Review: First Person Singular – Stories

First Person Singular - Stories

First Person Singular: Stories
By Haruki Murakami | Translated by Philip Gabriel
Knopf, 9780593318072, April 6, 2021, 256pp.

The Short of It:

Fans of Murakami will not be disappointed with his latest collection of stories which touch on everything he’s passionate about (baseball, talking animals, women, and music).

The Rest of It:

As many of you know, I am crazy for Murakami’s writing and was once an ambassador for one of his books which earned me two signed copies. They humbly sit on a special shelf in my loft and whenever I hear of a new book coming out, I am filled with anticipation and forced to remain patient as it often takes two years for his works to be translated.

When I heard about this collection of stories I knew I had to find a copy and the publisher was kind enough to send me a review copy. That said, are you a short story person? Usually, I am not. I’ve read some good collections but I will always choose a novel over short stories. The one thing I can say about Murakami is that sometimes his short works become novels so I pay special attention to his stories when they come out.

First Person Singular is an accurate representation of his writing style. I always struggle to find the right words to describe his writing but his stories always touch on isolation and his protagonists usually are everyday guys who dress and live simply. They are often observers of people, going about their lives. There is a simplicity to this but also a complexity when you think about how complex human beings can be.

His characters often just sidle up to a bar and have conversations with strange people, usually women. This is the case in the story which provides the title for the book, First Person Singular. What appears to be innocent chit chat suddenly becomes an accusation of something he’s done in the past. What has he done? Three years was so long ago.

In Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey, a man is enjoying a beer with a talking monkey. While chatting with this monkey, the monkey confesses that he’s stolen names of the women he’s loved. It’s such a strange, personal thing to take from a person. Can you really love someone so much that their identity is taken away from them? Yes.

One of my favorite stories, The Yakult Swallows, appears to be auto-biographical and touches on Murakami’s love of baseball. He talks about his father and how they used to enjoy a good ball game. His love for the field itself really shines in this one. He puts you right in the stands.

The thing that I love most about Murakami is his love for music. All of his novels include music in some way and many of his books have playlists on Spotify to enjoy while reading his books. In this collection, he includes a story titled, Carnaval. This story centers around Schumann’s Carnaval and while reading it I had to listen to it, which was easy enough to do and set the mood quite nicely.

Murakami’s stories can be odd but I find them to be so refreshing. I often refer to them as “palate” cleansers. They are like nothing I’ve read before and always border on magical realism and the mundane. You would not think the two could live successfully in a book but they do quite nicely when Murakami is at the helm. Weird and wonderful are words I use a lot to describe his writing too. If you know, you know but if you aren’t familiar with him, give him a try. I’ve reviewed nearly everything he’s written. My favorites can be found below and the links go directly to my review:

As for this collection, it’s a win. You’ll be thinking about these stories long after reading the last one.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

10 thoughts on “Review: First Person Singular – Stories”

  1. I haven’t read everything by this author but the ones I have read I really liked. I put this on my reserves list as I like that it’s short stories instead of one long novel. Glad it worked well for you. (You really are on a reading roll.)

    1. It’s often hard for me to get into short fiction but these stories always leave me wanting more. I have my faves in this collection but all of them left something for me to ponder. His writing works my brain like other books do not.

  2. Your reverence for and love of Murakami’s work is evident in your review and made it a pleasure to read. It’s such a great feeling to anticipate works by an author.

    1. I know. I usually have to wait two years in between his works so the anticipation mounts. Sometimes I am lucky with a signed copy or a review copy granted but most of the time I have to wait the two years. He hasn’t announced a new novel yet but I am anticipating one being announced soon.

  3. I really love how big a fan you are of Murakami and King. You should get lifetime ambassadorships for both authors, if that ever becomes a thing. I haven’t had much success with either author yet – King is too much crime for me and Murakami is too much fantasy for me. But I do have many of their books on my shelves. One of these days, one of these days…

    1. I do not like fantasy. I think Murkami borders more on magical realism than fantasy but I can see why you’d think it was fantasy. Some of his novels are more fantastical than others. I prefer the mundane day in the life type stories myself.

    1. He does this a lot with his stories. Maybe not have the piece be at the center but he likes to have his characters pondering the meaning behind a piece. That has happened plenty of times in his work. I love it. I love to look up the piece and listen to it. Gives me an entirely different perspective.

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