I have not read anything else by Murakami. I hit on this collection of short stories while working on a writing assignment for my creative writing course. It will of course do wonderful within the short stories challenge that I signed up to and so this is now part of my list.
Some of the stories are quite surreal and describe fairly ordinary experiences in a mesmerising way that make you wonder whether you have missed something. In the book’s title story Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman the narrator accompanies his cousin to a hospital where he has an appointment with a specialist. The cousin has a bad ear and he goes cyclically deaf. On the way to the hospital, by bus, the narrator remembers going to another hospital some eight years before, that time with a friend whose girlfriend had a chest operation.
The intensity of the memory and the opaqueness of the narration combine into a story that you urgently want to get to the bottom of only to realise that it is the reading of the story that provides the magnetism, not the actual outcome of what is (not) going to happen.
So far I have read seven of the twenty-five or so stories in this collection. I read an odd one here and there, usually before going to sleep, and I find that afterwards I have to think very hard to try and remember the actual story. The stories always leave a sense of wonderment, however, at how well Murakami is able to elicit something quite extraordinary out of very ordinary events and experiences. The writing is, as I said, mesmerising, and gently pulls you along.
The stories are like poems: savour one at the time and let your mind wander!