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First Person Singular : Stories

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A mindbending new collection of short stories from the beloved, internationally acclaimed, Haruki Murakami.

The eight masterly stories in this new collection are all told in the first person by a classic Murakami narrator. From nostalgic 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 who may or may not be Murakami himself is present. Is it memoir or fiction? The reader decides.

250 pages, Hardcover

First published July 1, 2020

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,085 reviews
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
860 reviews5,922 followers
May 5, 2023
There is something I find very calm and comforting about reading Murakami. Perhaps it is because the protagonists always have this refined aloofness about them, unshakable in the face of an abrupt surrealist maelstrom as they simply crack a single small beer and vibe with whatever befalls them. It’s a mood, really, and one I’d love to be able to embody. Murakami’s writing helps affect this mood, its soft and winding river of introspective prose is like a lullaby to anxieties, and the stories are always a fantastical and philosophical, low-key extravaganza that manage to both appease both the literary and childlike-wonderment parts of the reader. First Person Singular, Murakami’s 2021 short story collection in lovely English translation by Phillip Gabriel (shout-out to translators, I love you all so much) are a succinct path to the heart of joy Murakami can bring. While I’ve been relatively into his short stories, I tend to think most of his novels (After the Quake is an exception as I do consider that collection as a whole to be one of my favorite Murakami books) when contemplating his oeuvre. This collection seems to hit on all the best of his notes and feels like a refreshing return to what makes him work after being underwhelmed by his two previous releases. A brief yet bountiful collection of short stories, First Person Singular is a distilled achievement of what makes Murakami great that pushes his own canonical boundaries and dazzles across each page.

'”And now here I was, a first person singular. If I’d chosen a different direction, most likely I wouldn’t be here. But still - who is that in the mirror?'

Something I've always admired in Murakami is his ability to juxtapose reality and un-reality--the fantastical if you will--in a way that dissolves the dichotomy of the two. If something is meant to be "reality" or not becomes beside the point, and he dredges up a deeper understanding of the real by stepping outside in into the abstract. His most poignant moments exist in a realm adjacent to both the real and the un-real yet still embodying both in effect.

First Person Singular pushes his own boundaries into a teasing of autofiction, writing from the titular point of view in a reflective way. The beautifully mundane occasionally breaks into the fantastical (some stories more than others) but in a way that makes you believe there is some autobiographical element based in many of the stories, weaving his own reality with an authorial fiction that creates something more meaningful than the sum of its parts. He sort of self-mythologizes here, similar but different from the way Roberto Bolaño created a self-mythology dipping into autobiography and smuggling himself into his characters (curiously, I've always felt M and B to be ineffably linked in my mind and get a similar calming experience reading both). This abstract authorial brilliance is aided by the inclusion on one autobiographical piece in the mix, the whole collection capitalizing on the maxim that a lie is best accepted with a grain of truth in it.

This collection proves he can pack so much into so little and keep everything open for nuance. One thing I’ve always really appreciated in his short stories is the abject sadness he can instill in the reader with them (Ice Man is always one of the first to come to mind). This collection hits on that perfectly, as it tonally explores ‘all the myriad phenomenon that lay in the space between happiness and sadness.’ What compounds with this emotional landscape is the way his messages are often ineffable beyond the brilliant production of the story’s unfolding into you. Murakami is less a work to be assessed, dissected and have each element pinned like a butterfly upon a board for review, but an elusive and abstract emotion to swallow deep into your being.

The opening story, Cream--a story where much of the piece is an elaborate and landscape-descriptive tone set-up to a brief conversation between strangers--seems to best describe Murakami’s intentions as writer to the reader. A man talks about a ‘circle with many centers but no circumference,’ which we should, logically, consider an impossible object. But Murakami deals in impossible objects and recommends that ‘there’s no need to know what it’s all about.’ His work is one of abstraction and emotion, not one-to-one metaphors and tidy explanations. ‘There is nothing worth getting in this world that you can get easily,’ the old man tells the lost narrator, and Murakami’s work is like this. You can’t just reach for it, you have to let it pass through you and know you can never fully or succinctly restrain it into a simple image.

The collection of stories here is widespread yet still centralized around the notion of Murakami’s supposed life experiences. They feel real, and his tellings make them feel like you could believe they were your own memories on the page, and this is how he best sneaks in his most poignant gifts to you. The stories that deal in the mundane, like a one-night-encounter with a coworker and discovering she writes haunting poetry, or the multi-decade sage of memories adjacent to a former girlfriend who would later take her own life and conversations with her brother that juxtapose youth and adulthood, are some of the most impactful because of the closeness to realism. They collectively thread an impression of a lengthy life timeline and all the many disparate events that pass almost unnoticed yet leave a long-withstanding emotional residue, such as the image of a beautiful young classmate running through the halls clutching a Beatles vinyl to her chest in that same story (aptly titled Beatles).

But there are other, more fantastical stories that land just as well. One particular story, Charlie Parker Plays Bossanova, has a writer inside-joke like approach to a narrative not unlike the premise of Hari Kunzru’s White Tears where a college prank--reviewing a non-existent and impossible Charlie Parker album in the school magazine as a work of unannounced fiction--actualizes itself in a mysterious physical form in a New York city record shop. The dream-sequence at the end is powerful and unforgettable. There is also Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey, a sequel of sorts to the older story A Shinagawa Monkey, which might be the best in the collection and the most Murakamiesque of his tales here. The story involves Murakami having beers with a monkey as he details his existential dilemmas of stealing women’s names--literally--because he loves them but cannot actualize his desires. It’s phenomenal, and so very Murakami.

As one would expect in a biographical-type collection of an older author, aging is quite forefront to the themes here. Many of the stories knit together separate yet complimentary small events from multiple decades, letting you feel the passage of time and aging in the marrow of the stories. Murakami doesn’t fear or despise aging, but he acknowledges there are certain sadnesses attached.
What I find strange about growing old isn’t that I’ve gotten older...I think wahat makes me feel sad about the girls I knew growing old is that it forces be to admit, all over again, that my youthful dreams are gone forever. The death of a dream can be, in a way, sadder than that of a living being

For Murakami, the dreamworld is just as relevant to us as the ‘real’ world, and the acknowledgement of dreams deferred or died weighs heavily into the tone of the book. These are stories of a man gone through a lot and reflecting back on younger days, self-mythologizing to help achieve a place of eternal, ineffable existences in the abstract nature of life. He examines poetry he loves (I was quite taken by this from a favorite author as someone who values poetry as a favorite art form), reflects on long-gone-to-dust relationships, and examines the absurdities in our daily lives. It is as wise and it is whimsical.

Murakami is, admittedly, a problematic favorite so take this review with a grain of that salt. He does have a notable slant towards the misogynist--particularly when regarding underaged women existing predominantly as an emotional support for the male protagonist, as Mieko Kawakami has addresses--and some of that even seeps its way into this collection, especially the ways the male gaze of body image is so often immediately noted as a description of who a woman is ( was never able to get into Men Without Women for much of these reasons). We should all have a conversation on this and address cultural points as well, and he is undeniably an engaging storyteller. The social mannerisms and conflicting emotions is real here, but he is clearly a key figure of modern literature and I do enjoy his works and being able to critique it is part of the enjoyment with broad oeuvre familiarity (academic approaches to criticism are nuanced and weird, right?). For reader's looking for an entry point, I would not recommend this one and perhaps one of his larger novels instead, but for those who are already fans I think this will appease you. This book is the sweet-spot of what I love about Murakami and it is all so delicately packaged in the short form.

Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,297 reviews2,293 followers
July 8, 2022
*not the Murakami book FOR ME.

Was Murakami high when he wrote these stories?

I DNFed a story because it started with this line:
"Of all the women I've known until now, she was the ugliest."

Seriously?! How do you even think of writing this line? And the word "ugly" has been repeated over and over again in the next few sentences. Whatever point the author is trying to prove in this story, I effing don't care.

***Until the 5th story, I was having a good time reading the book:

**My thoughts until then:

"Inexplicable, illogical events that nevertheless are deeply disturbing."


Well written and well translated, I had a fun time reading this collection. His stories feel good to dive into as there's that unpredictability hanging around after each sentence.

And yes, I picked up this book expecting not expecting too much from the endings and it helped in enjoying the book more.

When I pick up a Murakami book, I don't crack open up my head to understand each and every detail but try to feel and know where things are going. I enjoy this aspect while reading his books.


1. Cream
4 🌟
*What made a paino teacher unexpectedly invite one of her students years later

2. On a Stone Pillow
3 🌟
*Hook-up and complicated relationships
*Poetry and writing

3. Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova
*Writing and the dilemma involved with it
*A disturbing music record, eh?

4. With the Beatles
4 🌟
*Deals with aging and the title obviously
*And the "girl" typical of Murakami's stories

5. Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey
4 🌟
*Yes, the monkey is what we are talking about or is it the one doing all the talking?
*Loved it for its weirdness but then the entire book is just weird


6. Carnaval

*DNFed with a BIG D.

(Actually I lost all interest for the rest of the book. This book really lived up to the "sucker" name I gave it when I got it a day before its publication.)
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for emma.
1,823 reviews48.7k followers
July 16, 2021
my becoming-a-genius project, part 14!

the background knowledge you will now be cursed with:
i have decided to become a genius.

to accomplish this, i'm going to work my way through the collected stories of various authors, reading + reviewing 1 story every day until i get bored / lose every single follower / am struck down by a vengeful deity.


is it too soon to say i already like this more than i expected to?
rating: 4

it was slightly too soon, maybe. this one was more in line with my expectations.
rating: 3.25

classically, yesterday was a saturday i barely read during so true to form it is actually day 4. but chances of me catching up today? slim!
i don't care about jazz but i do care about divine coincidences!
rating: 3.5

great...another music one...
i CANNOT STAND when a story i found otherwise mediocre has a perfect ending. it discombobulates.
rating: 3.5

step 1: google image "shinagawa monkey."
step 2: discover that it is not a breed of monkey. just the title of the story. realize you are dumb.
step 3: look at this little guy anyway:

step 4: after a good few minutes, read story.
step 5: determine story is fine.
rating: 3

made me realize i have so purged my memory of Caraval that i can't even remember the title.
this opens with a description of a woman as the ugliest the narrator has ever seen, even though that won't be easy for "readers, especially women readers, to accept."
this is why people hate murakami.
i, however, am a sucker for lines like this: "Happiness is a relative thing, don't you think?"
so it evens out.
rating: 3.5

i will not make the same mistake i made last time and google "yakult swallows" hoping for a species of bird. i will not. i will not.
i did. they're a baseball team. that'll show me.
whoa. the narrator of this is named haruki murakami. metafiction??? nonfiction??? we have fun.
anyway. while i don't like baseball and think it's a punishingly boring thing to witness rivaled only by golf, i do like sports in general. basketball. football. hockey. soccer, sometimes. every olympic event.
but this is about sports poetry. i can tolerate one or the other, even enjoy them sometimes, but...both? no.
one of the poems is about butts, though, so you have to admire the artistry.
rating: 2.5

titular time.
hm. okay, yeah. yes i like this.
rating: 4

this was a kinda sorta super unfair to try Murakami for the first time, with a collection even his biggest fans call middling, but this was the only one available from my library and i'm nothing if not a slave to convenience.
this did convince me to pick up more from him, though. so a win in the end.
rating: 3.5
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,113 reviews44.4k followers
February 23, 2022
This is a very mediocre collection of short stories from a writer who can do SO MUCH better.

When an author can achieve literary greatness in their writing, there’s an expectation that they must do it all the time. Murakami has achieved such a thing several times over, though he did not quite do it here. Unfortunately, whilst these stories do have a brief echo of his brilliance, they simply do not deliver: they are not what they could be.

In some ways, I feel like Murakami dug these out of his bottom draw. These don’t feel like new stories, but instead they feel like the stories of an author who is still refining his craft. They seem like the words of an author who would one day develop these themes into fantastic plot points with powerful narrative delivery. Here, though, they just don’t quite cut it.

The writing is fuelled by the same randomness that defines his writing. There’s casual sexual encounters and strong music references. There’s a sense of the unusual, the uncanny and of something not quite right. His tone is here and what’s a little bit confusing is the uncertainty about who exactly is speaking. Is it a fictional character or is it actually Murakami himself? The lines become blurred in more than one instance especially when a character has the author’s name. This is a clever device but it’s all very brief and none of the stories seem to go anywhere real. There’s not enough time or words for them to count.

And that’s the problem: Murakami is a great novelist, but he is not a great short story writer. He is at his best when his unique motifs are combined with excellent plotting. He churns out huge novels that are tense, emotional and very clever. The short story form doesn’t really work for him: he just can’t do what he does best within its limitations.

Although his previous collection of short stories, Men Without Women, was a little better, it also failed to showcase his real talent. If you want to learn what Murakami is really about, then I recommend reading After Dark and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. For me, he is at his absolute best in those two novels.


You can connect with me on social media via My Linktree.
Profile Image for Kenny.
495 reviews865 followers
April 15, 2023
The world can turn upside down, depending on the way we look at it. The way a ray of sunshine falls on something can change shadow to light, or light to shadow. A positive becomes a negative, a negative a positive.
First Person Singular: Stories ~~ Haruki Murakami

I love Haruki Murakami. Anytime he publishes a new work it’s cause for celebration in Kenny World. I was introduced to Murakami by my close friend, Srđan. One of the things we bonded over was a passion for Murakami. So, it’s only fitting then that I dedicate this review to my friend, Srđan.

We were both deeply disappointed in Killing Commendatore, which we did as a buddy ready. While reading Killing Commendatore, I felt the quality of writing, was substandard for Murakami It was as if he had coasted through its plotting and writing.

I am happy to report that First Person Singular is a return to form for Murakami. In fact, I would venture to say that three of the stories, Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova , With the Beatles and Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey are among my favorite short works of Murakami.

The first question I asked myself upon completing First Person Singular, was are these works of fiction or memoirs? I suspect they are a little of both with Murakami's brand of magical realism thrown in for good measure.


The stories in First Person Singular gently probe themes of youth, first love and memory, while providing tender meditations on music ~~ The Beatles and jazz of course ~~ childhood, dreams, and baseball. Most, not all, of the stories are tinged with Murakami’s magical realism ~~ yes there are talking animals.

It may be more appropriate to call these tales meditations rather than stories. These tales are not written by the Murakami who was concerned with mortality. These tales tell of defining incidents from the narrator's past. This older Murakami is a reflective Murakami; he is no longer concerned with what might have been or even what will be.

Murakami reflects on the passage of time in several of these stories. In the tale On A Stone Pillow this observation is made: Strangely enough ~~ or perhaps not so strangely ~~ people age in the blink of an eye. Each and every moment, our bodies are on a one-way journey to collapse and deterioration, unable to turn back the clock .


