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Old 06-11-2013, 07:17 PM   #16
fantasyfan
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I have finished the set and the fifth story, "Super-Frog Saves Tokyo" didn't work for me at all but the final piece--"Honey-Pie"--is a very leisurely piece with two parts which is rather Joycean in its psychological intensity but has a gentler, less cynical quality than we find in the Irish writer. It would be my runner-up story in the collection.

I'm very glad that I read this author but I'm not sure that I would be tempted to read his longer works.
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Old 06-12-2013, 03:04 AM   #17
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I'm with you again, fantasyfan. I couldn't suspend disbelief for a second concerning the Frog. But I did find "Honey Pie" believable and quite tender. I definitely liked "Thailand" best in the collection, because I found I could empathise with the central character in a way that I couldn't do when reading the first three stories.

And thanks for the link to the story about the elephants in Bangkok, desertblues. Such a sad and undignified life for these wonderful creatures. There are times when you wonder how things would have gone if the Neanderthals had come out on top instead of us. (Sorry: )

I'm interested to know if others who have read a number of Murakami's books find these stories typical of him, or if you think fantasyfan and I should try something else by him before crossing him off the list altogether?
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Old 06-12-2013, 09:40 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bookpossum View Post

I'm interested to know if others who have read a number of Murakami's books find these stories typical of him, or if you think fantasyfan and I should try something else by him before crossing him off the list altogether?
Yes typical in their variety. I would recommend reading the novel Norwegian Wood before giving up on Murakami. Especially for those who enjoyed Thailand and Honey Pie.

On the other hand, there are certainly going to be those who just will never warm up to Murakami's style and content. Different people have different tastes in literature. I read Mansfield Park by Jane Austen when it was the selection August of last year, but it left me with no desire to read anymore of Austen's works. Given the enduring appeal to so many I can't say that makes her overrated, she just doesn't appeal to me.
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Old 06-12-2013, 03:46 PM   #19
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Well, I finished all the stories. In almost all of them there are surreal elements, as is usual in Murakami’s books. Also most people in it are lonely; estranged from their family, hopelessly in love, divorced, fatherless or left their home. Some of the stories have a hopefull ending though. Some thoughts on the stories.

UFO in Kushiro left me with a shiver: ““But really,” she said, “you’re just at the beginning.”…
Landscape with flatiron is a bleak story about death. There is this forlorn artist who can only paint if he uses something else to stand for it, and a young girl that thinks about death. A sad ending.
All God’s children can dance has a funny side. The boy who’s mother tells her child Yoshia that he’s the son of God. Yoshia has the gift of dancing; dancing to be one with the universe.
Thailand is my favorite story.
Satsuki and Nimit are sympathetic characters. The allusion to jazz: I’ve read that Murikami used to have a jazz-café.
Spoiler:
Satsuki has dedicated her life to regret and (self)hate. Nimit finds her a healer of spirits. It has a hopefull ending.
Battling with a snake in a dream has something mystical, I find. I like the idea of a deep sorrow being turned into a stone. In my country, when having a problem, one can say that ‘ this problem is like a stone in my stomach’.
Superfrog saves Tokyo is a curious story. The protagonist lives in two worlds: his normal world and the world of the Frog where a mystical battle with a Worm is fought. BTW, I found a link to an article about the death of earthworms in Japan, just before an earthquake.http://theextinctionprotocol.wordpre...2-north-japan/
Spoiler:
Mr. Katgiri is an honest, upright man, and that is what is needed for saving Tokyo from the wrath of the Worm of the earth.
'That’s fine, Mr. Katagiri. It’s better that you don’t remember. The whole terrible fight occurred in the area of imagination. That is the precise location of our battlefield. It is there that we experience our victories and our defeats. Each and every one of us is a being of limited duration: all of us eventually go down to defeat. But as Ernest Hemingway saw so clearly, the ultimate value of our lives is decided not by how we win but by how we lose. You and I together, Mr. Katagiri, were able to prevent the annihilation of Tokyo. We saved a hundred and fifty thousand people from the jaws of death. No one realizes it, but that is what we accomplished.'

