Men Without Women

Haruki Murakami

Book cover

I think of myself as a big Murakami fan but…maybe I’ve read enough? I didn’t get much out of this collection. There was exactly one story (of seven) in this book that I really enjoyed: “Yesterday.” I also thought “Kino” was good in parts. The other ones mostly felt like they were taking themselves too seriously for my taste, and didn’t really feel like they were doing anything new compared to his existing work (except the titular “Men Without Women,” which tries something new that flops). For the most part these are straight-ahead stories without much of the magical aspects that characterize some of his work, and I missed the off-the-wall inventiveness of something like “Hardboiled Wonderland” (my favorite of his books).

Note also that you can read four of the seven stories in this collection, including “Yesterday” and “Kino,” on the New Yorker website, as they were originally published in that magazine–only three new stories in the book, and I didn’t think any of those three were very compelling. One possible exacerbating circumstance was that I listened to the three non-NYer stories as an audiobook (since that was the version with the shortest waitlist at my library). I thought the audiobook narration was terrible. The narrator reads in an extremely subdued but also overly earnest style, like he is constantly reading a sad poem or something. I guess he felt that this style was consistent with the lonely/melancholy style of HM’s writing, but for me it was unbalancing. When I read Murakami out loud (as I did with “Yesterday”), I try to give it plenty of feeling to counterbalance the sense of not much happening.

My Goodreads rating: 3 stars