Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars no neatly wrapped-up endings, 21 April 2011
This review is from: The Elephant Vanishes (Vintage International) (Paperback)
Interested in unconventonal, offbeat short stories? If so, take a trip through the strange world of cult author Murakami's collection "The Elephant Vanishes". There is a tendency in short fiction to conclude and resolve. Murakami's stories however, often darkly comic - and moving from the ordinary to the extraordinary, frequently ignore that expectation and end at a blank wall. So don't always expect Murakami story endings to provide resolution where all becomes clear, everything is resolved and loose ends are tied up - or you may be disappointed.

Take the weird, haunting title story, "The Elephant Vanishes", for instance, Here the narrator recounts strange, inexplicable events in which an old elephant vanishes into thin air with its keeper from an elephant house one night. This is a typical Murakami story conundrum - the story ending with no clear-cut explanation or resolution of the mystery, the mysterious vanishing of elephant and keeper. Ending up against a blank wall may not be your preferred choice of ending to a story but as is often the case with Murakami, the journey to the 'blank wall' in itself provides sufficient reward for seeing the story through to the end.

In the strange world of Murakami, the mundane and the surreal mingle - as exemplified in the disturbing story "Sleep" where the stultifying, mind-numbing routine of a woman's married life is unsettled following a terrifying dream that represents a crossover point in her life, an awakening, a kind of surrealistic 'wake-up call' from which she surfaces a changed woman, more 'alive' than she's felt in years...with unexpected consequences.

Other personal favourites include: the humorous "The Second Bakery Attack" in which midnight hunger pangs drive young newly-weds (who feel a "weird presence" in their lives) to hold up a MacDonalds with a shotgun in the middle of the night and rob it of 30 Big Macs; "Barn Burning", in which the narrator listens to the story of a man whose hobby is burning barns; "The Silence", in which a young man, following an act of physical aggression, feels the isolation and ostracism of being cold-shouldered by his social community.

If you enjoy "The Elephant Vanishes", take another memorable trip into Murakami 'country' with the strong collection "After the Quake", short stories linked to the terrible earthquake that shook Kobe in 1995. Although none of these haunting stories are actually set in Kobe, the epicentre of the devastation and the characters are far removed from the scene of the tragedy, the earthquake nonetheless reverberates in subtle ways deep into their troubled lives. Both books contain compelling stories intermingling elements both of realism and surrealism that may not be to every reader's taste, particularly reading tastes that require some reward in the way of clear solutions or 'neatly wrapped-up endings' for seeing a story through to the end.
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Review Details

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Reviewer

Michael Murphy
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: Glasgow, Scotland.

Top Reviewer Ranking: 112,879