There are those who will say this Murakami isn’t the Murakami of Norwegian Wood or Kafka on the Shore. Or, He doesn’t break any new ground here ! Murakami doesn’t need too. What he offers us are readable and engaging stories. Honestly, I had trouble putting this book down and read it all in one sitting. First Person Singular is a comforting read.

First Person Singular is Murakami at the top of his game. This Murakami is every bit as good at short story writing as the long form novelist, Murakami. Yes, these tales are every bit as good as his novels.

For my final commentary on Murakami I'd like to say: Will someone give this guy a Nobel Prize already ?

Profile Image for Meike.
1,519 reviews2,470 followers
January 27, 2021
English: First Person Singular: Stories
This collection consists of eight short stories, all of which - you guessed it - are told from the first person singular perspective. While the last one, the titular "First Person Singular", is new, the other seven have previously been published, some of them also in English. Per usual, I particularly enjoyed Murakami's melancholic ruminations about past events that, consciously or unconsciously, end up shaping a character, written in a Norwegian Wood-vibe. Another story that stood out to me was "Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey", an homage to Franz Kafka (one of Murakami's heroes), especially his A Report for an Academy, which is the famous story of the monkey Rotpeter who is trained to act like a human, only to be looked down upon by humans and monkeys alike.

A recurring element in these stories is music, from The Beatles to Jazz to classical composers. In "Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova", a young writer crafts a fake review of a Charlie Parker record that has never existed (Parker died before Bossa Nova became a thing), thus bringing a dreamscape into reality (that's contradictory, you say? Well, apparently you've never read Murakami) - I love this blurring of lines between imagination and reality, a core competence of this writer. Others stories like "Cream" and "Carnaval" remain highly enigmatic, which makes them all the more captivating.

Murakami, still a wonderful writer - we need a new novel. Also kudos to the German translator Ursula Gräfe who, as always, did an amazing job.

Some of the stories in this collection:
- Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova
- Cream
- With the Beatles
- Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey

You can learn more about the book on the podcast (in German).
Profile Image for Nat K.
416 reviews156 followers
July 5, 2022
”Loving someone is like having a mental illness that’s not covered by health insurancfe.”

Is it only me, or does Murakami’s work seem to become even more dreamlike and philosophical over time? Or has my viewpoint and life experience changed the way I now read? It seems to me that Murakami - in his oh so dreamlike and eloquently esoteric way - ponders the imponderable even more than he did in previous books. His writing still takes us up paths and along thought patterns that don’t necessarily lead anywhere, yet where you feel you’ve covered a lot of ground. Oh, to spend an afternoon in a café with him! With jazz playing in the background, of course.

This latest (and dare I say highly anticipated) offering, is a collection of eight short stories. Which if I want to get all deep and mystical, eight also happens to be the symbol for the infinity sign. Read into that what you will. Was this accidental, or a bit of sweet synchronicity.

Short stories are my favourite genre, and Murakami is one of my favourite writers. Even for his books that aren’t quite up there on my top shelf, I still get something from them. So this was a complete win-win for me.

As you’ve no doubt already guessed, each of these short stories is told from the first person perspective. We see through the narrator’s eyes, think their thoughts, feel their feelings and have their doubts.

”Happiness is always a relative thing. Don’t you think?”

It wasn’t until I’d completed the book that it really struck me, that each of these stories has to do with reminiscing. They are all set in the past, in a precise moment that made a strong emotional impact on the protagonist. Not necessarily the happiest or favourite time for them, but one that left enough of an imprint, to have them thinking about it years - or even decades - later. I wonder if having reached a certain age, Murakami (like I’d imagine most of us) is looking back on his life and experiences, and some pivotal moments stand out. There is a lot of pondering in this book. The what ifs, and where are they nows…

”But winning or losing doesn’t affect the weight and value of time. It’s the time, either way. A minute is a minute, an hour is an hour. We need to cherish it. We need to deftly reconcile ourselves with time, and leave behind as many precious memories as we can - that’s what’s the most valuable.”

It’s a funny thing, as I was reading one of the stories Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey, I had the most incredible sense of déjà vu. Which is something many of Murakami’s characters seem to suffer from a lot too. Time tends to be very elastic in his writing. The further I got into the story, the more familiar it became, and it all came back to me. It turns out this story was published in the New Yorker in 2020, which is fine. But I still can’t understand how I could possibly have read it there. One of life’s great mysteries. And even better that it’s tied in with Murakami.

I enjoyed this immensely, though as the stories progressed, I felt increasingly sadder reading them. As in a bittersweet melancholy. I can’t quite explain why. I guess it’s because the latter stories were more poignant, in that they really dug deep about who we once were versus who we now are. Are they both one and the same person? The line about ”But if it isn’t me in the mirror, I thought, then who is it?” - whoa!

As anyone who’s read Murakami knows, it’s next to impossible to write a cohesive or comprehensible review. As always I write way too much, so here’s a snapshot of the stories.

Do the circles ever meet? Beware invitations to piano recitals. The essence of life is the crème de la crème. Don’t settle for anything less.

”There’s nothing worth getting in this world that you can get easily.”

On a Stone Pillow
I can’t help but think of Margaret Attwood’s Stone Mattress. Both a stone pillow and a matching mattress. Imagine!

”Like two straight lines overlapping, we momentarily crossed at a certain point, then went our separate ways.”

Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova
Have you ever had dreams which are so real you feel like you’re really in them, to the point you can actually smell the coffee roasting? And yet you still know you’re dreaming? The moral of the story is, just buy the damned album!

” ‘Perry Como sings Jimi Hendrix, eh?’ Bird murmured, as if recalling. And chuckled again in a hoarse voice.”

With The Beatles
Always have a good book with you. You never know when you may have to read it out loud for somebody.

” ‘You’re very good at reading aloud,’ he said, sounding genuinely impressed. ‘Has anybody ever told you that?’”

Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey
I don’t think I’d feel quite comfortable having a monkey scrub my back in a spa. Even if he chose not to speak. Or brought me beer. Identity. What we do for love.

” ‘It’s gotten very cold these days, hasn’t it,’ the monkey commented.’”

Classical music evokes all sorts of emotions and interpretations. Smoke and mirrors. The proverbial tip of the iceberg. How much of what we see in others is their true self? Can men and women ever truly just be friends.

”All of us, more or less, wear masks. Because without masks we can’t survive in this violent world.”

The Yakult Swallows Poetry Collection
Cheering on the underdog can lead to great things.

”Prompted by something - fate, my astrological sign, blood type, prophecy, or a spell.’”

First Person Singular
Make sure that your suit and tie are from the same country of origin. Don’t mix and match, someone will notice. Make sure that the pages left in your book are just enough to read before you finish your vodka gimlet.

”And now here I was, a first person singular. If I’d chosen a different direction, most likely I wouldn’t be here. But still - who is that in the mirror?’”

Existential crises, jazz, love, misunderstandings, bars, music, unrequited love, angst, awkwardness, identity, aging, shadow and light, sweet and umami. ”Extreme love, extreme loneliness.’” And there was also a sighting of a calico cat.

It was interesting to note that Philip Gabriel is the translator (which he’s been on most of the Murakami books which I’ve read). I believe that a translator’s job isn’t an easy one, as they have to evoke the emotion and tone of the writer. Nuances are so difficult to move from one language to another. So much is dependent on getting the balance just right. It seems to me that he’s doing a sterling job to have worked on so many of Murakami’s works. I can’t help but wonder what sort of relationship they have? If they’ve met, if it’s purely professional or if a friendship has evolved. I don’t know why this particular book is making me “suddenly” think about this.

