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Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman [Hardcover]

4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some great stories Oct. 8 2007
Format:Paperback
Truthfully, some of these stories are better than others. Like the work of many successful artists thsi book might have benefited by a strong-minded editor. Stories like "the kidney Shaped stone that moves by itself," "A Shinegawa monkey" and "A'poor aunt' Story" were deeply moving and had all the hallmarks of Murakami's best work. Other's like "Man-Eating Cats" and "Iceman" were pretty forgetable.

I give it four stars because the majority of stories are excellent. I would have given a full five if four or five of them had been cut.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Kind of Breeze that Resonates Feb. 2 2009
Format:Paperback
"Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman" is a career spanning collection that includes two of the first short stories Murakami wrote twenty-five years ago, through to stories published last year. In this collection we get both the surreal, with stories of talking monkeys and of icemen who date Japanese women, and the very real, with stories about everyday people dealing with cancer, sexuality and the loss of their children.

At their best these stories - nine of them having been published in the "New Yorker" - like Murakami's strongest novels they sink deep within the reader's psyche. His stories have the power to make you dream differently. How Murakami does this may seem beguiling. The secret, I believe, is in the balancing. Murakami grounds the surreal stories in the mundane while managing to bask the realistic stories in an other-worldly glow. In 'The Iceman' the main character meets the iceman, her future lover, in the lobby of a ski resort. There the iceman is, just reading a book. Ho-hum. Nothing to see here. While in the short story 'Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman,' on the other hand, Murakami turns a simple bus ride through the woods into a moment out of a dream. The story begins, "When I closed my eyes the scent of the wind wafted up towards me." The narrator compares the May wind coming through the bus window to the breaking open of a fruit. "The flesh split open in mid-air, spraying seeds like gentle buckshot into the bare skin of my arms, leaving behind a faint trace of pain."

To slip into Murakami's world, to get into his stories, never feels like work and the trick, again, is in the balance. In an era of not knowing how to slow down, Murakami's stories never feel rushed. There is always a slow easiness to them no matter how heavy the topic, death and loss being common themes.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  71 reviews
61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome back to Murakami World Aug. 29 2006
By Charles E. Stevens - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (BWSW) is an amazing collection of short stories. Spanning 25 years of Murakami's career (the oldest story was originally written in 1980, while several were penned in 2005), the stories in BWSW show off Murakami's amazing skill and versatility. Murakami's stories are often described as defying typical genre classifications, and while this is true, it would be a mistake to interpret this as meaning that all Murakami stories are the same. The stories in BWSW will alternately leave you scared, laughing, amazed, and confounded. Although everyone will have their favorite stories, my personal favorites were Firefly (later expanded into Norwegian Wood), Hanalei Bay, Tony Takitani, and The Mirror. I felt the first three best represented Murakami's patented ability to tap into the tightly-linked joy, loss, and loneliness of the human condition, while the fourth was enjoyable as the pure "ghost story" ... while this genre is a staple in Japanese literature, it is a departure from the rest of Murakami's works.

If you are new to Murakami, I think that his short story collections (either BWSW or The Elephant Vanishes) are the best place to start. Murakami's works are best "felt" rather than "analyzed" and short stories are the best way to get acquainted with his talent and style. If you like his short stories, try a novel. Which one is a matter of personal taste ... interestingly, while Wind-Up Bird is typically his most popular work in the West, it is his earlier works (notably Norwegian Wood, Hard-Boiled Wonderland, and Dance, Dance, Dance) that remain even more popular in his native Japan to this day.

If you are an old Murakami hand, you might be wondering what is next. Unfortunately the future is a little murky. Murakami seems to be in the process of re-inventing himself, and the first product of the "new" Murakami is After Dark (due to be released in English in 2007), which received mixed reviews in Japan. Personally, I look forward to whatever work follows After Dark, to see which Murakami we can expect in the future. As for me, I think I'll go back and re-read his earlier works to immerse myself once again in the always amazing, always indescribable, and always unforgettable universe that is Murakami World.
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murakami's Minute Masterpieces of Mystery and Imagination Oct. 19 2007
By Crazy Fox - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Murakami Haruki has been sorely misrepresented in English. Equally adroit at the novel and the short story, this prolific writer's novels seem to get all the attention in translation--okay, most of it, anyway. As a book, then, "Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman" goes a long way towards righting that imbalance, filled as it is with twenty-four fine short stories expertly rendered into English by two of Murakami's long-time translators, Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin. Unlike the novels with their gradually convoluted spirals into the twilight zone, the short stories herein are more like short day trips there and back again. For all that, though, they are quintessentially Murakami: understated tales of love, longing, and loss from the slightly eccentric to the downright surreal--and yet so surreal as to ring true, convincingly grasping life's little mysteries and synchronicities in a deadpan, matter-of-fact manner. Genres blend and identities blur, reality and illusion overlap and interplay, all amidst the familiar psychological furniture of our contemporary consumerist planet with its internationally hodgepodge culture. The occasional dash of postmodern irony only accentuates these unsettling explorations of the human condition, and yet for all that each tale is enjoyable and highly entertaining to read. Almost deceptively so.