So; a happy ending
In Honey Pie there’s a little girl who has nightmares and a writer......could there be aspects of Murakami himself here?
Spoiler:
I want to write stories that are different from the ones I’ve written so far, Junpei thought: I want to write about people who dream and wait for the night to end, who long for the light so they can hold the ones they love. But right now I have to stay here and keep watch over this woman and this girl. I will never let anyone—not anyone—try to put them into that crazy box—not even if the sky should fall or the earth crack open with a roar.'
@Bookpossum:I started reading Murakami with IQ84. A few impressions while reading
Spoiler:
At page 200.
I find this story strange: in the sense that the persons in it seem to be alienated from the world they live in. That is; if this is the world they live in.
It is written in a crisp style, which adds a certain distance from the reader. All things that happen are like a tightly woven fabric.

page 400 now.
I'm liking the book more and more, because it puzzles me. Obsessive, but absent, parents seem to be a constant, demolishing factor in the life of the protagonists. It seems as if they are manipulated; by other people, by their reaction on their past and by something in their own soul. In how many ways can one be cruel?

It has a sense of doom behind it all. The end of the world is near. The atmosphere in the book reminds me of the film 'Melancholia' of Lars von Trier.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1527186/

page 500.
This book is getting creepier: the little people are scary. The roller-coaster of violent things has got more speed now. The religious aspect of the story is getting stronger as well. It connects nicely, perhaps a bit too pat, with the omniscient narrator, who seems to know all. This story reeks of an obsession for perfection, which affects both narrator and protagonists.Very interesting and irritating at the same time.
After this I read Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the end of the world, which I can recommend. A quote from the book
Spoiler:
"Yes, we all had shadows. They were with us constantly. But when I came to this Town, my shadow was taken away.
"You cannot come into Town with that," said the Gatekeeper. "Either you lose the shadow or forget about coming inside."
I surrendered my shadow.
The Gatekeeper had me stand in an open space beside the Gate. The three-o'clock afternoon sun fixed my shadow fast to the ground.
"Keep still now," the Gatekeeper told me. Then he produced a knife and deftly worked it in between the shadow and the ground. The shadow writhed in resistance. But to no avail.
Its dark form peeled neatly away.
Severed from the body, it was an altogether poorer thing. It lost strength.
The Gatekeeper put away his blade. "What do you make of it? Strange thing once you cut it off," he said. "Shadows are useless anyway. Deadweight."
I drew near the shadow. "Sorry, I must leave you for now," I said. "It was not my idea. I had no choice. Can you accept being alone for a while?"
"A while? Until when?" asked the shadow. I did not know.
"Sure you won't regret this later?" said the shadow in a hushed voice. "It's wrong, I tell you. There's something wrong with this place. People can't live without their shadows, and shadows can't live without people. Yet they're splitting us apart. I don't like it. There's something wrong here."
But it was too late. My shadow and I were already torn apart.
"Once I am settled in, I will be back for you," I said. "This is only temporary, not forever. We will be back together again."
The shadow sighed weakly, and looked up at me. The sun was bearing down on us both.
Me without my shadow, my shadow without me.
"That's just wishful thinking," said the shadow. "I don't like this place. We have to escape and go back to where we came from, the two of us."
"How can we return? We do not know the way back." "Not yet, but I'll find out if it's the last thing I do. We need to meet and talk regularly. You'll come, won't you?""
And of course Norwegian Wood, which Hamlet53 recommends is very good.

Last edited by desertblues; 06-12-2013 at 04:41 PM. Reason: oh,oh, excuse my sloppy grammar.....
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Old 06-12-2013, 08:10 PM   #20
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Thanks to both of you - very helpful!
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Old 06-13-2013, 05:16 AM   #21
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I might look into Norwegian Wood. It seems fairly easy to get and I could always try a sample first.
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Old 06-14-2013, 03:13 PM   #22
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I've only read UFO in Kushiro so far. Fairly typical themes of loss, loneliness and a general sense of not being certain wny one is where they are with other books I've read (Sputnick Sweetheart; The Windup Chronicle; and South of the Border, West of the Sun).
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Old 06-14-2013, 04:10 PM   #23
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I've finished it, too. I found the first story somewhat blunt, not really flowing. The last one, honey pie left me, too, a little bit cold, and is probably the one I liked least, while Frog saves Tokio sent a shiver down my spine, perhaps because it got me thinking of mental illness.

But more in general the stories seemed to me a musing over the meaning of life: Komura wonders about it in the first story, in the second one there is a thread that the answer may be in the negative (Junko is only naive and young and learning, while Miyake is so scared of death that he just wants to get it over with), and so on until we get to the last story, which I found "out of character" in the sense that it was the soppiest of them all, while offering a positive outlook on life.
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Old 06-14-2013, 04:40 PM   #24
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I have read almost all Murakami; sometimes beginning in the middle of a trilogy (not deliberately, but it didn't matter much, somehow). I recently read Underground, which describes the events around the Tokyo gas attacks in 1995; a documentary.

