K.D. Absolutely's Reviews > Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami
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Oct 08, 10

bookshelves: anthology
Recommended to K.D. by: Ranee
Read from September 24 to October 07, 2010, read count: 1

Reading the books of Haruki Murakami (born 1949) is like watching the films of Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998). The two are the most notable world-known artists in Japan.

In particular, reading the 24 stories included in this collection Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is like watching Kurosawa's 1990 film, Dreams three times. The 8 stories in the film are said to be based on the actual dreams of Kurosawa. In Murakami's Introduction to the English Edition of this book, he said that Ice Man, one of the 24, is based on a dream his wife had (p. xi). Also, one of Kurosawa's 8 dreams is entitled "Crows" while one of Murakami's short story The Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes is about crows that know how to distinguish genuine and fake sharpie cakes. With Kurosawa gaining tremendous popularity worldwide because of his earlier films Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Red Beard, etc when Murakami was still a struggling novelist, Kurosawa's influence to Murakami is not a far-fetched possibility.

Kafka on the Shore. The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. Sputnik Sweetheart. After Dark. I read four of his novels before delving into his second collection of short stories, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. Wrong move. I guess I was in a hurry to finish the first two novels since they are included in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I ignored the explanation of my friend prior to my reading Kafka on Shore that Murakami is first and foremost a short story writer. The plot, scenes, characters, conflicts, quirkiness, etc in these stories are also in his novels. The list is almost endless: the mysterious cats, man cooking pasta, the woman by the shore, people and animals disappearing for no reason, a couple going on vacation to Greece, compulsive eating, jazz lovers, incestuous relationship, gay love, visit to a zoo, etc. The typical stories that do not make any sense. Pointless. Implausible plots. Waste of time. Grrr. The execution is excellent though. The fluidity of narration. The precise exact words. Mundane yet familiar everyday-like setting. Imagination at its best. So you hold on. You read on until the last page even if not everything makes any logic.

Like life. When things are not going right. When things are hard to explain. There are things that are happening around us that sometimes we cannot understand, right?

Like dreams. Almost always, they do not make sense. Yet they are sometimes so vivid as if real. While in them, we find ourselves crying, laughing, wanting, disappointed, scared, sad, aroused... The plethora of emotions in our dreams. The same plethora you will feel when you read Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

After all, we all dream, right?

Life. Dreams. Read on. Live on.

Murakami is one of the nominees in this year's Nobel Prize for Literature. Announcement today, October 7.
Ganbatte, Murakami-san!



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Update (10/8/2010): Haruki Murakami lost to Mario Vargas Llosa (born 1936) a Peruvian. Maybe I should try reading Llosa's Time of the Hero (1966) or The Feast of the Goat (2002) and see if he indeed deserves to win over Murakami.
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Reading Progress

09/24/2010 page 20
6.0% "1st story: about the willow tree with these flies that go inside the ears of the sleeping woman. The flies make her sleep forever because they eat her flesh. 23 more stories to go!"
09/25/2010 page 32
9.0% "2nd Story: A girl has been asked by an old man who is the manager of the restaurant where she works, to ask him one wish. It is the eve of her 20th birthday. Murakami seems to be saying that being 20 should be everyone's wish."
09/25/2010 page 32
9.0% "3rd Story: A man who goes to the zoo when a storm is approaching saying it is like being stuck in an elevator with strangers. A woman who killed her boyfriend by throwing him into a beehive. Does not make sense in anyway."
09/25/2010 page 54
15.0% "The philandering wife who does not know the reason why she is cheating her husband. Then she cries for no reason. Stops crying for no reason. Grrrr Murakami."
09/27/2010 page 104
29.0% "Story# 7: A mother and her crippled son in a resort. The son has this knife and in his dream he is being struck by it. Does not make sense to me."
09/27/2010 page 104
29.0% "Story #8: A pair of young lovers has heard about a young kangkaroo just given birth in a nearby zoo. It took awhile before they had time to visit. When finally they made it to the zoo, the kangaroo was already a grown-up. Huh? What is the point?"
09/28/2010 page 143
40.0% "Story#10: Dabchick? What kind of animal is that?"
09/28/2010 page 143
40.0% "Story#11: After Story#1, this one is then the 2nd that impressed me! I should not have read his novels first. Impressive as it may be, those characters were already included in his novels. Example is the cat that does not want to come down from a tree."
09/30/2010 page 170
47.0% "Story#12 is the worst in the book. Nausea is being associated to anything and everything under the sun. I am becoming tired of Murakami throwing anything at his reader. Senseless." 3 comments
10/04/2010 page 226
62.0% "Story #16: Crows have the ability to determine fake and genuine Sharpie Cakes. Ha ha. They are so ferocious that even if a crow has already ingested the cake, other crows would slice open the gullet of the faster crow. This is very violent and reminds me of Stephen King horror short stories."
10/04/2010 page 226
62.0% "Story #17: A young lady falls in love with a man called Ice Man. They were bored so the lady brought up the idea of vacationing to the South Pole. The Ice Man did not want to leave the place anymore. What is the point?"
10/04/2010 page 226
62.0% "Story #18: The crabs in Singapore! A Japanese couple went to vacation in Singapore. They ate crabs everyday until the time that one of them vomitted and in the vomit are tons of white crabmeat and worms. Yuck!"
10/06/2010 page 261
72.0% "Story# 19 - Brought back memories of catching fireflies in the province and putting them in a glass container. That's all. Another non-sense plot."

Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

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Ranee ventured into his short stories before reading his novels. and yes, there were a lot of short stories that ended up as parts of his novels. Sputnik sweetheart, Norwegian wood and the wind up bird chronicles are some books that had chapters which are actually a stand alone short story. He likes cats, jazz and pasta and you'll find a lot of these in his stories.


K.D. Absolutely Have to stop reading this today to give way to The Holy Bible. I thought of reading 2 stories in one day so I can finish this book in 12 days. But after Story#12, I will have to stop. There is nothing new because, yes you are right, I have seen those characters and plot in the 4 novels I already read: Kafka on the Shore, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, Sputnik Sweetheart and After Dark. Some of the stories are still nicely and shockingly told. But it is just too much. Maybe after a month or two, I will come back to this.


message 3: by Emir Never (new)

Emir Never 5-star review!


jamaicaska You read on until the last page even if not everything makes any logic.

--- I definitely agree. I held on because I thought something that makes sense will happen in the end.


K.D. Absolutely Yes, I finished up to the story of the monkey last night. I like the last 5 stories particularly The Chance Traveller where Murakami talks directly to the reader. The sub-story is kind of melodramatic: a gay man falling in love with a lady reading the same book, Bleak House one morning in a coffee shop. The reconciliation with his sister. I also liked the lady going yearly to Hawaii to remember her son who died in the sea. Very nice stories.

I was not expecting that something would happen in the end. Ranee told me before that Murakami's stories are like dreams. So, it's like I had 24 dreams while reading this. I read 1-3 stories per night and last night (before I wrote this review), I dreamt of a grasshopper jumping and disappearing right into my chest. Yikes! There is nothing like reading Murakami and dreaming one dream similar to his storylines.


message 6: by Aaron Vincent (new)

Aaron Vincent KD, just an idea. To make your last sentence more Japanese-like, you can alter "Goodluck" to "Ganbatte". Ganbatte is the japanese translation of Goodluck. :) Just suggesting, though. ;)


Ranee hmmm... if you dive in deeper into the bottom, you'll see that his stories talks about the loneliness in the bottom of our hearts. the estranged ways we move to commune, trying to find a connection with others and to our own persona. There also some (stories)that shows how expectations can be different from reality, hence off to the shore of dreams we go to fulfill our expectations, because we know, if reality does not equal to expectations, we hurt, sometimes too bad that we simply do not want to dwell on reality.

but simply what amuses me with Murakami, is not his ability to make a good ending (if I dwell on this, I would surely be frustrated) but our connection. He writes the way I dream and knowing somewhere, someone thinks(or dreams) like me means that I could exist "normal". Sanity, checked.


message 8: by K.D. (last edited Oct 08, 2010 04:47AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

K.D. Absolutely Thanks, Aaron. I updated the review. Sadly, Murakami lost to Llosa. Maybe next year.

@Ranee: I agree. Those themes are in those stories. I just cannot write as beautiful as you do so I was not able to put it that way. Thanks!

Yes "our connection" can actually be Murakami himself! I do not like Douglas Adams as much as I like Murakami ha ha.