The stories exhibit quite a range, too. Some are very early works of Murakami's when his style was still in its formative stages, others are quite recent and show the sure hand of an experienced craftsman. Some are clearly allegorical while some are more confusing than anything. Some are unlike anything else I've read by him, others are familiar--including stories that were clearly the seeds that later grew into full-blown novels, like "Firefly" ("Norwegian Wood") and "Man-Eating Cats" (Sputnik Sweetheart"). Some are just this side of odd while others are utterly bizarre. And everything in between. As such, this book makes for a great introduction for any newcomers to Murakami's fictional world, but for those who've been there many a time before it offers yet another excellent JAL flight south of the border, west of the sun--only this one made up of many hops, skips, and jumps.

The short stories included are:
1. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
2. Birthday Girl
3. New York Mining Disaster
4. Airplane: Or, How He Talked to Himself As If Reciting Poetry
5. The Mirror
6. A Folklore for My Generation: A Pre-History of Late-Stage Capitalism
7. Hunting Knife
8. A Perfect Day for Kangaroos
9. Dabchick
10. Man-Eating Cats
11. A "Poor Aunt" Story
12. Nausea 1979
13. The Seventh Man
14. The Year of Spaghetti
15. Tony Takitani
16. The Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes
17. The Ice Man
18. Crabs
19. Firefly
20. Chance Traveler
21. Hanalei Bay
22. Where I'm Likely to Find It
23. The Kidney-Shaped Stone That Moves Every Day
24. A Shinagawa Monkey
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Short Story Collection from Haruki Murakami Dec 29 2007
By John Kwok - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman" demonstrates Haruki Murakami's mastery of the short story genre. It is quite simply one of the most intriguing short story collections that I have read recently. Much to his credit, Murakami has a marvelous ability of transforming the mundane into something that's quite interesting, and often profound, as demonstrated by so many of his short stories published in this volume, which deal with relationships between men and women. Though set primarily in his native Japan, his stories - which are well-translated by his long-time translators Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin - have an almost universal quality to them, as fascinating examinations of contemporary modern culture from the perspectives of both men and women. All of these stories feature Murakami's usual literary tricks of the trade, ranging from his mordant humor to constant references to contemporary pop culture, and last, but not least, his keen ear for dialogue between the sexes. These stories truly demonstrate why Murakami isn't just one of Japan's greatest living writers, but more importantly, why he ranks amongst the world's finest.

It's hard to pick among twenty-four terrific tales for personal favorites. Two of the best, "Firefly" and "Man-Eating Cats", were revised later to become separate chapters in Murakami's novels "Norwegian Wood" and "Sputnik Sweetheart". Another compelling story is his realistic fantasy "The Ice Man", which could have been written by Harlan Ellison. "Dabchick" is an intriguing, almost Kafkaesque, battle of wits between a young woman and a receptionist in the office of a mysterious Japanese tycoon. "Hanalei Bay" is an emotionally riveting tale about a woman's ability to cope with the loss of her only child, a son killed by a shark while surfing in Hawaii. These superb stories are among the reasons why that I - ten years after being introduced to Murakami's work by fellow Stuyvesantian Muriel Cleary - regard him as among my favorite contemporary authors. If you haven't read any of Murakami's work, then do yourself a favor and pick up this fine short story collection; it will be a most delightful introduction to it.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars super-high highs May 30 2011
By Elif Batuman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I rate this book 5 stars not because it's perfect, but because I love it. I would give a 5-star rating to any book that contained either "The Kidney-Shaped Stone That Moves Every Day," "A Shinagawa Monkey," OR "Where I'm Likely to Find It" - and this one has all 3! Frankly even the less-than-perfect stories (e.g. "Sharpie Cakes") are, to me, both endearing and interesting. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a huge, huge Murakami fan and would read anything he wrote, even a grocery list. In fact sometimes his novels actually include grocery lists, and I read them with great enjoyment.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than "An Elephant Vanishes" March 8 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although the stories in this collection are collected from Murakami's entire career, it feels much more coherent than his other major collection, "An Elephant Vanishes." The style of the stories is classic Murakami, those who don't like him or want something different aren't going to find any changes here. However, the format of a short story gives Murakami's writing a more immediate, accessible edge; not that his novels are hard to read. Murakami's use of classic Japanese endings is in full effect, with most of the stories having little or no conclusion. Instead, the reader is left to draw his own conclusions, and the emphasis is placed on the experience of the story rather than the story itself.
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