God, I hate short story collections. They are damn near impossible to review. Unless you have somehow managed to find one written in a single year long cluster there it virtually no way to engage it properly. It’s like having a conversation with 24 versions of the same person. Sometimes they are in a good mood, sometimes they want to talk to you, and sometimes it feels like you’ve found them preparing a salad in their house at three in the morning and they would really rather you just left. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is no different.
Murakami and I have a weird relationship anyway. I don’t particularly care for his laissez faire symbolism and ‘you’re just over-thinking it’ with regards to his stories’s plot. There is however something in him that keeps me coming back to him. I have never loved anything he’s written. The closest I’ve gotten is his most recent novel, The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, which felt almost solid compared to his other works.
Nonetheless there is something there. He captures that scent, that feeling of Japan I felt in my chest when I lived there. So while I feel some of his books are downright awful, they scratch a part of me that no other writer seems to be able to find, let alone touch.
Here, as in all of his books, there is this sense of wandering. The sense you are seeing a world that has not been created, but simply observed by someone with a latent strangeness hidden in their irises.
This collection of short stories is something of a crapshoot. Some are static (The Year of Spaghetti) and some thunder (The Shinagawa Monkey). There is also a great deal of pseudo-autobiography here. Memories he has selected, dissected, and rearranged into something that qualifies as fiction (as much as anything ever really qualifies as fiction). Whenever I stumbled across these entries I always felt like I was being teased and taunted. Like he was telling me that there is a particular strangeness in me that is missing and I could only feel that if I could just sit down, listen to him speak for an hour or two, I may just catch it.