Yes, this was definitely worth the wait. I’m always happy to return to Murakami’s world. Though I get a sense, we may not be seeing more new works from him. This anthology seems like a bit of a winding back in some respects. I don't know why I feel this way. Hopefully I'm not correct.

”But even if love fades away, even if it’s unrequited, you can still hold onto the memory of having loved someone, of having fallen in love with someone. And that’s a valuable source of warmth.”

*** Buddy read with Boy Blue. It was good to do a buddy read with a fellow Sydneysider, who has haunted the same bookstores on lunch breaks that I have! Please make sure you have a look at Boy Blue’s review also https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ***
Profile Image for ij.
212 reviews171 followers
June 13, 2021
This is the second book I have read by the author. The first was his novella, The Strange Library. I enjoyed both books.

First Person Singular: Stories contains eight short stories. I enjoyed the pace of all the stories. Each story was colorful and had rhythm. This was a fun read, for me.

I have several of this author's books on my "to read" list. I am looking forward to reading them in the near future.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,470 reviews566 followers
June 18, 2021
[2.5] Did Murakami really write these stories? Or perhaps the collection was written by his mirror image, a not-quite-Murakami, a competent writer without wonder or soul. I detected a touch of philosophical intrigue that hints at Murakami but overall these mundane stories fall flat. I am rounding up to three stars because I just can't make myself give Murakami only 2 stars.
Profile Image for sAmAnE.
501 reviews86 followers
August 5, 2021
حوصله سر بر!!!!
کلا رئالیسم جادویی خیلی مورد علاقه من نیست، برای خوندن این کتاب به نظرم باید خیلی به آثار موراکامی علاقه داشته باشید، برای شروع خواندن آثارش اصلا مناسب نیست. جستار بود؟ خاطره بود؟ مجموعه داستان بود؟ این مشخص نبودن رو
دوست نداشتم. ترجمه بد نبود!
شاید یه زمانی دوباره بخونم و نظرم عوض بشه!
ولی الان چندان درخشان نبود.
Profile Image for Sam Quixote.
4,488 reviews12.8k followers
May 20, 2021
First Person Singular is the worst short story collection Haruki Murakami has put out yet! All of the stories are boring, unimaginative, and so unmemorable. I finished this yesterday and I’ve already forgotten over half of the stories here.

Cream is about a guy who goes to see a girl but ends up talking to an old geezer who says something dumb about cream. On a Stone Pillow is about another guy who hooks up with another girl who writes poetry. Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova is about a jazz fan who imagines he saw a fictional album where Charlie Parker, yes, plays Bossa Nova.

With The Beatles is about a guy who reads part of Akutagawa’s short story Spinning Gears to the brother of a girl he’s dating. Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey is about a talking monkey at an onsen who steals the identity documents of pretty women. Carnaval is about a man and an ugly woman who appreciate Schumann’s Carnaval but the woman turns out to be doing something illegal on the side.

The Yakult Swallows Poetry Collection is the only nonfiction piece here and it’s about Murakami’s lifelong love of the Yakult Swallows baseball team and an obscure self-published poetry collection of his. Reading some of the poems here, you can see why he had to self-publish, despite being a bestselling, internationally famous author. First Person Singular is about a guy who goes to a bar wearing a suit for no reason to read and drink and gets accosted by a woman.

If you’re wondering “... and?” or “so what?” to all of the above, then you’re experiencing what I experienced reading each one of these rubbish stories. Obviously there’s more to each than I’ve mentioned but, actually, it’s not much more. They really are that unremarkable, insubstantial and bland.

All the Murakami cliches are predictably here: jazz, loner guys hooking up with weird girls, something surreal (the talking monkey), literature, and The Beatles, with none of the usual wit or creativity to accompany them. It’s like reading somebody doing bad cover versions of Murakami’s storytelling style.

The stories are all told in the first person but they often are with Murakami so no idea why that’s worth highlighting with the title of the book. Underwhelming and unimpressive throughout, First Person Singular is an awful short story collection that I think even fans will struggle to enjoy - if you haven’t read it and want to read a good Murakami collection, check out after the quake instead.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews45 followers
June 18, 2021
I thoroughly enjoyed these stories. They made for great breakfast company with….handpicked bing cherries from our neighbors tree, and leisurely lounging around the house reading….on a very hot day… ….100 degrees outside; nice and cool inside.

“Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey”, was one of my favorite stories, (warm luscious hot springs - tea - and a thoughtful charming talking monkey), > the fantasy pleasure < …..yep, totally enjoyable …
….Actually, I thought all eight stories were marvelous….witty, creatively interesting, and unapologetically frothy, yet meritorious of insubstantial tittle-tattle narrative.

Psychologically astute fantasy, believable and surreal ….these stories go down like a spoonful of sugar.

Highly imaginable storytelling……themes of love, memories,(nostalgic and faulty), sacrifice, aging, youthful recollections, baseball, pop music, (The Beatles), jazz and classical music, old girlfriends, obsessions,and
a little egotistical indulgence.

Bittersweet musings & wisdom dialogue never hurt any of us, making these outlandish stories quite enjoyable.
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,053 reviews583 followers
June 26, 2021
Eight new short stories from a writer who I always find thought provoking, often surprising and occasionally unfathomable. I’m a big fan of Murakami’s novels, several of which would be amongst my all-time favourite books, but I’ve often found it hard to engage with his shorter pieces. I think it’s because at his best I find him to be such an immersive writer and I believe he needs a larger canvas to be able to provide such an experience. But any time I pick up something he’s written I know that it will cause me to pause, it will make me think.

Each of these tales is told in the first person. The narrator is sometimes identified as a writer and is perhaps the author himself, though he’s only identified as such in one story. A young man is invited to a piano recital by a girl he once knew only to find there is no recital. Instead he meets an old man who dangles a strange riddle which, though he tries, he’s unable to comprehend. Another young man meets a girl on a train and she sleeps with him at his small, messy apartment. She’s a writer of tanka poetry (poems comprising 31 syllables) and cries out another man’s name during sex. In these stories the interest is in the musings of the young man and the strange, off-beat interactions he has with the people he comes into contact with.

Sometimes he ruminates on women he’s met or become fixated on. In one he describes an ‘ugly’ girl who he found interesting, though he was not sexually attracted to her. They shared an interest in piano recitals and had deep conversations on the merits of various pieces and players. In another he recalls how he was attracted to a girl who carried an old Beatles album, though he only saw her once and never spoke with her.

Music crops up a lot in the stories - pop, classical and jazz - and my favourite concerns an article the narrator wrote whilst at university about a mythical jazz album that musician Charlie Parker recorded, along with a group of other legendary musicians. He went into great detail about each track and it seems that some were taken in by this wholly invented record. But years later he actually found a copy of the record whilst browsing in a second hand record store in New York. I was totally absorbed by this one – a perfect short story in my view.

In other stories he reflects on his love of baseball, a time he met a talking monkey (yes, this is Murakami so everything is up for grabs) and an occasion when came across a confrontational woman whilst having a quiet drink at a bar. Taken as a whole I really enjoyed the feeling of reflection on a life lived complete with its mysteries and missed opportunities. It’s a nuanced take, as is the way with this author, and I found it unsettling at times - but that’s part of the attraction here too. If you’re a Murakami fan then you’re sure to find something to like here and if you’re new to his writing then I think this isn't a bad place to start.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews870 followers
November 24, 2022
“The death of a dream can be, in a way, sadder than that of a living being. Sometimes it all seems so unfair.”

