Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Elephant Vanishes

What do you say about Haruki Murakami? I was introduced to Murakami by the book shop owner of the Mumbai airport. He almost forced the Murakami on to me saying that I will like it. I was very skeptical as I started reading my first Murakami (Hard Boiled Wonderland and End of the World) but soon I was hooked to his writing style.

His writing has poetry in it and you can almost taste, smell and see what he wants you to feel. His stories also are pretty esoteric in nature in the sense that they do not have a clear beginning, middle and end. The trick of Murakami's stories are that they force you to think about them and slowly peel away the layers as you reach the gist of the story. Cliched as it may sound, reading his stories reveal different things to you everytime.

Now I am a great believer in the fact that a story should have a clear purpose and objective and must have a beginning, middle and end. I ideally do not like stories that seem to go all over the place and don't seem to say anything specific. This was a reason why I was surprised with myself that I like Murakami so much. Post the first book, I have read many of his books including Sputnik Sweetheart, Blind Willow Sleeping Woman, After the Quake & What I talk about when I talk about running.

I recently finished reading 'The Elephant Vanishes' which is again a collection of short stories. Like most of his short stories some of them are brilliant, some average and some that just don't make any sense. Of course these are very personal opinions and may not apply to you. So let's see how the stories pan out with my ratings for each of them.
  1. The Wind Up Bird and Tuesdays Women (2/5): This falls under the 'What the.....' category. Its a bad way to start a book and I have no clue what the story meant or is supposed to mean. In fact all I remember is that I rated it 2/5 because I didn't quite like it.
  2. The Second Bakery Attack (3/5):Explores relationships between a couple and how some emotions shared can lead to interesting consequences. The metaphor that Murakami uses about the volcano under the sea to describe the conflicting emotions in the central character's mind is really awesome.
  3. The Kangaroo Communique (2/5):Didn't understand. Starts off well, engages you in the middle but loses track somewhere.
  4. On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April morning (4/5): One of the best love stories. What if you met the person of your dreams, didn't believe in it and wanted to test out the theory?
  5. Sleep (3.5/5):What would happen if you just couldn't sleep and if you didn't need sleep? The story explores some interesting emotions, dwells into realm of reality and semi-consciousness but ends rather abruptly.
  6. The fall of the Roman Empire, The 1881 Indian uprising, Hitler's Invasion of Poland, and The realm of raging winds (4/5): Nothing is as it seems. The story does not talk about any one of the occasions but rather the author tags his daily diary entry with things that he can remember them by. Very interesting story.
  7. Lederhosen (3/5): What drives a woman to just divorce her husband of many years when he asks for a simple gift? It forces you to think about how you take your relationships for granted.
  8. Barn Burning (3/5): If faced with a prior knowledge that someone is going to act on a act of vandalism, what would you do? Will you scout the area to find out if everything is OK and obsess about it? Makes you think about the times when you obsessed about inconsequential things that don't matter in your life.
  9. The Little Green Monster (3/5): Explores the power of the mind over things that initially frighten you.
  10. Family Affair (4/5): Everyone will immediately identify with this story as each one of us sizes up and tries to categorise members of our family or a possible new entrant in the family.
  11. Window (4/5): Explores Murakami's favorite topic of loneliness and how a woman copes with it. Can a young man who has no connection to her be able to fill the gap?
  12. TV People (3/5): What if you can notice things that other people don't? It explores the idea of intuition and suppressed emotions.
  13. A slow boat to China (4/5): Explores the effect of different people at different times in one's life.
  14. The Dancing Dwarf (5/5): Can compromises ruin your life? Explores how a simple act of compromise to get something can affect your life adversely.
  15. The Last lawn of the afternoon (3/5): Again explores loneliness and what people do to fill the gap.
  16. The Silence (5/5): Explores how a single wrong act can have long lasting consequences and change your life, for better or worse.
  17. The Elephant Vanishes (4/5): Explores how certain important things at one time can diminish over time and lose their importance.
Overall a really good book with some brilliant stories that make up for the average ones.

A 7/10 rating!

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