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First Person Singular: Stories

Review

First Person Singular: Stories

written by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel

Haruki Murakami must win a Nobel Peace Prize in Literature at some point. At first the medal will be accepted by a talking monkey who will raise a toast to the imaginative author with a craft beer in hand. The esteemed audience will look around and, unsure of what to do next, will raise their own crystal goblets to share in the celebration of one of the world’s most creative and out-there writers.

Murakami’s mind palace is replete with music, art, animals, anthropomorphized objects and the last meal you ate. His world is our world, observed and writ large, a massive explosion of all that is and will be part of the world in which we live and will leave behind someday. FIRST PERSON SINGULAR is a collection of short stories that, in one way or another, continues the unique and harnessed imaginative wanderings of one of the greatest minds of world literature.

"FIRST PERSON SINGULAR is yet another exciting adventure with one of literature’s greatest adventurers. Enjoy in small doses, and celebrate that Murakami continues to grace us all with such singularly thoughtful work."

I mention the talking, beer-drinking monkey because he stands front and center in this collection. He wears a long-sleeved I LOVE NEW YORK t-shirt with gray sweatpants and waxes poetic about beer, work and the lack of sexual desire he feels for female monkeys. “Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey” is one of the funniest and most heartrending stories Murakami has ever written. But did his meeting over drinks actually happen? Does this monkey exist in real life? Of course, as in most of his work, we can’t be sure, and he acts as if he can’t be sure, either. The tricks he plays on us are ones that he plays on himself. To that end, he crafts imaginings that hit us in the heart and the funny bone in equal measure.

In “Cream,” Murakami is pursuing a relationship with a girl as a young man and isn’t sure that this is what he really wants to do. Sitting with flowers for her at a piano recital he isn’t happy to be at, he wonders aloud how his musings are interrupted by a lone voice from out of nowhere that carries words of wisdom for him. Did he hear this voice outside of himself, or is it his soul speaking to him? Again, the fun lies in not knowing what he wants us to think is real. He is a trickster fashioning moments from madness and presenting them as facts for us to piece together.

The bizarre headspace that Murakami puts you in will feel right at home for those of us who have been hanging on every word he has ever written (yes, I’m a longtime fan). For those of you who have not yet discovered the magic and furor of his wild mind, FIRST PERSON SINGULAR will present the perfect opportunity for the two of you to get acquainted. In short, brilliantly sharpened strokes, you, too, will fall under the spell of his literary madness. This is the Area 51 of modern world literature --- there are secrets that you have heard of, but do you really believe them? Try it and find out. You won’t be sorry.

FIRST PERSON SINGULAR is yet another exciting adventure with one of literature’s greatest adventurers. Enjoy in small doses, and celebrate that Murakami continues to grace us all with such singularly thoughtful work.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on April 30, 2021

First Person Singular: Stories
written by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel

  • Publication Date: April 6, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Short Stories
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 0593318072
  • ISBN-13: 9780593318072