after the quake, by Haruki Murakami

I often get book recommendations from friends – we all do, I suppose. You generally know whose taste in books is in line with your own and you sort the recs out that way. In the case of Haruki Murakami, my reading friends are at different ends of the spectrum. On the one hand, a friend with excellent taste (but no great love for Japanese culture) hates him. On the other, a well-read friend whose taste usually runs pretty parallel to mine not only loves him but has given me one of his other novels to read. The only option here was to dig in and see for myself.

I’m afraid I have added this to the abandoned book pile. The writing is top-notch – Murakami does a fabulous job of creating strange, surreal atmospheres for these stories. The problem was the formula. In “UFO in Kushiro”, you have a damaged person (Komura’s wife has left him), in a weird situation (sent to a strange city by a coworker to deliver a package, entertained by the coworker’s weird sister and her weirder friend) who has a revelation (there is nothing inside him). The End. In “Landscape with Flatiron” you have two damaged people (Junko, a runaway, and Miyake, an artist, both estranged from their families), in a strange situation (watching Miyake obsess over building the perfect bonfire on the beach), who have a revelation (Junko decides she is empty inside, Miyake tells her they can die together). The End. Story after story seemed to develop the same way until I had no interest in the next one.

I will still give the novel a try – a different format, a different formula, and I could see his work being a very interesting read – but this particular set of stories was not for me.

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