Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In this collection of new stories, Murakami (1Q84) returns to familiar themes of youthful regrets, untenable romantic triangles, strange manifestations of sexual frustration, and inexplicable, often otherworldly happenings while dipping into the lives of seven middle-aged men, each caught up in the passions of a mysterious woman. In "Drive My Car," a stage actor hires a new driver, his first female chauffeur. Between rehearsing lines and listening to classic rock, the normally reticent widower begins to chat with the young driver, eventually revealing a friendship he formed with one of his former wife's lovers. In "Yesterday," a man who works at a coffee shop convinces a coworker to date his girlfriend while he works to pass his university entrance exams. In "An Independent Organ," a plastic surgeon who lives a contrived life of well-managed affairs descends into depression and starves himself to death after falling in (unrequited) love with one of his liaisons. Although the plotting can be repetitive, Murakami's ability to center the stories on sentimental but precise details creates a long-lasting resonance. For instance, the narrator of "An Independent Organ" can never use a squash racket the plastic surgeon left him: the lightness reminds him of his frail, dying body. In "Scheherazade," the standout of the collection, a man who can never be outside for unexplained reasons develops a bond with his in-home caretaker, who tells him stories after they have sex. She remembers being a lamprey in a former life and misses the profound silence of the sea floor. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
"Our relationship isn't exactlynormal": as ever, a glimpse into the strange worlds people invent by the always inventive Murakami (Absolutely on Music: Conversations, 2016, etc.).If you are one of Murakami's male characters, you do what you can to be different: sure, you sleep around and drink a lot of whiskey, but you also read books and listen to music, especially his beloved Beatles, who provide two of the seven chapter titles here. If the title story pays homage to Hemingway, there's nothing much Hemingway-esque about any of the players except perhaps a world-weary resignation to the way things are, as well as a few odd affectations that may not mean much to non-Japanese readers; in the story "Yesterday," for instance, one character speaks a dialect from a region that isn't his own. "Why does somebody who was born and raised in Tokyo go to the trouble of learning the Kansai dialect and speak it all the time?" Why indeed? If you are a female Murakami character, you are likely to be disaffected and a little lonely, though no more passive than any of the males: things happen to Murakami's people more than they make things happen. Nowhere is this more true than in the compellingly odd tale "Samsa in Love," which opens, with Kafkaesque matter-of-factness, with the words "He woke to discover that he had undergone a metamorphosis and become Gregor Samsa." Aside from a certain priapism, things aren't all that much different in his life, though a woman he meets schools him in an important truth: "Maybe working on the little things as dutifully and honestly as we can is how we stay sane when the world is falling apart." Considering the state of the world, that's a valuable takeaway and well worth the price of admission. Not groundbreaking but certainly vintage Murakami: a little arch, a little tired, but always elegant. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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