“The death of a dream can be, in a way, sadder than that of a living being. Sometimes it all seems so unfair.”― Haruki Murakami
Murakami's characters are real. They are our average folks who are mostly getting by. That's what I like about his characters and stories. His latest — First Person Singular, is a collection of short stories narrated in the first person, as the title suggests. While some stories are fictional, some seem like personal tales with his classic choice of subjects like music, love and loss, and nostalgia.
In the second chapter, 'On a Stone Pillow', the narrator describes a woman he has a one-night stand with; for starters, he knows nothing about her except that she writes tanka poetry. They hook up on her last day at work, after a farewell party. I found it borderline offensive that the narrator doesn't remember her name but vividly remembers the shape of her breasts and the nipples. She loves someone who thinks she is plain, but she is at his beck and call. "Loving someone is like having a mental illness that's not covered by health insurance," she tells him over breakfast, recounting the details of her life. And soon, she vanishes, and he's left to wonder what's happened to her, years after their one-night stand. The only reason he even remembers her is because of the details that involve their sex.
I thought most female characters were treated as accessories in this book. They were either described based on their looks..wait, there's no 'or' here. The only traits they carry are their looks and even those were downright derogatory. There are couple more chapters like this, and for the most part, I was wondering why his editors didn't deem it problematic.
After another chapter or two comes 'Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey', which, for me, was banal. Look, I get it — Murakami's stories have talking cats, and the writer is known for his magical realism. I get it; nobody reading this has to remind me that because I've read most of his books. But, this chapter just seemed like an extension of his previous stories. Did it not make the cut for his previous stories, I found myself wondering.
To say I hated the book would be a lie, but I didn't enjoy the treatment. It was good in parts, but this book has come out nearly four years after the fantastic Killing Commendatore, so, yeah — I am not exactly gushing.
Should you get it or not? Well, four out of the eight stories are decent, and you might find some words comforting. Besides, if you're willing to shell out 600 rupees for it, go wild. You might even fancy the encounter with Shinagawa Monkey. No, no, I won't judge you if you like it.