feeling, and he is a master at expressing it all to the reader.

I have two small criticisms, if they can even be characterized as such.  Many of these stories (as well as Murakami's novels) are told in the first person.  He is one of the few authors I've ever read who can pull that off.  But the problem with a whole collection of stories in the first person is that it is tough to read two of them back to back without getting a little confused.  That being said, stories aren't necessarily meant to be read marathon-style, so it isn't really a major issue.  And all in all, I prefer Murakami's novels.  They display the same incredible skill at making bizarre situations and people seem real, while involving more layers of complexity than any single story can get into.  I'd recommend this collection without hesitation, though, for anyone looking to read short stories.

No comments: