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Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

August 2, 2014


This is a collection of twenty-four short stories by the celebrated Japanese writer. I like Murakami’s writing quite a bit. He has such emotional range, and his stories often have surreal elements that take them in completely unexpected directions. It may be partly a result of the translations from Japanese, but the cadence and playfulness of Murakami’s prose reminds me of Richard Brautigan. And the inventiveness of the story remind me of Jim Shepard’s stories.

I prefer Murakami’s long-form work to his short stories, and overall this book felt a little uneven to me. That may be expected of a collection that was written over more than 30 years, but some of the stories feel more like sketches. That said, several are very good. And just to give an idea of Murakami’s range, two that stand out are “Hanalei Bay,” about a woman who travels to Hawaii where her son, a surfer, has been killed by a shark; and “A Shinagawa Monkey,” about a talking monkey that steals nametags and by doing so literally takes people’s identities. Can’t say I’ve ever read anything like that before.

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