Mixed together, the stories in After the quake reflect the writing of Murakami nicely, although I 'missed' (well, not really of course) the cruelty he shows in some books.

I remember when reading Kafka on the shore, I was confronted with this cruelty. My impressions while reading:
Spoiler:
As in IQ84 and in the Wind-up bird chronicles, there is a fantastic element in this book. It relates to the end of the second world war.
I think I am getting a liking for this writer, that is, for his actors.

(but…somewhat later I wrote…..)
This is not a book for the faint- hearted. If something similar happens like the things I've read these last few pages........I'll leave this book. There are limits.

(I did go on reading and in the end I appreciated the book, especially the next two quotes)
"Every one of us is losing something precious to us," he says after the phone stops ringing. "Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That's part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads—at least that's where I imagine it—there's a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in a while, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you'll live forever in your own private library."

"Time weighs down on you like an old, ambiguous dream. You keep on moving, trying to slip through it. But even if you go to the ends of the earth, you won't be able to escape it. Still, you have to go there—to the edge of the world. There's something you can't do unless you get there."

(and in the end I conclude)
I have had a battle with this book, because of a few lines of cruelty. Well, as in life; one can't have it all and sometimes there has to be a compromise, an acceptance of the inevitable. This book directs one into the soul of things.
I am impressed by this book, which seems to be a " coming of age" book. This is not defined by age though, but has to do with thinking about the world one lives in; battling, resisting and seeing for what it is.
My favorite book is Hardboiled wonderland and the end of the world.

Last edited by desertblues; 06-14-2013 at 04:42 PM. Reason: grammar, grammar, grammar
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Old 06-18-2013, 10:54 AM   #25
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^Nice, Hardboiled is sitting on my shelf to read.

I liked all the stories, but UFO and Superfrog definitely were my favourites.

Spoiler:

Superfrog just resonated with me in that there is no real saviour. Was the frog real? Was the frog just a dream? When we are powerless against forces too great we are left with dreams and hope to combat them and in our minds they have great power. How many disasters have we not been part of due to our hopes and dreams? Crazy talk. I liked that.
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Old 06-18-2013, 11:32 AM   #26
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I guess, with Murakami, it's not only about living, but also living in a world...which world? And the sense that essentially one is on its own in life, without knowing what is on the other side.....is there an other side? Is one perhaps already living on that other side, without realizing?
Being a fan of both fantasy/scifi and literature; this writer works for me.
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Old 06-18-2013, 05:04 PM   #27
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I'm glad I've read this collection. Until now, I had only read "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" by Murakami and it didn't work for me. So I had some reservations when this book was chosen but I really liked these short stories, best the last three.
I don't know if any one of you has such a category for yourself, but for me Murakami is a "male writer". In my mind, his male characters are much better painted and more interesting than his female characters.
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Old 06-21-2013, 11:39 PM   #28
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I liked this book and in particular really like thailand as I see others did too, and after that I also really liked landscape with flatiron, and generally liked all of the first four stories. I thought the weakest was honey pie, and though I think I understand what he was trying to do with super-frog saves tokyo, I didn't particularly care for it.


ufo in kushiro - This was the first Murakami writing I've read, so I wasn't expecting the abrupt, vague ending. I liked the story though, the atmosphere, and the mysterious elements of it (that were never explained). I'd even say that this was the most unresolved of all the stories as so much was left unclear. Since the title is all lower-case, one funny tidbit is that I thought that the story was going to be about someone named "Ufo" in Kushiro.

landscape with flatiron - I found the "roommate" Keisuke's dialogue a little much - it felt like the cursing and "cool" language were a little forced (though that easily could be the translator's fault) - but I really enjoyed this story and its melancholy. I really enjoyed the short Jack London "To Build a Fire" digression about Junko's against-the-grain assertion that the character wanted death - "Otherwise, how could the ending of the story be so quiet and beautiful?"

all god's children can dance - While I was expecting an unclear ending by this point, I still found it frustrating not to find out who the man was he was following, or where the man had disappeared to, though I liked the story.

thailand - The strongest story of the collection. I highlighted a few places in the story, but I'll share one of my favourites from the end of the story:
Quote:
“He once told me about polar bears - what solitary animals they are. They mate just once a year. One time in a whole year. There is no such thing as a lasting male-female bond in their world. One male polar bear and one female polar bear meet by sheer chance somewhere in the frozen vastness, and they mate. It doesn't take long. And once they are finished, the male runs away from the female as if he is frightened to death: he runs from the place where they have mated. He never looks back - literally. The rest of the year he lives in deep solitude. Mutual communications - the touching of two hearts - do not exist for them. So, that is the story of polar bears - or at least it is what my employer told me about them."

