I loved this little collection. This sort of spiritual "what-if" musing is one of my own favorite internal indulgences, and I was very pleasantly surp...moreI loved this little collection. This sort of spiritual "what-if" musing is one of my own favorite internal indulgences, and I was very pleasantly surprised with the possibilities posited and explored by the author. His own "what-ifs" managed to be both simultaneously reverent and irreverent without pontificating or hedging or indulging in the maudlin. The brief-yet-expansive stories were thought-provoking, funny, sad, championing, chastising, and inclusive. They were speculative scientifically, spiritually, and emotionally, and they covered a surprisingly wide swathe of ground.
I borrowed this book from the local library, and now I find that I want to own a copy, because it would serve as a useful meditative tool as well as a joy to re-read whenever I need a bit of a think or a reverie to put things in perspective.
I would recommend this small volume to most anyone with a thoughtful streak. Don't be fooled by thinking its brevity indicative of over-simplicity or triteness; there's a feast for thought to be found here.(less)
I really enjoyed this selection by Murakami, although - as is usual for me upon reading a collection of short stories - I really feel I would need to...moreI really enjoyed this selection by Murakami, although - as is usual for me upon reading a collection of short stories - I really feel I would need to rate each story separately to give an accurate picture of my feelings on the book. There were (from my perspective) some stellar 5s, as well as some solid 3.5s/4s...and a couple of meh 2s/3s.
Murakami is a terrifically talented writer who approaches each subject from just a few degrees off-center. Even in the most mundane circumstances, things in his stories are never quite what they seem; there is always a bit of the surreal or the dream-like or the blatant what-the-heck waiting right around the corner. If this collection has one unifying thematic element, it is that sense of strangeness just beneath the surface of the familiar. There is also a feeling of definite neutrality to each story. I don't suppose that makes a lot of sense, but it's the best word I can find to illustrate the going-through-the-motions sort of ennui typical of many of the characters until the moment they - and we - notice something unusual has slipped quietly into the narrative while neither of us was looking.
Some stories were thought-provoking, while others were disturbing. A few were humorous, several ironic, and still others were so poignant and sweet they provoked tears. Some I loved and immediately wanted to re-read; others lulled me so that I had to set my jaw and insist upon finishing. I was struck by the range of the stories and kept thinking that another reader might well love the ones I found dull or despise my favorites.
My intuition wants to label this collection "experimental", as the author utilizes so many different styles. He visits many moods, and the collective result defies easy categorization. It's not really fantasy, not quite horror, not romance or simple slice-of-life - although there are elements of each of these present. The whole of the thing skates along those murkier literary definitions such as slipstream and magical realism, like a daydream or one of the subtler episodes of The Twilight Zone. Musing "what-if"? Post-modern angst? Speculative anxiety study? Veiled social satire? All of those live within the pages of this intriguing selection of stories by one of Japan's most celebrated and popular modern authors.(less)
I really love Kelly Link's writing style. It falls somewhere between magical realist and full-blown surreal, and it manages to be very emotionally aff...moreI really love Kelly Link's writing style. It falls somewhere between magical realist and full-blown surreal, and it manages to be very emotionally affecting without sacrificing subtlety. It is frequently surprising, often delightful, occasionally horrific. Link can get me to agree to suspend my disbelief in some of the most wildly imaginative and implausible situations, and she has a real knack for being gently disturbing.
However, I am only giving this collection, Link's earliest, (which focuses largely on referenced, re-imagined, and re-arranged fairy tales, myths, and legends) 3 stars, because 3.5 isn't an option, and I loved her collection Magic for Beginners considerably more. (It was simply stellar.) These stories are worth the reader's time, and some are downright brilliant. But some left me neutral, and the overall feeling I was left with was one less bowled-over than when I'd finished Magic For Beginners.
My recommendation: If you've never read Kelly Link, start with Magic for Beginners, as it was wonderful and whimsical and weird and freaky and creepy across the board. Then, if you enjoy that, explore her earlier work in this collection, Stranger Things Happen. (less)
Such lovely micro-stories! This collection reads more like free-form prose poetry than fiction. There's no real plot here, per se, so a conventional r...moreSuch lovely micro-stories! This collection reads more like free-form prose poetry than fiction. There's no real plot here, per se, so a conventional review isn't terribly practical. Each 1-1.5 page vignette tells of the wonders of a different city, and the central unifying premise is that each is a travel tale told by Marco Polo to Kublai Khan while a guest at the Khan's palace. Italo Calvino is a master of lyricism, and he knows exactly how to get the reader daydreaming and feeling homesick for places they've never visited, and which may not have ever existed. This collection is terrifically imaginative, greatly inspiring, and highly recommended.(less)