Monday, July 10, 2017

The Murakami Men

Scowled at the new book that appeared in the Kindle cloud. It's clearly not my purchase. But imma reading it anyway- Haruki Murakami's collection of seven short stories in 'Men Without Women' (published in 2014), translated by Ted Goossen and Philip Gabriel, and this translation is published in 2017. (Reviews herehere, here, here and here.)

In the author's usual measured tone, each story offers readers a look in the lonely lives of a male protagonist, tormented, eccentric and never able to build a relationship with a woman or understand their emotions. Reviewers call them 'the Murakami Man'. 😐 I'm not exactly enamored with any story. But yes, Haruki Murakami excels in making the everyday details stand out. These men could be any one of those we pass daily on the streets and never bother about. How do I feel about each man in the seven stories?

(1) I have a little bit of sympathy for aging theater/character actor Kafuku in 'Drive My Car'. He has many opinions about women drivers. He has to hire a driver on a tight budget given by the theater company because he has drink-driving and sight issues. He's also still reeling from his wife's recent death and her string of affairs and infidelity although they seem to have had a happy marriage. I'm actually curious about his newly hired driver Misaki Watari, who's in her mid-twenties, and sounds like she has loads of stories of her own.

(2) Am neutral about then young 20-year-old Kitaru in 'Yesterday' who speaks with an almost perfect Kansai dialect although he's Tokyo born and bred. I'm all like, grow up dude. And if this is the way you want to live your life, so be it. People change, people grow, people become unhappy, and others become happy. The narrator, Tanimura, is simply one of those passers-by in that chapter of his life. This story was earlier published in The New Yorker's issue dated June 9 and 16, 2014.

(3) I'm almost wanting to say it's karma that befalls 52-year-old Dr. Tokai in 'An Independent Organ'. But who am I to judge him when he seems like quite the perfect gentleman, and discreet in managing his affairs. This narrator is likely the same Tanimura in the previous story who is now a writer. He tells of his brief acquaintance with Dr. Tokai whom he got to know at the gym and their somewhat regular squash sessions. I'm quite intrigued by how he managed to starve himself to death in two months, perhaps undone by finally falling in love with a woman who didn't reciprocate or appreciate him.    

(4) Read the first paragraph of 'Scheherazade' and realized that I've read this a few years ago when it was published in The New Yorker in its issue dated October 13, 2014. Not repeating my thoughts here since I've already blogged about it. Even at this second reading, my feelings about this story haven't changed.

(5) Earlier published in The New Yorker's issue dated February 23 and March 2, 2015, 'Kino' is as annoying this time round. ARRRGGH. I couldn't tell which characters are real, and which are a figment of middle-aged protagonist Kino's imagination.

(6) We descend into the trademark surreal world of Murakami in 'Samsa in Love'. I was befuddled by the choice setting in Prague during a period of apparent civil unrest. And how the protagonist "woke to discover that he had undergone a metamorphosis and become Gregor Samsa." I was frustrated by this story, to say the least.

(7) The last story. Eponymously titled 'Men Without Women' just kills me. Some woman named M. Perhaps a first love. A man who can't quite forget the woman, even after countless women, and thinks everyone is her shadow, and allows everything in his life to be reminded of her. Then there're unicorns mentioned. Like, WHAT. I'm not a fan of Murakami. Friends know why I bother to read his stories. This story, is just so typical Murakami in the way it makes me want to smack something in exasperation.

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