'Men Without Women' Is Quintessential Murakami

'Men Without Women' Is Quintessential Murakami

A review of the prolific author's latest short story collection.
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“Men Without Women” is the latest short story collection from acclaimed writer (and possible madman) Haruki Murakami. The seven short stories in this collection take his usual motifs of musical references, literary nods, weird sex and foreboding unreality and put them to use analyzing the lives and thoughts of men separated from, or simply longing for, women in one way or another.

In “Drive My Car,” the opening story, an actor opens up to his new female driver about befriending one of his dead wife’s multiple paramours. “An Independent Organ” follows the decline and death by starvation of a plastic surgeon who finds himself head over heels for a women who, ultimately, leaves both him and her husband for a third man. Even stories where there is a consistent female presence like “Scheherazade” (a reference to the storytelling character from “One Thousand and One Nights”) find the central male character with a state of longing or a fear of loss.

There is melancholy here, even in the most absurd of stories, and mysticism in even the most mundane. The two most quintessentially ‘Murakami’ stories, “Kino” and “Samsa in Love” explore the collection’s themes with a cool and controlled sort of surrealism. The type of mundanity spiked with magic and dream-like atmosphere that he has become known for over his multiple decades writing novels and short stories.

While the first three stories, the more realistic of the bunch, are enjoyable and strong the collection doesn’t reach its heights until after “Scheherazade” the fourth story and the sort of halfway point of the book. “Scheherazade” acts as a bridge between the realism of the first three stories and the heavier magical realism of the last half. The fifth story, “Kino,” tells of a man whose wife cheats on him, leading him to quit his job and open a small jazz bar. By the end of it he is locked alone in a hotel room trying to hide from some unknowable, nightmarish being or concept bearing down on the door and window, hiding under the covers as a child might. As absurd as this progression may sound Murakami’s writing makes it feel like an utterly natural transition.

The most absurd story, and my personal favorite aside from “Kino,” is hands down “Samsa in Love” which takes Franz Kafka’s classic novella “The Metamorphosis” and flips it around in the most Murakami way possible. In “The Metamorphosis” a traveling salesman named Gregor Samsa wakes to find himself transformed into a large, horrendous insect. No explanation is ever given and the story focuses on his internal struggles with what he has become and his family’s attempts to figure out what to do with him. Murakami’s take on Kafka is a complete reversal, finding Gregor Samsa awakening as a human with no memory and a cloudy mind. It is heavily implied that he has transformed from an insect into a man instead of the other way around. What follows is an attempt to figure out how to use his body and a bizarre semi-sexual, emotionally curious interaction with a hunchbacked female locksmith.

As usual if somebody has no love for Murakami’s works then they likely won’t find anything much to jar them out of their distaste in “Men Without Women,” but for those who are curious or who are already invested in his writing it contains another extended jaunt into the weird and thoughtful. A parallel world of casual (bizarre) sex, meandering dreams, death, and abundant melancholia.

Cover Image Credit: NY Daily News

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It's Time To Thank Your First Roommate

Not the horror story kind of roommate, but the one that was truly awesome.
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Nostalgic feelings have recently caused me to reflect back on my freshman year of college. No other year of my life has been filled with more ups and downs, and highs and lows, than freshman year. Throughout all of the madness, one factor remained constant: my roommate. It is time to thank her for everything. These are only a few of the many reasons to do so, and this goes for roommates everywhere.

You have been through all the college "firsts" together.

If you think about it, your roommate was there through all of your first college experiences. The first day of orientation, wishing you luck on the first days of classes, the first night out, etc. That is something that can never be changed. You will always look back and think, "I remember my first day of college with ____."

You were even each other's first real college friend.

You were even each other's first real college friend.

Months before move-in day, you were already planning out what freshman year would be like. Whether you previously knew each other, met on Facebook, or arranged to meet in person before making any decisions, you made your first real college friend during that process.

SEE ALSO: 18 Signs You're A Little Too Comfortable With Your Best Friends

The transition from high school to college is not easy, but somehow you made it out on the other side.

It is no secret that transitioning from high school to college is difficult. No matter how excited you were to get away from home, reality hit at some point. Although some people are better at adjusting than others, at the times when you were not, your roommate was there to listen. You helped each other out, and made it through together.

Late night talks were never more real.

Remember the first week when we stayed up talking until 2:00 a.m. every night? Late night talks will never be more real than they were freshman year. There was so much to plan for, figure out, and hope for. Your roommate talked, listened, laughed, and cried right there with you until one of you stopped responding because sleep took over.

You saw each other at your absolute lowest.

It was difficult being away from home. It hurt watching relationships end and losing touch with your hometown friends. It was stressful trying to get in the swing of college level classes. Despite all of the above, your roommate saw, listened, and strengthened you.

...but you also saw each other during your highest highs.

After seeing each other during the lows, seeing each other during the highs was such a great feeling. Getting involved on campus, making new friends, and succeeding in classes are only a few of the many ways you have watched each other grow.

There was so much time to bond before the stresses of college would later take over.

Freshman year was not "easy," but looking back on it, it was more manageable than you thought at the time. College only gets busier the more the years go on, which means less free time. Freshman year you went to lunch, dinner, the gym, class, events, and everything else possible together. You had the chance to be each other's go-to before it got tough.

No matter what, you always bounced back to being inseparable.

Phases of not talking or seeing each other because of business and stress would come and go. Even though you physically grew apart, you did not grow apart as friends. When one of you was in a funk, as soon as it was over, you bounced right back. You and your freshman roommate were inseparable.

The "remember that one time, freshman year..." stories never end.

Looking back on freshman year together is one of my favorite times. There are so many stories you have made, which at the time seemed so small, that bring the biggest laughs today. You will always have those stories to share together.

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The unspoken rule that no matter how far apart you grow, you are always there for each other.

It is sad to look back and realize everything that has changed since your freshman year days. You started college with a clean slate, and all you really had was each other. Even though you went separate ways, there is an unspoken rule that you are still always there for each other.

Your old dorm room is now filled with two freshmen trying to make it through their first year. They will never know all the memories that you made in that room, and how it used to be your home. You can only hope that they will have the relationship you had together to reflect on in the years to come.


Cover Image Credit: Katie Ward

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Short Stories On Odyssey: Roses

What's worth more than red roses?

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Five years old and a bouquet of roses rested in her hands. The audience-- clapped away her performance, giving her a standing ovation. She's smiling then because everything made sense, her happiness as bright as the roses she held in her hands.

Fifteen now, and a pile of papers rested on her desk. The teachers all smiled when she walked down the aisle and gave them her presentation. She was content then but oh so stressed, but her parents happy she had an A as a grade, not red on her chest.

Eighteen now and a trail of tears followed her to the door. Partying, and doing some wild things, she just didn't know who she was. She's crying now, doesn't know anymore, slamming her fists into walls, pricking her fingers on roses' thorns.

Twenty-one and a bundle of bills were grasped in her hands. All the men-- clapped and roared as she sold her soul, to the pole, for a dance. She's frowning now because everything went wrong, but she has to stay strong, for rich green money, is worth more than red roses.

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