Did Haruki Murakami’s newest collection of short stories, Men Without Women, arrive on your doorstep this week? My Murakami community is pretty dedicated, so I’ve seen my Instagram feed flooded with photos of the new book, friends have added it to their Currently Reading shelf on Goodreads, and Facebook is also full of enthusiasm for new Murakami words and worlds to devour.
As you probably know, Murakami’s novels are praised widely, yet his short stories are often only considered “average.” Nonetheless, critics are starting to catch up with the zeitgeist and tapping into the loyal fandom of readers like you and I, as evidenced by the excerpts from the publications below.
Here are a few quotes from recent reviews of Murakami’s newest short story collection:
Whether in complex, dreamlike novels like “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle” and “Kafka on the Shore”or the more realistic short stories in his latest collection, “Men Without Women,” Murakami is drawn to the abiding strangeness and unfathomability of life. His meandering, mesmerizing tales of profound alienation are driven by puzzling circumstances that neither his characters nor readers can crack — recalling existentialist Gabriel Marcel’s assertion that “Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be experienced.” [Read more HERE]
-Heller McAlpin, Washington Post
By the end of the title story, its narrator has concluded, in appropriately Hemingwayesque fashion, that when you lose one woman, you lose them all: you become, somehow, the representative of the category “men without women”, alone but not singular. To be trapped by that “relentlessly rigid plural” is to live at the heart of loneliness. But something about this rhetorical sleight of hand reveals loneliness as a coping strategy in itself. [Read more HERE]
-M. John Harrison, The Guardian
Every line is saturated with existential loneliness. The narrator of “Yesterday” says that “when I look back at myself at age twenty what I remember most is being alone and lonely”. Habara, a housebound man having an affair with his nurse in “Scheherazade”, feels: “I’m not stranded on a desert island . . . I am a desert island.” [Read more HERE]
-Arifa Akbar, Financial Times
A partial list: loneliness; alienation; nostalgia for the aching joys and dizzy raptures of adolescence mingled with horror at the errors and missteps of one’s youth; men pining for alluring, enigmatic women they can’t have; the Beatles (two stories take their titles from Beatles’ songs); jazz clubs; uncanny animals. Many of the stories hover between realism and surreal dreamscape. And Murakami’s voice — cool, poised, witty, characterized by a peculiar blend of whimsy and poignancy, wit and profundity — hasn’t lost its power to unsettle even as it amuses. [Read more HERE]
-Priscilla Gilman, The Boston Globe
Murakami puts the performance in performance art. If only there were a literary equivalent of “Iron Chef,” since throughout this collection Murakami riffs on some pretty hefty classics. Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” told in reverse: No problem! A retelling of “The Arabian Nights” set in Tokyo, featuring a kinky nurse and the mysterious man she looks after: Easy! And when he’s not taking on the canon, he’s upping the narrative ante to see if he can escape the conventions of the form — and he almost always does. [Read more HERE.]
Jay Fielden, The New York Times
Thank you to everyone who entered our giveaway over the last month. I was able to learn your favorite novels and collected all sorts of questions you would ask Murakami himself. I’ll be sharing these with you all soon. The winners were announced to our email subscribers earlier this week. We are doing one last giveaway for Men Without Women for our Twitter community. Check that out HERE if you’re interested.
I look forward to reading through this new collection with you all. I hope you savor each story as you learn a little more about the world and yourself through Murakami’s worlds.
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