'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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'Difficult Women' Book Review

How Roxane Gay changed how I saw myself
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Roxane Gay is an extremely talented author. I fell in love with her writing after being assigned a section of The Bad Feminist in a creative writing class. I was instantly sucked into this world of someone who expresses sentiments I had not been able to. That got me started, from there I began Difficult Women. As I was wandering through Square Books, it was the title that caught my attention. As a girl I often here comments on how "crazy" or "dramatic" I can be. I could not help myself, I grabbed the book and ran home to start it.

For me, the first few pages makes - or breaks - a book for me. I flew through the first chapter and turned the page ready to find out more. But I was shocked to find that an entirely new story began. Slightly perturbed I started the next chapter expecting the third chapter to go revert back to the trials of the characters in the first chapter. It never happened. By the seventh chapter I was so enthralled with the stories of all the women presented I completely forgot that I wanted some resolution for the sisters in chapter one. The struggles of the women broke my heart, made me want to fight for them, give them and hug and cry for them.

It was then I realized I had a literary crush on Roxane Gay. She exposed the stories behind so called "difficult women" and made the world recognize that those supposed crazy moments were the product of outside events. I felt justified. I felt that as a women someone was finally shedding light on the reasons that I sometimes overreact or get emotional when people do not understand why.

If you are looking for a good pool, beach or airport read I strongly suggest this book. It is one of the most humanizing books with elements of fiction to make it appeal to a wide group of women. The short story style keeps it interesting from start to finish and allows you to decide what the fate of the women may be or for the story to end there and you allow the thoughts of the author to carry on difficult conversations in your thoughts.

Cover Image Credit: LibroMobile

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Teddy And Owen Show All That Not Waiting For Your Best Friend Makes You A Strong Woman

Shonda Rimes shows young woman that valuing yourself in a relationship for two is a strong decision.
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Avani
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Shonda Rimes, the creative genius behind "Grey's Anatomy," has done some crazy things in this 14-season-and-still-going-strong show. From tragically ending the McDreamy storyline to starting the Avery-Pierce romance, Shonda has thrown every sort of curveball for the doctors at Grey-Sloan.

However, in the episode entitled, "One Day Like This," Shonda kicks up the heat with Owen Hunt and Teddy Altman only to end it with a semi-familiar message: even if he is your best friend, you do not have to give up everything for him.

For those that need a quick recap of the relationship between Major Owen Hunt and Major Teddy Altman, their relationship started out on their Iraqi tour where they were both stationed as trauma surgeons. While it was evident that they had some chemistry, Owen, unfortunately, was engaged to Beth at the time.

When Owen was done with the army, he took up a job (post-breakup with Beth) at Seattle Grace where he was wooed by the snarky Cristina Yang. However, never once was Teddy thought of until Christina wanted to learn from a cardio god after Burke left.

Teddy, in every sense of the word, was a badass at cardiology. Cool, collected and a wealth of knowledge, Teddy offered a wide variety of expertise to Christina while still maintaining her composure regarding her feelings about Owen. As a good best friend to a guy, she kept it on the lockdown about how she was the right person for him.

But with Shonda, such feelings have usually been kept a secret for long (otherwise what happens to the good television ratings), and Teddy spills everything to Owen who ends up pushing her away and turning to Christina. And to really top it all off, Owen manages to be involved with her late husband's, Henry's, death.

So when Owen finally gets his life together post-Amelia and goes after Teddy, she gives him a chance. An almost 24-hour chance. Once Owen mentions it was Amelia that brought him to her, Teddy kicks him out and closes the door behind him.

This may disappoint a lot of viewers given that Teddy and Owen are made for each other, but I believe that Shonda Rimes is making an underlying point that waiting around for your best friend is undervaluing you as a woman of power.

Teddy and Owen's relationship is exactly what girls should not do for their best guy friend because all it ends up proving is that the girl puts herself second in the relationship. No woman should ever put herself in the position of waiting for a man to notice her.

Teddy is beautiful in many ways and Owen is only realizing her beauty now. Smart, charismatic, dedicated and caring, Teddy would have loved to have Owen by her side. But time and time again, Owen pushed her away for what he thought was something better.

When Teddy was faced with the decision to have her happily ever after come true, she decides to let it go forever which makes her even more beautiful in my eyes than ever before. Instead of holding on to Owen to complete her, she comes to her senses and lets him go because her own value matters more than what he thinks.

To get to the essence of this moment, Teddy is a stronger, independent woman because she did not fold in the face of Owen promising to be there for her because he wants to. This poignant moment hits home for me because it shows women that for every guy best friend they have, it does not make them weak for giving into them or strong if they don't. Instead, it makes her human.

Then again, we would all be human because choices like that aren't easy. Making the right choice for you regarding your best friend is important because it only accounts for what you want. Not what is good for the other person which ultimately is not selfish at all.

Cover Image Credit: ABC
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