First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami review – meditations on ageing and memory | Haruki Murakami | The Guardian

Haruki Murakami's First Person Singular is collection of eight short stories told in the first person by a middle-aged man who reminisces about the past and, like Murakami himself, has an affinity for jazz and baseball. There is a clear blurring of fiction and memoir in a number of these stories that immediately made me take note. "Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey" feels very Murikami from the outset as it posits a reality that competes with what we think is possible: “Thanks for the drinks,” the monkey said, and happily gulped the cold beer. I drank some as well. Honestly, it felt odd to be seated next to a monkey, sharing a beer, but I guess you get used to it."

In hindsight, the narrator briefly considers that this was an illusion. However, since the hotel where he was staying didn't know anything about the monkey, he decides it more likely that the monkey is an off the books employee. There is a twist at the end that adds even more credibility to this reality. Really enjoyed this story. I also liked "Cream." It combines the awkwardness of youth with a strange encounter that can't be explained. "On a Stone Pillow" might be my favorite. In that story, the narrator reminisces about a one night stand and whether it had any meaning. I also felt "Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova" was strong. Overall, a really solid collection of Murakami short stories that makes you ponder and also think about his novels.
Profile Image for Seemita.
180 reviews1,589 followers
May 11, 2021
Banal – Mysterious – Inconsequential – Cryptic – Breezy – Therapeutic – Comforting : Among all these boats cradled this new book, making petite homes at one point and leaving the ocean to stretch the roof at another.

I wondered if the stories it carried bore the stamp of reality or the whiff of mendacity? An entire story hinged at an LP of With The Beatles in the hands of a young girl was too intimate to be fiction and yet, the expressive monkey, a staple of the Murakami world, of Shinagawa was too articulate to be a fact. Bouncing off stories imbued in jazz and baseball, chance meetings followed by no meetings at all, ordinary people with not-so-ordinary moments of truth, this Murakami felt like my own, with its familiar edges, polished and rough and sometimes, pricking with both teeth at once. Like in Carnaval - a ravishing piece of fiction; befitting the musical piece it donned, that classical gem from Robert Schumann. Carnaval is a story of two people (not romantically involved) meeting, bonding, gushing and departing over one, single piece of music. In its intricacies and renditions, its meandering cadence and elevating rhythm, they see their days and months dissolving, the world folding in and the music emerging like the whipped goodness after all the impure sediments retreat to the lows. And even though the climax jabs a twist into the notes, like a thirst left to its own accord, the story remains alluring, singing. This collection remains that way too.
When I couldn’t get the sensation in the real world, I would quietly let my memory of those feelings awaken inside me. In this way, memory became one of my most valued emotional tools, a means of survival, even. Like a warm kitty, softly curled inside an oversized coat pocket, fast asleep.
Profile Image for NILTON TEIXEIRA.
828 reviews258 followers
May 4, 2021
One word to describe this book: spellbinding.
Absolutely stunning!
I wish I could read Japanese, just to make sure that nothing was lost in translation. By the way, what a terrific translator!
This author is magnificent!
His passion is expressed between and within the lines with superb writing skills. His passion for music is absolutely marvellous!
This is a collection of 8 short stories. Seven were previously published on magazines or some periodicals publications. The last story, which is the title of the book, is a new release.
I can’t praise this book enough.
There are so many surreal elements present in these stories. He transformed something that is ordinary into extraordinary.
That simple.
Now I feel that I should re-read all of his books translated into English.
The only one I read in English was “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage”, another magnificent work.
Profile Image for Kay ☼.
1,968 reviews677 followers
April 30, 2021
My first book by Haruki Murakami!! I saw it was available and I'm familiar with the author's name (by sight) so I hit that borrow button. I didn't know they're short stories.... This could possibly be good or really bad. In general, I'm not too crazy with anthologies and I probably can't judge if I like the writing or not. We'll see!

1. Cream - 3⭐ Piano girl and the old man. Weird. Feels like author's childhood story. Goosebumps.
2. On a Stone Pillow - 4⭐ Poetry girl and another man's name. Just weird, but I want more.
3. Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova - 2⭐ Jazz, a bit reaching...
4. With the Beatles - 2⭐ Girlfriend who prefers easy listening. Can't say I care.
5. Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey - 3⭐ Talking monkey. What to believe?
6. Carnaval - 2⭐ The "beauty" of ugliest woman. So so.
7. The Yakult Swallows Poetry Collection - 2⭐ Baseball game. I don't care for this.
8. First Person Singular - 2⭐ WEIRD, What was this even about?

This was not a very good first experience to say the least. 2.5⭐
Profile Image for capture stories.
112 reviews64 followers
December 15, 2021
Haruki Murakami is an artist. His fiction long or short, brings to light the strangeness inherent in life. Book after book, its narrators, draw us with a wild cast of eccentric personalities, and strange stories of unusual experiences remain like an ancient enigma even after years later.

First Person Singular's eight stories are full of obsessions: jazz, classical, Beatles, baseball, and memories from perplexing young loves. Although cats are rare, a sophisticated talking monkey can fill the void.

Each story has a section where the narrator evaluates a girl's or woman's appeal left a slight impression of entitlement and disquieting concern, though never pointing the finger at the narrator but occasionally, and comically, at the men.

I was a little bit disappointed by the bittersweet taste of the majority collection of stories that did not get to me. However, Murakami's quiet reflections about people, places, and things, the inner monologues between pages, make his book oddly enchanting.
Profile Image for Roku Endo.
7 reviews4 followers
September 11, 2020
It has eight short stories and I enjoyed some of them.
I recognized I do not like his description of women. ちょっと癪に障るんだよなあ。
The women characters in his story seem very similar and he doesn’t seem to have an idea that he updates them.
I like “Shinagawa Zaru(a monkey at Shinagawa)” and “Poems about Yakulto Swallows”(his favourite baseball team).
He wrote that “it is important getting to used to losing” in “Poems about Yakulto”. I like this thought. We should enjoy the moment whether you win or lose.
And I just looked a result of today’s Yakult Swallows match. They lost.
Profile Image for Nad Gandia.
167 reviews36 followers
October 15, 2021
Llevo sin leer a Murakami una temporada y viene con uno de los formatos que mejor se le da y es el de las novelas cortas. La capacidad del escritor para comprimir sentimientos en pocas palabras es de una maestría absoluta. Un escritor de colores, y de la magia de lo cotidiano.
En esta antología de relatos, como era de esperar dado el título están escritos en primera persona del singular, aludiendo también a la etapa joven de los protagonistas. Una época en la que la mayoría de las ocasiones solo ha predominado el yo, como primera persona del singular.

1- Áspera Piedra, Fría Almohada: Al menos, las palabras permanecen a nuestro lado si tenemos suerte. Son seres fabulosos que trepan hasta lo alto de una escarpada cima con la llegada del atardecer y se ocultan en el interior de pequeños agujeros excavados en la tierra a su medida, borrando toda prueba de su existencia en medio del bramido del viento. Con la llegada del amanecer, el viento amaina y las palabras supervivientes se asoman sigilosas, en actitud tímida y remisa, con tendencia a la polisemia, suficientemente preparadas, no obstante, para ejercer de testigos del mundo con imparcialidad y honestidad. Al ser humano, sin embargo, no le será fácil hallar, recabar y conservar vocablos. Para ello tendrá que recurrir en ocasiones al propio sacrificio incondicional, a apoyar la cabeza sobre la áspera y fría superficie de una almohada de piedra y ofrecer su alma bajo la luz blanca de la luna.´

No me deja de sorprender este estilo, un estilo en el que a través de pocas palabras, evoca sentimientos de lo más profundos. En este caso, el de una persona que nota que los años le pesan. Evocando los recuerdos que hemos tenido todos en algún momento de nuestra vida, cuando vienen por un momento muy concreto y por un instante, echaba de menos a Murakami y qué menos que empezar por este buen relato. La influencia de Raymond Carver se nota en todo este relato.