"How very strange," Satsuki said.

"Yes," Nimit said, "it is strange." His face was grave. "I remember asking my employer, 'Then what do polar bears exist for?' ' Yes, exactly,' he said with a big smile. 'Then what do we exist for, Nimit?'"
super-frog saves tokyo - Reading this thread, I have a different take on it than some of you. I found the story very ordinary, and along with Honey Pie, thought it was one of the only two stories in the collection that wasn't purposefully vague and unresolved. I see it as the frog and everything strange about the story being completely in Katagiri's mind, and that his mind had broken and invented this alternate reality because of the stress of the Kobe earthquake and helplessness to do anything about it, and his overwhelming feeling of unimportance in his day-to-day life. So his mind created a crazy scenario where he is needed to save Tokyo. I do wonder though if this story is meant to allude to the Tokyo gas attacks which happened a very short time later. I liked his quote from the story:
Quote:
"The whole terrible fight occurred in the area of imagination. That is the precise location of our battlefield. It is there that we experience our victories and our defeats. Each and every one of us is a being of limited duration: all of us eventually go down to defeat. But as Ernest Hemingway saw so clearly, the ultimate value of our lives is decided not by how we win but by how we lose."
honey pie - The most conventional of all the stories, and really the only one with a sort-of solid sort-of happy ending. I'm not sure if I found it self-indulgent or not, but the allusion to Murakami himself seems too strong for my taste. It felt a bit like he decided that after all the vagueness and sadness of the preceding stories, he needed a more optimistic finale. But whatever his reasons, the story just didn't resonate as much with me.


Besides the obvious one of each character being tangentially affected by the Kobe earthquake, as others have mentioned these stories all seem connected by loneliness and melancholy. These are all people missing something from life and all seeming a bit empty. And as has been said, they're all dealing with their own personal little earthquakes.

I noticed a theme of bears throughout the collection. It's most obvious in the bookend stories - the story about bears in ufo in kushiro and the, well, story about bears in honey pie - but also the polar bear musing in thailand and the company the frog takes care of in super-frog saves tokyo being named "Big Bear Trading".

I found it ironic that in honey pie, Murakami mentions that the writer Junpei released a short story collection where one of the stories had been turned into a movie, and in real life years later one of these short stories (all god's children can dance) was turned into a movie, so it's another ironic mirroring of Murakami to the story that he couldn't have even predicted (although, since I'm not very familiar with Murakami, it's possible the same situation could've already happened with one of his earlier short story collections and he was purposely mirroring himself).

It's been interesting reading everyone's thoughts on this collection.

Last edited by sun surfer; 06-21-2013 at 11:49 PM.
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Old 06-22-2013, 08:52 AM   #29
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Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful post, sun surfer - it has made me think some more about the stories and the themes running through the book.
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Old 06-22-2013, 10:45 AM   #30
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As with some others, I'm glad I read these, but Murakami doesn't make it to my short list of authors whom I'd like to pursue. I thought the stories rather slight in themselves, yet had much more heft collectively. But while they resonated, some ten days after finishing the book I find them rather evanescent.

One reason I've delayed in posting (aside from busyness and general sloth) is that I still haven't decided whether my reaction is valid or puerile. What surprised me most was that I felt bludgeoned by the Western cultural and even culinary references.

A few paragraphs into the first story, Komura breakfasts on toast and coffee, which sounds like the breakfast of an American secretary from the 1950s to me. I read once that breakfasts were the most resistant of meals to outside influences and that made sense to me, but ok, so Komura likes toast and coffee. But then the cultural references came thick and fast: the Beatles, Pearl Jam, Jack London, Tolstoy, Erroll Garner, John Updike, Schubert and more. Culture is global these days, but in the absence of similar references to Japanese writers and musicians, this world seemed off kilter to me. I wondered if the earthquake was merely the physical manifestation of other seismic shifts, and if a loss of culture was a cause (or possibly an effect) of the hollowness or death inside the characters.

By the last meal, with spaghetti and tomato sauce for dinner, and red wine for the adults and OJ for the child (gack!), it felt to me that the stories could have been set anywhere at all. It required a conscious effort on my part to hold the thought that these stories were set in Japan and peopled with Japanese. But, since I have no familiarity with Murakami's other works, I have no idea if this Western orientation is typical of him or whether it was supposed to mean something in particular in the context of these stories.

Last edited by issybird; 06-22-2013 at 10:47 AM.
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