Tag Archives: Haruki Murakami

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.

Review: Killing Commendatore

Killing Commendatore

Killing Commendatore
By Haruki Murakami
Knopf, 9780525520047, October 2018, 704pp.

The Short of It:

In my opinion, this is one of his most linear works and yet it possesses all of the key elements that Murakami fans have come to expect from his work.

The Rest of It:

I spent a lot of time reading this one. Not because it was long and dense, but because each and every sentence begged to be read again. Much of it was beautifully written, but some of it was puzzling which is why I love Murakami so much. He takes an idea and just goes with it.

In this story, an artist, recently separated from his wife, heads to a remote, hilltop home to do what he does best, paint. But in this house he finds a painting that basically, changes his life. The painting titled, Killing Commendatore, is a violent depiction of what is basically an assassination. An “idea” takes the shape of a very small man. There is a deep pit in the forest which will remind readers of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. There’s a young girl, a faceless guy, a menacing man who drives a Subaru, an impressionable aunt, and a very mysterious man who lives in a white mansion across the way.

If you ever felt intimidated by Murakami in the past, this is the book for you.  I think there is a lot to relate to in this one. The overall theme of loneliness, isolation, what it means to be married and loved and generally, what can be found at the core of each human being and how that can shift depending on the circumstances.

I can see Murakami winning an award for this one. It seems to embody everything he’s ever written and yet remain so unique. I highly recommend it.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.