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on 13 December 2007
This is Murakami's first proper short story collection in English since The Elephant Vanishes. After the Quake, though also a collection of short stories, is more of a coherent work, whereas these two collections draw from stories published from all periods of Murakami's career, and from many different collections in Japanese.

The publication dates of the stories are not given and, as Murakami says in his introduction (a nice touch), many of the stories have been significantly revised since their first publication. Thus, there is little coherence and tracing the author's development of style and themes is almost impossible, even with the aid of the bibliography in translator Jay Rubin's very interesting biography/literary study (also published by Vintage).

Murakami's short stories are very good, sometimes excellent, but it is in the sustained brilliance of his novels where his true value as a writer lies. The stories in here are, on the whole, up to Murakami's usual standard.

As in his novels, truly bizarre and unexplainable occurs in these stories. The most bizarre here is a talking monkey hiding in the sewers of a Tokyo suburb, but this is only one example. The more I read Murakami, the more I think this mystical, seemingly meaningful, content actually means nothing at all. This only marginally lessens its interest and mystery, though. Maybe one day I'll change my mind and be able unlock these conundrums (`like Zen koans', as one of the characters in this collection notes).

Throughout Murakami's work, a regularly re-occurring theme is things going missing without any explanation. It's no different in these stories. Sometimes it's things (name tags), often men (stockbrokers), usually women (girlfriends). Like one of the stories in The Elephant Vanishes, some of the stories here are the seeds of the writer's novels, fragments of them in a slightly different form.