2- Flor y nata: A veces he creído dar con respuestas a hechos inexplicables, que luego se han revelado falaces a medida que he pensado más en ellas. Y así, tras sucesivas tentativas, he concluido que ese extraño círculo en cuyo interior habitan muchos centros, y cuya extensión no está acotada por línea curva perimetral alguna, se halla en nuestra conciencia, en nuestro propio interior. Es el círculo que nos permite amar con el corazón, sentir profunda compasión, abrazar utopías, encontrar la fe (o algo cercano a ella). En dichos casos, aceptamos la paradoja del círculo con naturalidad, por formar parte de nosotros mismos.´
Un relato al más puro estilo Murakami, con el equilibrio perfecto de realidad mágica, casi onírica y llena de colores. En este relato nos lleva a una muy buena conclusión sobre la vida, como en el anterior, vista desde atrás. Una última vista atrás que nos evoca lo mejor de nosotros mismos.

3- Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova: En este relato nos habla del poder de la música a través del tiempo, lo que nos evoca cuando éramos jóvenes o cuando nos dedicamos plenamente a escucharla, hasta cuando los artistas que escuchábamos ya no están ahí, pero que terminan por volver a nosotros cuando los escuchamos, o cuando recordamos aquella música que tanto nos encantaba de jóvenes.

4- With The Beatles: `Sin embargo, y pese a lo doloroso que me resulta reconocerlo, nunca llegué a escuchar, estando junto a ella, aquel cascabel que ya había tintineado en mis oídos con anterioridad. Probé a aguzar el oído lo máximo posible, pero no hubo manera de percibir aquel sonido. Por desgracia, así fue. Por otro lado, con la chica que conocí en Tokio sí sentí el cascabeleo. Que suene o no suene no depende de nuestra voluntad, no es un fenómeno que podamos manejar y hacer que ocurra a nuestro antojo atendiendo a razones éticas o lógicas. Es algo que sucede en lo más profundo de nuestra conciencia,o, tal vez mejor, de nuestra alma, de una manera que trasciende a nuestras decisiones y va más allá de nuestra voluntad.´

Encuentros casuales y amores pasajeros que terminan por trascender en un momento concreto en el futuro. Con una banda sonora de fondo como los Beatles, no puede más que llamar al recuerdo, a los amores pasados, y errores que nos inducen a conversaciones de lo más extrañas. En resumen, como en todas las historias de este libro. Una bonita mirada al pasado, a un pasado que se ha vivido con plenitud, sea en lo bueno y en lo malo, para terminar trascendiendo en el futuro que nos queda.
Una buena historia, cargada de emoción y con un ritmo narrativo equilibrado y sutil.

5- Antología poética de los Yakult Swallows de Tokio: `A la vez que ruego por la victoria, también me preparo, en el fondo de mi corazón para la derrota´

Hasta el momento el relato más semi autobiográfico de esta antología. A través de los recuerdos en los partidos de béisbol, Murakami nos traza los recuerdos más vividos que lo han acompañado durante los partidos. Desde sus primeras novelas, hasta la muerte de su padre y los recuerdos de su padre. Acompaña el relato, también, una antología de poemas que él mismo reconoce como mediocres, pero que aun así, son esbozos de lo que ocurre durante los partidos.

6- Carnaval: `También todos nosotros, absolutamente todos, llevamos puesta una careta, porque, en mayor o menor medida, la necesitamos para vivir. Quedaríamos expuestos a la intemperie de este mundo despiadado si no nos ocultásemos, en parte al menos, bajo el escudo protector de una máscara. Hay ángeles bajo máscaras demoníacas y hay demonios bajo máscaras angelicales, y resulta imposible distinguirlos. Tal era nuestra condición y así se manifiesta en la fiesta de carnaval´

Como bien dice el título y el párrafo mencionado este relato, funciona en torno a las facetas que tenemos ocultas. En este caso, nuestro personaje conoce a una completa desconocida de la cual no sabe nada, ella le muestra solo una faceta, desconociendo las otras facetas que esconde se lleva una sorpresa, grata o no, depende de quien lo lea, pero, desde luego da para reflexionar. Dobles identidades, música y amor oculto tras una máscara de carnaval.

7- Confesiones de un mono de Shinagawa: `Un recuerdo, por nítido y claro que sea, nunca logrará imponerse al intransigente avance del tiempo, que todo lo borra. ´

El cuento más fantástico de la antología, nos habla sobre la pérdida de la memoria, y la propia identidad a medida que este olvido se vuelve cada vez más grande. Sobre el volver a encontrarse a uno mismo a través de la casualidad y los recuerdos que quedan desperdigados por nuestra vida, poco a poco. Es el relato que personalmente menos me ha gustado, por decir menos dentro del nivelazo que tiene esta antología. Echaba de menos una buena antología de Murakami. Junto con el ensayo, los cuentos de Murakami son a mi parecer exquisito y de una delicadeza y magia únicos.

8- Primera persona del singular: `Adelante, ahogate en tu propia vergüenza´

La última historia de la antología y la que da título a la obra. En esta ocasión se adentra en el egoísmo, al menos me lo ha parecido a mí y sus consecuencias, es de suponer que la primera persona del singular evoque eso, un título que se lo tiene merecida tanto la obra, como las historias. Es de las que más me ha gustado, la más enigmática y con el poder en cada palabra que expresa. Aludiendo a la soledad del propio egoísmo.

En resumen, una muy buena antología se conozca o no a Murakami, tengo un cariño muy especial por este escritor, ya que era uno de los favoritos de mi padre y esto, en una reseña no deja de ser extraño. Pero uno de los cuentos que le narré a mi padre antes de fallecer fue un cuento de Murakami. Quizás por eso, es un escritor que tiene una fuerza extraordinaria sobre mí, quizás su magia si llegué más allá de esta vida, puede que, en ocasiones sean las palabras precisas en momentos concretos lo que nos haga recordar lo felices que fuimos, o simplemente puede, que las palabras recobran todo su significado con lo mejor de nuestros recuerdos, con lo mejor de nosotros mismos, para una eternidad que nos espera, con el resonar eterno de las palabras que nos hacen para siempre únicos.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Cule.Jule.
81 reviews61 followers
April 11, 2022
Acht in sich abgeschlossene Kurzgeschichten, verteilt auf insgesamt 217 Seiten, die ich am Wochenende durchgelesen und genoßen habe und für mich als Haruki Murakami Fan einfach zu kurz waren. Es sind die klassischen Murakami-Erzählungen bestehend aus den Themen Musik, Baseball, Nostalgie, Philosophie und vergangenen Liebschaften kombiniert mit dem Aufeinandertreffen von Realität und Fiktion, sodass sich der Leser letztendlich ein eigenes Bild von den Geschichten machen muss. Da wäre zum Einen ein sprechender Affe, der auf eigenen Beinen stehen muss. Und zum Anderen eine Frau, die nach dem Diebstahl ihres Führerscheins ihren Namen nicht mehr weiß. Der Täter war eventuell der Affe?! Und warum existiert eine niemals aufgenommene Platte in einem Second-Hand-Plattenladen in New York?

Ich hatte einfach ein tolles Lesevergnügen und kann auch dieses Buch von ihm nur empfehlen.

