by Haruki Murakami (1993)
Murakami’s short story collection The Elephant Vanishes opens with what would become the first chapter of The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, a book that consumed and mesmerized me like only few great novels can. I tried to repeat that spell with his other works, but only came as close with Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.
After finishing the second story, I was worried that this would be another miss for me and Murakami – though a miss from him is still guaranteed to be more curious and interesting than many authors’ best so I kept reading.
I was finally drawn in completely by the story Sleep, a subtly creepy story of a woman who lives two lives when she suddenly no longer sleeps. It’s a masterful study of inexplicable fears come to life, fears that sit dormant below the surface of the toil and small joys of everyday living.
Other notable favorites are Barn Burning, Family Affair, TV People, The Dancing Dwarf, and The Last Lawn of the Afternoon. Of course, every reader will have their own opinions depending on their tolerance for the bizarre surrealism that peppers his writing with such dark grace.
The best stories here have his hallmark gift for mood. You feel the people and places in essence if not in detail and are transported to strange territories that are both very near and very far from our own lives.