Masters of the short story like Dahl, Fitzgerald and Hemmingway warrant a 5 for some of their collections, but there just isn't enough depth in these stories to warrant that kind of credit. They are like beautiful little sketches whose greatest power is to evoke a mood - nearly always one of wistful sadness - extremely powerfully. Don't expect them to mean anything, though, because they probably don't.
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on 8 February 2006
A writer that expresses perfectly the isolation and loneliness of the modern world, Murakami's short stories are like peering through a dozen windows into a world where fantasy and reality mix, seperate and blend together again. His talent lies in the ability to take the mundane and make it fantastic, offering us a peek into ordinary lives sprinkled with the kind of surreal conversations and events that make you look around you whilst in the street or on the bus and wonder what all these people around you are really like.
I can't read any of his work without seeing the world differently afterwards, and this collection i could read over and over. Impossible to pigeon hole, each story has it's own distinct mood, but in each the atmosphere persists; that the world has a beauty that, if we just scratch the surface off the everyday, will be revealed.
If you're new to Murakami, start here or with The Elephant Vanishes, if you're familiar with his writing you will need no persuasion.
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on 18 January 2014
I've read numerous Murakami novels but this is my first experience of one of his short story collections. What I have discovered is that whilst his works always touch upon the same themes or preoccupations (jazz music, human sexuality and identity, beer and or whisky, and the preparation and consumption of food) these blend much better within lengthier works. In this short story collection they sometimes become rather repetitive. The foreword by Murakami himself suggests that this collection was not written in any set time frame which perhaps contributed to the repetitive aspects within the stories but I feel that with a writer of this calibre more care should have been taken to prevent this from happening. There are a few standout stories however; Tony Takitani beautifully deals with parental relationships and loss, whilst Firefly is made up of extracts from my favourite Murakami novel, Norwegian Wood. Overall whilst this collection has not diminished my admiration for Murakami's work, I feel that I will be sticking to his novels in future.
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on 3 September 2007
This collection of short stories features quite a range of memorable characters and situations. Blind willows have a lot of pollen and tiny flies covered with it crawl inside the ear of a woman and put her asleep. A waitress about to spend her twentieth birthday in a surprising manner. A man who has the astonishing habit of going to the zoo whenever there is a typhoon. The story of a mirror capable of reflecting another self. The strange story of a disabled son and her mother holidaying on an island.
In many of these stories, narrative tension is heightened by a refusal to explain strange events; Murakami's ghosts and mysteries remain what they are. In "Nausea 1979" for example, the reader will never know whether a serial adulterer has been cursed, or whether his nausea has something to do with his predilection for deceptive seduction. Murakami never gives answers to the reader's questions, and the result is memorable if puzzling at times.
The stories in this collection have all of Murakami's characteristic strangeness, but they combine the bizarre with a tight structure. They show the author at his best; not as a cult literary figure but as a really first-rate writer of short fiction. Highly recommended.
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on 19 August 2006
I wonder if these stories would ever have been published if Murakami was not already a famous writer. I've read all of his books translated into English and this is really pretty mediocre compared to most of his other work. One or two stories are vintage Murakami but the majority read like very average school essays. I don't think I would have bothered reading any of his other books if this was the first one I read - which would have been my loss as he has written some marvelous novels, my favourite still being "The Wind-up Bird Chronicle".
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on 7 March 2008
Various strange but thought provoking collection of short stories that I really liked and could not stop reading once I started. These short stories appear to be a bit strange collections on the surface but each story provided a deep message made me think through. My favorate one was the kidney shaped stone that moves every day. All stories are beautifully wrtten with very soft touch to heart but this one was the best for me which I had to read twice. Also aroplane and spagetti were very touching. I recommend this book to anyone who likes to think about facts and elements of life deeper.
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on 15 June 2013
If you like Murakami you are going to enjoy these stories, chock full as they are of classic Murakami elements like talking monkeys, ghosts and alternate reality. But his writing is so simple and straight forward that you find yourself accepting these things as a normal part of the Murakami universe and wanting more.
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on 29 November 2007
I don't normally like short stories, but this is an excellent collection and a great introduction to people who have never had the pleasure of reading Murakami before. (Athough I have). Nothing is as it seems of course but even the most mundane of events are written and described so well, whether it's a `detective' hanging around an apartments stairwell or a couple eating a delicious crab meal. I found myself wishing my journey to work was longer so I could finish off a story - not something I wish very often! Some of them (no make that all of them) are totally bizarre but each and every one are written in such a way that you can't help becoming engrossed and even spellbound by them. My favourites I think are Hunting Knife, Man Eating Cats, Nausea 1979, Where I'm Likely to Find it and Haneli Bay. Other stories such as Dabchick and A `Poor Aunt' Story left me shaking my head in confusion and laughter. If anyone is interested my favourite Murakami novel is Wind Up Bird Chronicle. Enjoy!
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on 3 February 2011
I'm not at all sure what to make of these nuggets of literature. It's not that I dislike them, I don't. I like the way they make me ponder them long after I've read them, and I'm firmly of the belief that you don't have to have everything spelled out to you, or indeed understand everything, in order to gain something from this type of literature. BUT, I keep feeling frustrated by them and want to know more, require a bit more solidity. Maybe it's the short story format of them that doesn't allow this - his novels can be equally ethereal, but have more substance to them (inevitably). Think of this collection as leaves being gently buffeted by the breeze in a random fashion, with no real destination and they will probably make more sense. If you want to read his short stories I think After The Quake is much more fulfilling
Not bad, but not great either.....
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on 15 October 2007
As a long time avid fan of Murakami, I was delighted to find three collections of short stories appearing in the UK for the first time. They are curious, not just in the way that Murakami's writing often leaves the reader with a sense of wonderment: more often than not you are left with more questions than answers, and it is the wide range of possibilities that your own mind can conjure to answer the unanswered that provide as much enjoyment as the narrative presented, but also in the wide variety of writing styles. As the author himself infers in the opening pages, his short stories were often the result of experimental ideas that in some cases turned into full novels. The result of this however is that some of these stories clearly are not a basis for a larger work, while others clearly hit the right notes. My read of this volume found this a pleasant enough start, but then I had to drag myself across the lines for some of the stories, in particular the Poor Aunt story, before hitting Nausea 1979, which seemed to be a turning point after which the style and pace held my attention and curiosity the way that I would expect Murakami to. On this basis, I burned through the second half of the book and was duly satisified at the end, but not before having had doubts with some of the earlier stories.
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