Das Buch ist in meinen Augen für alle diejenigen, die den Autor kennenlernen wollen, ein perfekter Einstieg.
Profile Image for Boris.
421 reviews155 followers
October 19, 2022
Това е един от най-хубавите сборици с разкази не само на Мураками, а изобщо. Всеки един от разказите принадлежи плътно към останалите. Нямаше нищо излишно и честно казано си личеше, че са писани със сърце и душа. Рядко се случва да приема така добре и без критики сборник с разкази.

За пореден път чувството е, че слизаш в заешката дупа на Мураками, в която звучи джаз, Моцарт, Шуман, Бийтълс, разговаряш с маймуни и се чудиш непрестанно. Но някак беше много по-вкусно от последните му няколко книги. Дано продължава да пише така хубаво.
Profile Image for Sarah Bookmarked.
84 reviews423 followers
April 6, 2021
Ich begreife den Zauber von MURAKAMI nicht recht. Zwei, drei Geschichten las ich gern, obwohl auch von denen kaum etwas hängen bleiben wird. Es sind die typischen MURAKAMI Motive dabei: Passive, leicht verwirrte Durchschnittsmänner als Protagonisten und deren Begegnung mit Frauen (die fast ausschließlich auf Basis körperlicher Merkmale in schön und hässlich aufgeteilt werden, was mir spätestens beim dritten Mal gehörig auf den Keks ging), sprechende Tiere, ein Verschwimmen zwischen Realität und Traum sowie völlig abstruse Szenen und Dialoge, für die man wohl jede/n Jungautor/mit Kritik überhäuft hätte. Am Ende bleibt für mich nichts übrig und ich lese nicht des Lesens willen, sondern möchte am Ende zumindest irgend etwas aus einem Buch mitnehmen, erkennen, verstehen können, das über reine Unterhaltung hinaus geht. Alles andere ist Fast Food und hinterlässt ein ähnlich ernüchterndes Gefühl.

Aber vielleicht ist MURAKAMI genau das, eine kurze Auszeit und seine Bücher keine Herausforderung sondern eher verlässliche Lieferanten des 'Willkommen zu Hause' Gefühls für alle Fans seines Werks.
Profile Image for Teresa.
Author 8 books787 followers
December 15, 2021
When I realized this collection contained a story titled “With the Beatles,” I checked it out almost immediately. The story is poignant and affecting, worth the read, as they all are. But I think the best story might be one I’d read already, “The Yakult Swallows Poetry Collection,” which is about Murakami’s love of baseball. Its penultimate paragraph is also affecting, so human, but I won’t quote it here: It deserves its space in the story and coming upon it the second time was as good as the first. It’s likely the only purely autobiographical story of the bunch, although others probably contain autobiographical elements. All of the stories are written in that I-novel way that invites you to believe the writer is telling the truth, no matter how fantastical.

I now need to read his Men Without Women. How did I forget it contains a story called “Drive My Car”?
Profile Image for Kate.
1,233 reviews2,206 followers
April 2, 2021

I want you all to know that I literally calculated the rating and it came to EXACTLY a 3 star so

Video review to come on release date April 6!
Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books928 followers
May 3, 2021
First, a confession. All along, as I was reading, I congratulated myself on finally reading a book by this heavyweight writer from Japan. Only when I reached the end and returned to GR did I realize my mistake.

Through the entire short story collection, I thought I was reading a Kazuo Ishiguro, who I endlessly confuse with Haruki Murakami. And it so happens that I have read a Murakami. Long ago. And was underwhelmed, even though that book seems quite popular. I'm speaking of the Beatles-like title, Norwegian Wood.

Now that this nonsense is cleared up, I see that I still have to read an Ishiguro and again was underwhelmed by Murukami. Story after story, I never warmed to any of the characters. All are casually delivered, making them reader-friendly, I suppose, and it's clear the writer knows his way around a sentence, too. But I never felt invested. Compelled. Concerned. Instead, it was a classic case of technical merit being far supreme to artistic interpretation.

Weird, too. A lot of plainly weird stories. And old-school that I haven't seen in some time, with so many of the female characters being called cute or beautiful or ugly or somewhat ugly. I mean, the characters (male) seem to be aware that looks aren't everything, but their awareness doth protest too much.

Let's see. A few stories about girlfriends from the past. One about a talking monkey. One about a non-existent Charlie Parker jazz album wherein Charlie plays Bossa Nova tunes (even though the Bossa Nova era would not dawn until after Parker's dusk). One where a character chats up an ugly lady who loves Schumann like he does. Another where bad poetry is written while watching a bad baseball team. And so on and so forth in a readable but not terribly interesting kind of way.

If you don't like stories that play fast and loose with reality, you might not like this collection. Some are grounded in reality, even if the situations and people are odd bodkins, but others, like the monkey and the last where the protagonist (who appears suspiciously like Murakami himself) is verbally accosted by a woman he *thinks* he doesn't know (though she seems to know him). It ends with him coming out of the bar into a surreal scene that would make Hieronymus Bosch beam.

In any event, like Murakami, I like music -- esp. classical. I made a Spotify playlist from the titles he dropped throughout. He even name-dropped a lot of jazz and 60s pop titles, but really, I already have my Memory Playlists to make me young again.

Still, discovering some new (and some old) classical works has got to be SOMEwhat redeeming, no? Yes. Worth a star right there, in fact!
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
861 reviews2,188 followers
August 2, 2021

First Person Singular Perspectives

As the title suggests, these eight stories are told from the first person singular perspective.

The narrator is an "I", from which it can be (perhaps wrongly) inferred that there is just one narrator, and that that narrator might even be the author, Haruki Murakami.

The first person perspective potentially unifies what would otherwise have been diverse, but is this a false unity?

If we discount the inference that the narrator is the author himself, then there is still the possibility that there is more than one narrator, that each of these "I's" is different from the others. So the question is: how much is to be read into the adjective "singular"? Does it mean that there is only one narrator (the same one for all of the stories)? Or does it just differentiate the singular "I" from the plural "we"?

Memories of Intimacy

Apart from the sense of unity, the first person narrative contributes to a sense of intimacy in the stories.

The narrator is speaking to a younger audience member. He's delving back into his past, searching through his memories, choosing which ones to explore and confide in us. He doesn't so much long for (the/his) past, as long to tell us about it, for our (mutual) benefit.

He's trying to establish a sense of trust, a recognition of his sincerity, perhaps because if he creates a framework of sincerity, he might also have (re-)discovered authenticity, a (or the) truth about his own life, beyond just the fact that there is or might be a memory.

If he can tell us, then what he tells us might be real, true, actual. For both of us. We, too, get to own the subject matter of the story, not just as a reader or listener, but as an experiencer. It becomes our story, too. We become part of the first person plural possessive.


About the Narrator(s)

So, what do we learn about the narrator(s), apart from the content of his/their memories, narratives and fictions?

Individually/collectively, he/they:

* was born in Kyoto;

* grew up in Kobe;

* was not good looking or a star athlete;

* was not particularly studious or extroverted at school;

* had his first girlfriend in high school;

* went to college in Tokyo;

* washed dishes in a restaurant;

* liked jazz music, particularly Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Art Pepper and Thelonious Monk;

* liked the Beatles;

* hung around record stores;

* got married;

* is faithful to a wife who isn't jealous of other women in his life;

* eventually became a writer;

* had his first novel, "Hear the Wind Sing", published in 1978/1979, when he was 29;

* was a fan of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows baseball team;

* self-published a book of poetry called "The Yakult Swallows Poetry Collection" in 1982;

* published the novel "A Wild Sheep Chase" in 1982; and

* liked cocktails in bars and dark beer at the baseball.

