This collection of 15 stories from a popular Japanese writer, perhaps best known in this country for A Wild Sheep Chase ( LJ 11/15/89), gives a nice idea of his breadth of style. The work maintains the matter-of-fact tone reminiscent of American detective fiction, balancing itself somewhere between the spare realism of Raymond Carver and the surrealism of Kobo Abe. These are not the sort of stories that one thinks of as ``Japanese''; the intentionally Westernized style and well-placed reference to pop culture gives them a contemporary and universal feel. Engaging, thought-provoking, humorous, and slyly profound, these skillful stories will easily appeal to American readers but must present something of a challenge to the Japanese cultural establishment. At their best, however, they serve to dispel cultural stereotypes and reveal a common humanity. Recommended for libraries with an interest in contemporary fiction.-- Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll. Lib., N.Y.
A seamless melding of Japanese cultural nuances with universal themesin a virtuoso story collection from rising literary star Murakami (A Wild Sheep Chase, 1989; Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, 1991). These 15 pieces, some of which have appeared in The New Yorker and Playboy, are narrated by different characters who nonetheless share similar sensibilities and attitudes. At home within their own urban culture, they happily pick and choose from Western cultural artifacts as varied as Mozart tapes, spaghetti dinners, and Ralph Lauren polo shirts in a terrain not so much surreal as subtly out of kilter, and haunted by the big questions of death, courage, and love. In the title story, the narratorwho does p.r. for a kitchen-appliance maker and who feels that "things around [him] have lost their balance," that a "pragmatic approach" helps avoid complicated problemsis troubled by the inexplicable disappearance of a local elephant and his keeper. In another notable story, "Sleep," a young mother, unable to sleep, begins to question not only her marriage and her affection for her child, but death itself, which may mean "being eternally awake and staring into darkness." Stories like "TV People," in which a man's apartment is taken over by TV characters who "look as if they were reduced by photocopy, everything mechanically calibrated"; "Barn Burning," in which a man confesses to burning barns (it helps him keep his sense of moral balance); and "The Second Bakery Attack," in which a young married couple rob a McDonald's of 30 Big Macs in order to exorcise the sense of a "weird presence" in their livesall exemplify Murakami's sense of the fragility of theordinary world. Remarkable evocations of a postmodernist world, superficially indifferent but transformed by Murakami's talent into a place suffused with a yearning for meaning.
“These are beautifully written stories, often funny, always moving.” –Chicago Tribune
“Eerie, unsettling. . . . [A] wonderful combination of the bizarre and the mundane.” –Village Voice Literary Supplement
“Charming, humorous and frequently puzzling . . . The Elephant Vanishes [is] fun to read.” –The New York Times
“These stories show us Japan as it’s experienced from the inside. . . . [They] take place in parallel worlds not so much remote from ordinary life as hidden within its surfaces. . . . Even in the slipperiest of Mr. Murakami’s stories, pinpoints of detail flash out . . . warm with life, hopelessly–and wonderfully–unstable.” –The New York Times Book Review
“A stunning writer at work in an era of international literature.” –Newsday
“Enchanting…intriguing…all of these tales have a wonderfully surreal quality and a hip, witty tone. Mr. Murakami has pulled off a tricky feat, writing stories about people who are bored but never boring. He left me lying awake at night, hungry for more.” –Wall Street Journal
“The Elephant Vanishes, through [its] bold originality and charming surrealism, should win the author new readers in this country.” –Detroit Free Press