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First Person Singular
Cover of First Person Singular
First Person Singular
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“Some novelists hold a mirror up to the world and some, like Haruki Murakami, use the mirror as a portal to a universe hidden beyond it.” —The Wall Street Journal A mind-bending...
“Some novelists hold a mirror up to the world and some, like Haruki Murakami, use the mirror as a portal to a universe hidden beyond it.” —The Wall Street Journal A mind-bending...
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Description-

  • “Some novelists hold a mirror up to the world and some, like Haruki Murakami, use the mirror as a portal to a universe hidden beyond it.” —The Wall Street Journal
     
    A mind-bending new collection of short stories from the internationally acclaimed Haruki Murakami.
    The eight stories in this new book are all told in the first person by a classic Murakami narrator. From memories of youth, meditations on music, and an ardent love of baseball, to dreamlike scenarios and invented jazz albums, together these stories challenge the boundaries between our minds and the exterior world. Occasionally, a narrator may or may not be Murakami himself. Is it memoir or fiction? The reader decides.
    Philosophical and mysterious, the stories in First Person Singular all touch beautifully on love and solitude, childhood and memory. . . all with a signature Murakami twist.

Excerpts-

  • From the book First Person Singular

    I hardly ever wear suits. At most, maybe two or three times a year, since there are rarely any situations where I need to get dressed up. I may wear a casual jacket on occasion, but no tie, or leather shoes. That’s the type of life I chose for myself, so that’s how things have worked out.

    Sometimes, though, even when there’s no need for it, I do decide to wear a suit and tie. Why? When I open my closet and check out what kind of clothes are there (I have to do that or else I don’t know what kind of clothes I own), and gaze at the suits I’ve hardly ever worn, the dress shirts still in the dry cleaner’s plastic garment bags, and the ties that look brand new, no trace of ever having been used, I start to feel apologetic toward these clothes. Then I try them on just to see how they look. I experiment with various tie knots to see if I still remember how to do them. Including one making a proper dimple. The only time I do all this is when I’m home alone. If someone else is here, I’d have to explain what I’m up to.

    Once I go to the trouble of getting the outfit on, it seems a waste to take it all off right away, so I go out for a while dressed up like that. Strolling around town in a suit and tie. And it feels pretty good. I get the sense that even my facial expression and gait are transformed. It’s an invigorat­ing sensation, as if I’ve temporarily stepped away from the everyday. But after an hour or so of roaming, this newness fades. I get tired of wearing a suit and tie, the tie starts to feel itchy and too tight, like it’s choking me. The leather shoes click too hard and loud as they strike the pavement. So I go home, slip off the leather shoes, peel off the suit and tie, change into a worn-out set of sweatpants and sweatshirt, plop down on the sofa, and feel relaxed and at peace. This is my little one-hour secret ceremony, entirely harmless— or at least not something I need to feel guilty about.

About the Author-

  • HARUKI MURAKAMI was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages, and the most recent of his many international honors is the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award, whose previous recipients include Karl Ove Knausgård, Isabel Allende, and Salman Rushdie.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from December 7, 2020
    Murakami’s engrossing collection (after the novel Killing Commendatore) offers a crash course in his singular style and vision, blending passion for music and baseball and nostalgia for youth with portrayals of young love and moments of magical realism. The one thing shared by the collection’s eight stories is their use of the first-person-singular voice. Murakami’s gift for evocative, opaque magical realism shines in “Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova,” in which a review of a fictional album breathes new life into the ghost of the jazz great, and “Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey,” wherein a talking monkey ruminates with a traveler on love and belonging. Murakami finds ample material in young love and sex, showcased in “On a Stone Pillow,” in which a young man’s brief tryst with a coworker, unremarkable in itself, takes on a degree of immortality after she mails him her poetry. In “The Yakult Swallows Poetry Collection,” the collection’s one nonfiction piece, Murakami recounts how baseball and writing, the twin passions of his youth, grew together in the stadium of his beloved Yakult Swallows. These shimmering stories are testament to Murakami’s talent and enduring creativity.

  • Kirkus

    January 1, 2021
    A new collection of stories from the master of the strange, enigmatic twist of plot. "Your brain is made to think about difficult things." So concludes the narrator of "Cream," the first story in this gathering, an allusion to the phrase cr�me de la cr�me and not the English rock band. In that narrator's case, the cream rises when you finally understand something you have not comprehended before, while "the rest is boring and worthless." That realization comes after an old classmate invites him to a piano recital at the vertiginous top of a tall mountain, where he is subjected to both a Christian harangue and a metaphysical puzzle. Music is never far from a Murakami yarn, though always with an unexpected turn: Charlie Parker comes in a dream to tell one young man that death is pretty boring and meaningless, saying, "What's existed until then suddenly and completely vanishes." It's a righteous sentiment, but the young man's moral flaw was not to consider what existed but instead to write a faux record review for a college magazine about a Parker album that never did, one pairing him with Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. When his editor learns the truth and objects to the chicanery, the young man rationalizes his invention: "I didn't actually fool him, but merely omitted a detailed explanation." Closer to Murakami's heart still are his beloved Fab Four, whose album With the Beatles an ethereal young woman clutches to her chest, giving the narrator a madeleine for the rest of his life. Murakami's characters are typically flat of affect, protesting their ugliness and ordinariness, and puzzled or frightened by things as they are. But most are also philosophical even about those ordinary things, as is the narrator of that fine Beatles-tinged tale, who ponders why it is that pop songs are important and informative in youth, when our lives are happiest: "Pop songs may, after all, be nothing but pop songs. And perhaps our lives are merely decorative, expendable items, a burst of fleeting color and nothing more." An essential addition to any Murakami fan's library.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    February 1, 2021
    Whether in his epic-scale novels or in his shorter works, much of Murakami's appeal has always come from the beguiling way in which his characters react to wildly fantastical events in the most matter-of-fact manner, ever ready to accept how the twists and turns of everyday life can blend into more audacious alternate realities. In these eight stories, we see that phenomenon most disarmingly in ""Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey,"" in which a monkey strides into a sauna at a remote hotel and asks the narrator if he would like to have his back scrubbed, speaking ""in the alluring voice of a doo-wop baritone."" It is the doo-wop note that pulls us into the story, somehow making this tale of a monkey looking for love utterly believable and all the more poignant. Similarly, in ""Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova,"" the narrator begins by recounting how he once wrote a story positing that bebop pioneer Parker recorded a bossa-nova album (an impossibility for multiple reasons), but then the story changes direction when the fantasy album turns up in a record shop decades later, and Parker makes a dream cameo. The glue that holds together Murakami's blending realities--in these stories and, indeed, in all of his fiction--is always the narrator's love for something (a woman, a song, a baseball team, a moment in the past) that is both life-giving and deeply melancholic. Masterful short fiction.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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