Men without women tend to oversleep. Men without women sometimes forget to brush their teeth. Men without women like to sit and count stars. Men without women often wonder about nothing much at all. But enough about me, let’s take a look at Murakami’s latest short story collection, giving us seven tales of solo souls, and the women that they meet. So, not quite without, but not entirely there.
Haruki Murakami is a master of magic realism, taking surrealism as a standard rather than something to be freaking out over. In this collection we have a lonely jazz cafe plagued by snakes, a reverse Kafka Metamorphosis, and the desires that come from breaking and entering houses, all told without making much of a statement about the oddities that pop up in conversation, through actions. Instead, it just lets the characters tick on by, pour their coffee, sit back and soak in worlds that are never quite right, often trapped within an overbearing sadness.
Women are plentiful in the collection, but they are never truly connected to the protagonists in these stories, instead acting as anchors, as paths into further desires. The men can reach out and touch these women, but as close as they get, it’s as if their fingers are simply brushing through their skin, rather than against it. They can talk about love when there is an absence of it, and they can promise salvation, with no intentions of ever fully giving it.
That’s just men without women.