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"What you see with your eyes is not necessarily real."
on 23 January 2003
In a simple, unpretentious, and totally accessible style, Murakami tells six tales, each with a message about life and death and love and loss. Simple, straightforward stories, haunting and hypnotic in tone, belie a complexity of themes and thought-provoking observations about the importance of creating your own identity, building relationships, sharing, and avoiding the emptiness of the bogeyman's box, "ready for everybody...[and] waiting with the lid open."
All the main characters are single or separated, and all feel isolated and empty, naïve in matters of love and life. In "UFO in Kashiro," an abandoned husband agrees to help a friend by delivering a box to Hokkaido, only to discover that the box "contains the something that was inside you. You'll never get it back." In "Landscape in Flatiron," a 40-ish artist and a young girl meet and build a bonfire. "The fire itself has to be free," he remarks, while the young girl comments on the emptiness of her life, and they make plans for the rest of the evening. In "All God's Children Can Dance," a young man pursues the man he believes to be his father to an abandoned baseball field, "chasing the tail of the darkness inside [him]." "Thailand" features a doctor in her 40's who is told that she must get rid of the stone inside her and that "living and dying are, in a sense, of equal value."
In the last two stories, "Superfrog Saves Tokyo," and "Honey Pie," Murakami begins to offer more hope and direction to his characters. Superfrog, a 6' tall frog who needs a plodding banker to help him fight the Worm and save Tokyo from an earthquake, due to strike soon, teaches that "the ultimate value of our lives is decided not by how we win but by how we lose." And in "Honey Pie," which brings all these themes together, a young man has an opportunity to find happiness with the only woman he's ever loved and her young daughter, and determines that he will "never let anyone...try to put them into that crazy box, not even if the sky should fall or the earth crack open with a roar."
Despite the fact that Murakami states his themes overtly, the stories themselves are enigmatic and the action within them unpredictable, and the reader will ponder his meanings and his images long after the stories are finished. Wonderful descriptions, small details which reflect the characters' class and educational level, sympathetic and well drawn characters, and a sense that the world is absurd and illogical make this short collection unforgettable. Mary Whipple