These characteristics sound like the narrator is closely modelled on Murakami himself. However, the stories aren't meant to be strictly autobiographical. While they might be inspired by real-life events, they're meant to be fictionalised (and in some cases, surrealised) and at least once removed from his own life.

"Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova"

The quality of the stories faded towards the end. My favourite story was the third, "Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova".

The narrator is a jazz fan who publishes a review of a fictitious album ostensibly recorded by Charlie Parker eight years after his death (when bossa nova was first in fashion).

The story is the most Borgesian of Murakami's stories/novels that I can recall reading. Having written the review, the narrator can't believe it when he finds an album in a record store that has the same title and track listing as the one he mentioned in his review. It's too expensive, and he decides not to buy it, but changes his mind, and comes back later in the week, only to find that it isn't (and has never been) there any more. Who made the album? Why did they make it? Had they read his review? Where did it go, if nobody else bought it?

Is this a lesson not to turn your back on a temptation, when it comes to music, movies, books and clothes? It mightn't be there tomorrow, when you change your mind.

Similarly, memories mightn't be there tomorrow (or any other time in the future), if you don't record them or write them down.


Some readers have been highly critical of the story called "Carnaval", in which the narrator remarks of a woman -

"Of all of the woman I've known until now, she was the ugliest."

I think this criticism is misguided. It seems to be based on the one sentence followed by a few paragraphs. The story actually contains quite an extensive discussion of the aesthetics and ethics of the narrator's choice of words.

The narrator forms a close (intellectual) friendship with the woman, notwithstanding her appearance. There is no sense in which she is potentially or merely a sex object (even his wife is confident of that):

"Later on, I learned the hard way how shallow and superficial my thinking had been...

"She was so friendly and straightforward, though, that I was embarrassed by my initial reaction...

"It was precisely the gap between her physical appearance and her refinement that created her own special brand of dynamism. And she was fully aware of that power, and was able to use it as needed..."

Keeping Abreast of Your Past

As with his earlier fiction, there is an occasional preoccupation with women's appearance and breasts. However, I don't read it as the obsession of an under- or over-sexed 72 year old man (as at 2021).

Once again, Murakami's narrators are accessing their memories of the past, when they first had social and sexual relationships. He is trying to capture his remembrance of things past, in a way that young readers and people can identify with and relate to at that stage of their lives:

"We experienced all sorts of new things together, and shared some wonderful times, the kind that are possible only when you're in your teens."


On A Stone Pillow
[Based on the Words of Murakami]

On a stone pillow,
I dreamed I held a poet
Naked in my arms.

Profile Image for L.S. Popovich.
Author 2 books324 followers
April 14, 2021
Not a good entry point for new readers. Along with his last collection, Men Without Women, in a lot of ways, it feels like Murakami is riding his own coattails. To sum up my thoughts: This collection doesn't enhance Murakami's reputation, neither does it compare to his first 3 great collections in English.

I'm not a Murakami basher. I would much rather melt Updike, Mailer, Roth, and Auster with the magnifying glass. If you are a true Murakami fan, there is enough in this collection to warrant a purchase.

The first problem I had with the collection was that more than half the book's length was available through the New Yorker and Granta. Murakami has described his American agent as greedy, for pestering him into selling stories to the New Yorker. He claims she would just sell all of his laundry lists to them for a quick buck - And they would buy them. (I'm paraphrasing). Those stories are:

"With the Beatles"
"Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey"
"Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova" (Granta)

These aren't bad per se, but they led me to believe he was scraping the barrel for leftovers. We all know the author is obsessed with music. That was amply demonstrated by his book Absolutely on Music, along with the motifs found through his entire oeuvre, but the theme appears here at the expense of other concerns. "Confessions..." immediately put me in mind of his story "A Shinagawa Monkey," from Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. It was entertaining. An homage. A return to the whimsy we have come to expect. A whimsy missing from every other story in this book.

Much of Murakami's charm lies in his quiet reflections, the conversation between oddball characters, and internal monologues flowing through his meandering plots like cream through coffee. In the end, I found that the bulk of this collection tasted bitter. The main characters all felt the same - they are all first person singular narrators, borrowing heavily from Murakami's autobiographical reminiscences. I get that this was the connective tissue of the collection, but again, it wasn't particularly moving. Most of the stories revolve around an epiphany, lack magical realism, smack of commentary, and go down dry and scratchy.

Nonetheless, like Cortázar or Bolaño, I often feel like I could read anything - even laundry lists - from these authors. The minor works are still worth having. All their interviews and conversations are interesting. They invite the reader into their presence. They have a warm and welcoming tone. Murakami's cryptic, passive-aggressive tweets, as infrequent as they are, also seem to have an ominous power for some reason. There is a mystique, half of which may be imaginary, or the product of wishful thinking. We all want another large, impressive novel from Murakami, but I'm beginning to doubt we will get one. Rather, the marketing team seems more interested in spoon-feeding us these slim collections, tapering us off the Murakami addiction with diminishing returns.

The other stories here are:
"On a Stone Pillow"
"The Yakult Swallows Poetry Collection"
and "First Person Singular"

Of these, I only found the first one of the four compelling. "On a Stone Pillow" along with the Yakult Swallows one, contain poems. Adding poems is a new device for him. The stories are slow, melancholy, nostalgic, but a bit bland. I probably suffer from overexposure at this point.

When are we going to get official translations of his earlier stories? - I'm thinking of "Lexington Ghosts" and "Donutization" and dozens of others - there have been bootleg translations floating around for quite some time. What we really need is another fat novel to boost his standing, showcase that imagination he has been hiding, and justify the author's claims that he spends several hours per day writing, between his daily marathon run and 12-hour jazz-record binge.
Profile Image for 8stitches 9lives.
2,793 reviews1,627 followers
April 6, 2021
As a huge fan of Murakami, I snapped this up but reminded myself that short story collections can be hit and miss and more subjective than long-form novels; in fact, they frequently are, however, I thoroughly enjoyed this pithy and riveting selection. Who am I, who have I been, who will I be? These are the questions that preoccupy the first-person narrators of the eight stories in First Person Singular, the new short story volume by world best-selling author Haruki Murakami, who has been acclaimed by critics and audiences. After his epic novel The Murder of Commendatore, he turns back to the short form and yet remains true to his universe: His incredibly elegant classic stories take us into a world of nostalgic memories of youth, past love affairs, philosophical reflections, literature, music and baseball. They are about failed relationships, fictional records, the Beatles, Schumann and a talking monkey.

Heartbreakingly melancholy, captivatingly intelligent and tragicomic in the best sense of the word are these stories, which casually play with the boundary between fiction and reality and always know how to surprise. If you enjoy Murakami's often madcap, always unpredictable and sometimes ambiguous stories then this is an anthology of allegorical tales with plenty of pizazz. Beautifully written, he has always managed to make the most mundane, quotidian activities thoroughly engrossing to read about. Three of the five stories presented - Cream, With the Beatles and Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey - originated from articles some years ago and the remaining five are exclusive to this anthology. First person singular is a tender, touching book that lingers for a long time: a real Murakami. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Hani.mnt.
18 reviews4 followers
February 6, 2022
خب منی که طرفدار پروپاقرص رئالیسم جادویی‌ موراکامی هستم چی بگم جز اینکه غرق شدم تو تک‌تک داستانای این کتاب و کلی کیف کردم! ^^
"بر بالین سنگی" ، "با بیتلز" و "کارناوال" رو بیشتر از بقیه دوست داشتم.
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