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Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (Vintage International)by Haruki Murakami
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have never read Haruki Murakami and those who love his books with feverish devotion. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is a career-spanning collection of short stories guaranteed to amuse, disturb, beguile, and delight both devotees and novices alike.
"Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Murakami's first collection of short stories in more than a decade, again demonstrates his fabulous talent for transporting readers and making 'the world fade away' with a few short strokes of his pen....What shines in all of [these stories] is Murakami's love for the open-ended mystery at the core of existence and his willingness to give himself up 'to the flow' in order to capture some of the magic in the mundane." Heller McAlpin, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)
Synopses & Reviews
From the bestselling author of Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle comes this superb collection of twenty-four stories that generously expresses Murakami's mastery of the form. From the surreal to the mundane, these stories exhibit his ability to transform the full range of human experience in ways that are instructive, surprising, and relentlessly entertaining.
Here are animated crows, a criminal monkey, and an iceman, as well as the dreams that shape us and the things we might wish for. Whether during a chance reunion in Italy, a romantic exile in Greece, a holiday in Hawaii, or in the grip of everyday life, Murakami's characters confront grievous loss, or sexuality, or the glow of a firefly, or the impossible distances between those who ought to be closest of all.
"[Signature] Reviewed by Lily Tuck 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. " Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A warning to new readers of Haruki Murakami: You will become addicted....His newest collection is as enigmatic and sublime as ever." San Francisco Chronicle
"Whimsical, magical, daring or sometimes played with the mute in the bell of the trumpet...the best of these linger far beyond the reading of them, creating an aura about the world that for many of us just wasn't present before we read them." Chicago Tribune
"This collection shows Murakami at his dynamic, organic best....In Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Murakami demonstrates brilliantly the perils of trying to squeeze life into prefabricated compartments." Los Angeles Times Book Review
"In Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, the 25 stories juxtapose the deeply bizarre with the mundane to evoke fleeting moods of sadness, hope, nostalgia, and dread. (Grade: B+)" Entertainment Weekly
"Readers who fear the short story...need to set hesitations aside here. Murakami is an open-armed, hospitable short story writer [with] a greatly appealing and embracing personal narrative voice....The beauty of the author's prose style seals every story's sharp delivery." Booklist
"Murakami's matchless gift for making the unconventional and even the surreal inviting and gratifying creates hard little narrative gems....A superlative display of a great writer's wares. Absolutely essential." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] satisfying, entertaining collection from the writer of the brilliant Kafka on the Shore. It is a solid introduction to the eclectic talents of this master storyteller of the absurd." Seattle Times
Following the bestselling triumph of Kafka on the Shore, Murakami returns with a collection of stories that generously expresses his masterful fiction-writing skills. From the surreal to the mundane, these stories exhibit his ability to transform the full range of the human experience.
About the Author
Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into thirty-four languages, and the most recent of his many honors is the Yomiuri Literary Prize, whose previous recipients include Yukio Mishima, Kenzaburo Oe, and Kobo Abe.
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