Thanks for the like, Jam, Aaron, Ranee, Jasmin and Emir. :)


message 9: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Great review and assessment of why we love Murakami, K.D. I was reading your updates, which at times expressed frustration, so was amused to see that you did end up giving it 5 stars! ;)

I haven't read any Llosa, but was not surprised to see that he won the Nobel, based on his reputation. I was more pleasantly surprised that Murakami was even considered! Not that I don't think he deserves it, but I just wondered if the people who do the nominating might not think he was too 'popular' for such a prestigious award. The nomination does bode well for him for the future.


message 10: by K.D. (new) - rated it 3 stars

K.D. Absolutely Yes, I was surprised too. The last 4-5 stories are fantastic and exact to my taste: plausible and no exaggerated out-of-this-world characters (except for the killer monkey in the last story but it is well-told). I am not sure if this is true in your case, but the rating , in my mind, changes from almost chapter to chapter while I read. This started a 3, went to a 2, went to a 1 (stayed there for many successive chapters), then it climbed up to 2, 3, 4 and when I closed the book it was time to go to bed. That night, I dreamed of a grasshopper that flew and disappeared right on my chest. A kind of dream that is similar to the stories of Murakami. It was early in the morning, I could not sleep anymore and so I opened my computer and typed away my review. It was like the story really got into my system and even manifested in my dream.

I am not sure about Murakami's nomination but I saw a poll here in Goodreads and on that day (Oct 7), he was leading all the others. I read Wiki and it says that anybody can nominate their favorite writers.

Thanks for the like, T.


message 11: by Teresa (last edited Oct 09, 2010 08:53AM) (new)

Teresa K.D. wrote: "I am not sure if this is true in your case, but the rating , in my mind, changes from almost chapter to chapter while I read. This started a 3, went to a 2, went to a 1 (stayed there for many successive chapters), then it climbed up to 2, 3, 4 and when I closed the book it was time to go to bed. That night, I dreamed of a grasshopper that flew and disappeared right on my chest. A kind of dream that is similar to the stories of Murakami. It was early in the morning, I could not sleep anymore and so I opened my computer and typed away my review. It was like the story really got into my system and even manifested in my dream."

I haven't read this work of his yet, but I know exactly what you mean -- it's happened to me with others of his, including the one I read most recently, "Kafka." With it, I had a similar experience as to the one you describe, minus the dream of the grasshopper. :)

Any time a book, movie, etc gets into my dreams like that, I know it's powerful.

Is this the wiki page you read, K.D.?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobel_Pr...


message 12: by Barbara (new)

Barbara K.D. wrote: "Yes, I was surprised too. The last 4-5 stories are fantastic and exact to my taste: plausible and no exaggerated out-of-this-world characters (except for the killer monkey in the last story but it ..."

KD, I enjoyed your review and your recounting of your dream. Have you ever thought of writing short stories yourself?


message 13: by K.D. (new) - rated it 3 stars

K.D. Absolutely @T: This is the poll I saw in The Filipino group:

Nobel 2010 poll

It could be that this Patrick just thought of his favorite authors. He even missed including Llosa.

@B: Thanks for the compliment. No, I have not thought of that. Before I die, my dream is to write a memoir but I am not sure how I can make that happen. I'm not sure too if people will buy copies of it ha ha.


Ranee KD, i went browsing in my books and found out, i still don't have a review on this. shame on me. will try to find time to write reviews for all my murakami. hehe


message 15: by K.D. (new) - rated it 3 stars

K.D. Absolutely Yes, Ranee. I know you rated with with 5 stars but there isn't a review with it. I know it will be positive anyway and I know we both love Murakami!


Kwesi 章英狮 KD, I don't like the stories in the middle of the book. Irrelevant, Nonsense and Short. Ugh!


message 17: by K.D. (new) - rated it 3 stars

K.D. Absolutely Just hang on. Think of them as dreams. Not all dreams have meanings. That's the whole point. But the stories towards the end are fantastic.


Kwesi 章英狮 That's the most mouth opening answer you shared. :P


message 19: by Praj (new) - rated it 5 stars

Praj Reading the books of Haruki Murakami (born 1949) is like watching the films of Akira Kurosawa

So aptly said. 'Blind Willow...." was my first venture into the Murakami world. 'Sputnik Sweetheart' is my utmost favourite.


message 20: by K.D. (new) - rated it 3 stars

K.D. Absolutely Kwesi, that sounds delicious.

Praj, yes, that was a nice one too.

Thanks to both of you.


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