The author Haruki Murakami was recommended to me by fellow blogger, Bellezza. I’d heard of Murakami before but not read anything by him until today. This morning, for my 2011 “deal me in” short story reading project, I drew the King of Diamonds (what’s with all these diamonds? I will have a flush soon!), and that card is marked for the story Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (see my page titled “deal me in selections” for a complete list of potential reads this year). Of course, I didn’t already own this one, and it is too recent to be had for free anywhere on the Internet (at least anywhere I could find), so I downloaded a collection of his stories from my account Barnes & Noble.
The collection also includes an author’s introduction, which I found very interesting. It seems he likes to alternate between working on novels and short stories, but cannot work on both at the same time, hypothesizing that a different part of the brain must be in use for each. He also includes the wonderful paragraph:
“My short stories are like soft shadows I’ve set out in the world, faint footprints I’ve left behind. I remember exactly when I set down each and everyone of them, and how I felt when I did.”
This particular story takes its name from a dream/ story that the girlfriend of the narrator’s friend told them about when they had come to visit her in a hospital after a minor operation. It’s hard to say what this story is actually about (maybe it’s about “nothing” – like that famous sitcom). What it may be about, though, is that fragile escape into memories that we all are sometimes able to effect. In this story, the narrator’s task at hand is accompanying his young cousin to an appointment at a hospital to have his hearing in one ear checked yet again. As he waits for the appointment to be over, the narrator lapses back into memory of the other hospital visit years ago.
Though reading in translation, it seems pretty clear to me at Murakami writes beautifully. Speaking of his reminiscences as “returning to the realm of memory,” and – late in the story – when his cousin grabs him by the arm, asking “Are you alright?” when it appears the narrator is “lost in thought” he (the narrator) muses immediately after being ‘brought back to reality’ that “for a few seconds I stood there in a strange, dim place. Where the things I could see didn’t exist. Where the invisible did.” I found that to be one of my favorite passages I’ve read in ANYTHING lately.
This story left me with more of a “feeling” than a “literary take” or impression, and I can’t remember anything else I’ve read recently that I can say that about.
What about you? Have you read any Murakami? What were your impressions?