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Search tags: haruki-murakami
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review 2019-08-01 10:36
Birthday girl - Haruki Murakami Birthday girl - Haruki Murakami

This is a short story about a waitress who has to serve dinner to the reclusive owner of the restaurant where she works and was written to celebrate Murakami’s 70th birthday.


At just over 40 pages it can read in the time taken to eat a slice of birthday cake. It’s a strange little tale, abstract as the names of the characters aren’t revealed and with a hint of magic to it.


It has the hint of a modern fairy tale to it, the story ending with a vaugeness that allows the reader to interpret it in their own way.


The difficulty with reviewing such a short story is that there is the potential to simple re-tell the tale and thereby spoil the book for any potential audience.


There is a craft to short story writing, setting the scene, creating character connections and telling the narrative arc in a limited number of words. Here the characters could be imagined, the scene too. As said above, there was some distance to those characters, given they are not named and the limited information about them doesn’t really allow the reader to get a true sense of them. That said it may not be necessary that they do, given this is a short story.


An enjoyable enough tale, one to pass 10 minutes or so with.

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review 2019-07-14 18:07
Wonderfully Rich and Layered
Kafka on the Shore - Philip Gabriel,Haruki Murakami

As usual, Murakami provides his delighted readers with a unique experience in Kafka on the Shore. It is sumptuous novel, layered with symbolism and literary references.  Murakami manages to masterfully preserve a strong sense of narrative and readability despite his experimental techniques and complex explorations of fundamental themes.  Kafka on the Shore interweaves the stories of “Kafka” Tamura, a fifteen-year-old runaway and Nakata, an older man with magical gifts bestowed upon him after a near-death experience dating from his youth.  The young “Kafka” searches for his mother who abandoned him, and Nakata seeks his destiny as a conduit between different states of reality.  Both characters are on Odyssean quests that are piloted by fate and haunted by echoes of the past. Combined, the two protagonists’ stories are like a bildungsroman in forward and reverse. To attempt to simplify Murakami’s work would be an impossible and unworthy task for any reviewer.  Kafka on the Shore is a book that needs to be digested slowly and lovingly. Any reader who soaks in its pages will be richly rewarded for doing so.

Good for fans of: philosophical stories incorporating magical realism; translated Japanese fiction; nuanced and contemplative literary fiction.

You may like this book if you liked: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles or other Murakami works; I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki; One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov; and Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges.

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review 2019-06-23 20:12
A Wonderful Introduction to Murakami
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman - Haruki Murakami

Readers may be curious about Haruki Murakami due to the rave reviews of his full-length novels (ex: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, 1Q84, Kafka on the Shore), and their popularity in translation throughout the world. Those who may have resisted the call to undertake his lengthy and fantastic works might be encouraged by starting with Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, a collection of 24 short stories. With varying lengths and levels of inscrutability, the stories contained in the book are an excellent and accessible introduction to Murakami’s magical realism. The book could be described as a sampler of his gorgeous symbolism and elusive but incisive reflections on universal experience. Each story contains a provoking vision of the human condition, including such themes as: predestination; haunting choices and consequences; yearning for individual meaning; withstanding loss of love and identity; loneliness and isolation. The joys of Murakami’s prose justify the praise he has received, and any effort to decipher the layers within the tales Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman will encourage new fans to his other works. Once experienced in small bites, many will be lured into his novels-thereby immersing themselves more deeply and lingering longer in his beautifully rendered worlds.


Good for: Readers new and old to Murakami; those looking for International Fiction in translation; highly rated award-winners; fans of fully formed but linked short story collections; psychological and symbolic works of fiction.


You may like this book if you like: Kazuo Ishiguro, David Mitchell, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges and Vladimir Nabokov.

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review 2019-05-26 15:14
Killing Commendatore
Killing Commendatore - Haruki Murakami,Kirby Heyborne

Another review that Booklikes did not count as a review.

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review 2019-02-08 03:02
Killing Commendatore
Killing Commendatore - Haruki Murakami,Kirby Heyborne

Murakami's first-person narrator for Killing Commendatore never discloses his name (something that didn't actually occur to me until I was close to the end of the novel).  The narrator is a portrait artist whose wife unexpectedly asks him for a divorce, sharing that she has been seeing another man.  Portrait Artist (calling him that for convenience) leaves the apartment he shared with his wife, embarks on a journey, and ends up living in the remote mountain home of a well-known artist--the father of an old art-school friend.  The father, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, has been moved to a nursing home.  For a nominal rent, Portrait Artist cares for the home, focuses on his art, and does some teaching at a community center.


Portrait Artist discovers in the attic a remarkable painting called "Killing Commendatore," which depicts in Japanese style a version of a famous assassination scene in Mozart's "Don Giovanni."  Portrait Artist brings the painting into the studio and becomes mesmerized by it. His friend's father, as a young man, had studied in Austria, but mysterious events over there during the Second World War resulted in his being returned to Japan, where he abruptly changed from painting in a European style to a Japanese style.


Although he has quit doing traditional portraits through an agency, he accepts a commission by a wealthy neighbor who gives him the direction to paint the portrait in any style he chooses.  The shared experience that produces the portrait leads to a friendship between the artist and his subject, ultimately leading Portrait Artist to accept his neighbor's request to paint the portrait of another neighbor, a 13-year-old girl, Marie.  The neighbor who requests the portrait may have a connection to the girl--but I won't spoil that.


Bringing the painting "Killing Commendatore" down from the attic--where its creator had ostensibly hidden it with the intention of preventing anyone from seeing it--seemingly sets into motion certain fantastical events, calling forth "ideas" and "metaphors" that are personified, and making possible/necessary a crossing into an alternate world.


This is one of those books I can't quite assign a star rating to.  There were aspects of this book that I loved:  Its depiction of an artist's mind, the narrator's visual memory, the power of art to capture elements that go beyond surface appearance.  There were aspects that I found troubling, too.  I've seen discussions where people note that Murakami seems obsessed with breasts and ears.  The breast obsession definitely comes through in this book (including the narrator sharing that his sister, who died at age 12, had very small breasts, as does the 13-year-old Marie, in contrast with her aunt, who has large shapely ones--while his wife also has small ones).  He also gives his weirdly detailed descriptions of women's ears in a couple of instances. 


There is also a scene that involves a sexual dream where the narrator basically rapes his sleeping estranged wife--he himself identifies it this way when he thinks about the dream, noting that if she's asleep, she's not consenting.  On the one hand, he was dreaming, but on the other--the dream might not have been an ordinary dream, so possible unfortunate implications.


In addition, although the book had me hooked most of the time, there were also segments where the narrative dragged, and I actually found myself doing "wrap it up" gestures with my hands (I listened to the audio version).


In sum, I am glad I experienced this novel.  I think Murakami's fans will, on the balance, appreciate the story, though possibly with misgivings.

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