Summary and book reviews of First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami

First Person Singular

by Haruki Murakami

First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami X
First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Apr 2021, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Book Summary

A mind-bending new collection of short stories from the internationally acclaimed, Haruki Murakami.

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

Philosophical and mysterious, the stories in First Person Singular all touch beautifully on love and solitude, childhood and memory...all with a signature Murakami twist.

Excerpt
First Person Singular

I hardly ever wear suits. At most, maybe two or three times a year, since there are rarely any situations where I need to get dressed up. I may wear a casual jacket on occasion, but no tie, or leather shoes. That's the type of life I chose for myself, so that's how things have worked out.

Sometimes, though, even when there's no need for it, I do decide to wear a suit and tie. Why? When I open my closet and check out what kind of clothes are there (I have to do that or else I don't know what kind of clothes I own), and gaze at the suits I've hardly ever worn, the dress shirts still in the dry cleaner's plastic garment bags, and the ties that look brand new, no trace of ever having been used, I start to feel apologetic toward these clothes. Then I try them on just to see how they look. I experiment with various tie knots to see if I still remember how to do them. Including one making a proper dimple. The only time I do all this is when I'm home alone. If ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Each story features a narrator reflecting on a memory from the past in a state of ambiguous longing — not with a desire to recapture something they once had, but with a vague awareness that they missed something critical at the time the events occurred. They are detectives looking for clues in the ephemera of their pasts from a present that is generally undefined. There's an electric potency to Murakami's writing. The plots are tightly constructed in neat arcs, the themes are elegantly realized, the narrators' feelings of longing resonate...continued

Full Review Members Only (686 words).

(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

Los Angeles Times
Each story is like the greenery filler in a grocery store bouquet: stiff and charmless, background fodder, indistinct organic matter. They’re like copies of copies of copies of Murakami’s older work; all the specificity and vivacity is blurred out. The women are rubbed down into featureless nubs, the men deflated caricatures — popped balloons. The only appeal left to make to the reader is the brand name on the cover.

Washington Post
Murakami, ever droll, has put together eight stories told through the first-person singular perspective. But while it’s a conceit, in the hands of Murakami, it’s also the means to inspiring ends, thanks to its memorable voices — including a talking monkey who walks into a spa.

BookPage
As one of the standard-bearers of contemporary magical realism, Murakami has traveled deep into the hearts and minds of both his characters and his readers. In First Person Singular, he offers eight new stories, all told in first person—hence the title—as perhaps memoir, perhaps fiction. For example, “The Yakult Swallows Poetry Collection” finds a baseball-loving writer named Haruki Murakami musing on his favorite team and the ties that bind us together. Murakami is always blurring lines, and here it’s left up to the reader to decide what’s real. By distorting reality, the author creates a special closeness to his audience, and he acknowledges this relationship with intelligence and grace.

Oprah Daily
The versatile and prolific Murakami collects eight first-person stories that affirm his obsessions—American pop music and magical realism, baseball and sex—yet break new literary ground. From a messy hookup to an imaginary Charlie Parker album to a monkey masseur, the Japanese maestro taps the weirdness of the everyday, exposing conflicts that simmer within us all.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Murakami's engrossing collection offers a crash course in his singular style and vision...These shimmering stories are testament to Murakami's talent and enduring creativity.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A new collection of stories from the master of the strange, enigmatic twist of plot...An essential addition to any Murakami fan's library.

Booklist (starred review)
Whether in his epic-scale novels or in his shorter works, much of Murakami's appeal has always come from the beguiling way in which his characters react to wildly fantastical events in the most matter-of-fact manner, ever ready to accept how the twists and turns of everyday life can blend into more audacious alternate realities...Masterful.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

Ryūnosuke Akutagawa In the short story "With the Beatles" from his collection First Person Singular, Haruki Murakami refers to the writer Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. Akutagawa was born in 1892 in Tokyo's Kyōbashi district. His mother was mentally ill, and his father was unable to take care of him, so he was sent to live with an uncle. Often sickly as a child, he became a voracious reader, a habit that continued into adulthood and laid the foundation for his writing career. At 21, Akutagawa began studying English literature at the Imperial University of Tokyo and founded a literary journal with friends called Shinshichō ("New Thought"). They published translations of foreign writers in addition to their own original work.

In 1915, Akutagawa ...

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