Books rated three out of five are always hard to review. Anything higher and I can tell you why you should drop everything you’re doing and head to the bookstore; anything lower, and I can give you a good laugh. But three – three is tough.
Truth is, I almost DNF’d this one. But I drudged through it until I finally reached the last page. I am not rejoicing exactly that I changed my mind, nor am I saying it was a mistake. I am just rather blah about it.
Actually I am rather blah about the whole book.
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is a collection of 24 short stories. Out of these, I really enjoyed Crabs, Hanelei Bay, Seventh Man, and the one with the Sharpie Crows. Seventh Man gives you that eerie feeling up the back of your neck that you can’t quite shake off. Crabs was written so well that while reading it, I nearly threw up. That’s probably the wrong way to tell you that it was a good read, but believe me, if you like to (to put it delicately) read unpleasant stuff, then Crabs is simply brilliant.
Also, it is one of the few stories in the book that had a definite outline, a proper conclusion. Which brings me to my next point:
Some people say Murakami’s stories have elements of magical realism. If you have read Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Salman Rushdie, you’ll know how seamlessly magic blends into the story, without seeming out of place. On the other hand, Murakami’s stories, (when I say “stories”, I mean this edition alone, not any of his other work) do not seem to contain magical realism. They do not even seem surreal. They seem vaguely unreal, that’s all. Removed from reality, but not so subtly as to blend in. For example, in the last story, The Shinagawa Monkey, when the monkey begins to talk, I laughed. It was a serious story, dealing with topics like suicide, yet the insertion of a talking monkey made me laugh.
Before the above paragraph, I mentioned my next point was going to be about definite outlines. But it was not. Did that annoy you? Yeah, that happens a lot in this book. Imagine a set of colorful threads laid out. Each one leads to a conclusion. You clutch at quite a few, follow them, but in the end, an empty grey one is all there is, with no sign of the ones you clutched. Where did those beautiful threads go? No idea! You’re just hung out there to dry. Like a huge wave carried you on its crest pleasantly for a while then dropped you without a warning.
Too many metaphors in that passage above? The book suffers from that too. Too many extended metaphors. And too many inane dialogues that need not have been there at all. For instance, in the story with the kangaroos, the girlfriend is just frighteningly annoying. Really, who asks such silly questions! Even if she did, for the sake of a story, not every dialogue needs to be put down.
Final word on this book is (actually this review is in reverse. You already know what my rating is!) that you can read it for the beginnings and the middles of each story. By the ends though, if you feel you are lurching in the dark, well, I don’t know, I felt the same way.