'Men Without Women' Is Quintessential Murakami

'Men Without Women' Is Quintessential Murakami

A review of the prolific author's latest short story collection.
24
views

“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

Popular Right Now

To The Boy Who Will Love Me Next

If you can't understand these few things, leave before things get too involved
29796
views

To the boy that will love me next, I need you to know and understand things about me and my past. The things I have been though not only have shaped the person I’ve become, but also sometimes controls my life. In the past I’ve been used, abused, and taken for granted, and I want something real this time. The guys before you were just boys; they didn’t know how to treat me until it was too late. They didn’t understand how to love me, until I broke my own heart. Before you truly decide to love me I want you to understand these things.

When I tell you something, please listen.

I’m my own person, I want to be loved a certain way. If I ask you to come over and watch movies with me please do it, if I ask for you to leave me alone for a few hours because it’s a girl’s night please do it. I don’t just say things to hear my own voice, I say things to you because it’s important to my life and the way I want to be loved. I’m not a needy person when it comes to being loved and cared for, but I do ask for you to do the small things that I am say.

Forgive my past.

My past is not a pretty brick road, it is a highway that has a bunch of potholes and cracks in it. I have a lot of baggage, and most of it you won’t understand. But don’t let my past decided whether you want to love me or not. My past has helped form who I am today, but it does not define who I am. My past experiences might try and make an appearance every once in a while, but I will not go back to that person I once was, I will not return to all that hurt I once went though. When I say those things, I’m telling the complete and honest truth. I relive my past every day, somethings haunt me and somethings are good reminds. But for you to love me, I need you to accept my past, present and future.

I’m just another bro to the other guys.

I have always hung out with boys, I don’t fit in with the girl groups. I have 10 close girlfriends, but the majority of my friends are guy, but don’t let this scare you. If I wanted to be with one of my guy friends I would already be with him, and if you haven’t noticed I don’t want them because I’m with you. I will not lose my friendships with all my guy friends to be able to stay with you. I will not cut off ties because you don’t like my guy friends. I have lost too many buddies because of my ex-boyfriends and I promised myself I wouldn’t do that again. If you don’t like how many guy friends I have you can leave now. Don’t bother trying to date me if you can accept the fact I’m just another bro.

I might be a badass, but I actually have a big heart.

To a lot of people I come off to be a very crazy and wild girl. I will agree I can be crazy and wild, but I’m more than that. I’m independent, caring, responsible, understanding, forgiving, and so such more type of woman. Many people think that I’m a badass because I don’t take any negatively from anyone. Just like we learned when we were younger, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Most people can’t do that in today’s world, so I stick up for myself and my friends. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, or their option on how I live my life. The only thing I care about is being able to make myself happy. Even though I’m an independent woman, understand that I do have a big heart. Honesty when I truly care for someone I will do just about anything they ask, but don’t take advantage of this. Once you take advantage of this part of me, all respect will be lost for you.

I’m hard to love.

Sometimes I want to be cuddle and get attention, and sometimes I don’t want you to talk to me for a couple hours. Sometimes I want you to take me out for a nice meal, but sometimes I want a home cooked meal. Every day is different for me, sometimes I change my mind every hour. My mood swings are terrible on certain days, and on those days you should probably just ignore me. I’m not easy to love, so you’ll either be willing to find a way to love me, or you’ll walk out like so many others have.

I’m scared.

I’m scared to love someone again. I’ve been hurt, heartbroken, and beat to the ground in my past relationships. I want to believe you are different, I want to hope things will truly work out, but every relationship has always ended up the same way. I’m scared to trust someone, put my whole heart into them, just to be left and heartbroken again. I sick and tired of putting my whole body and soul into someone for them to just leave when it is convenient for them. If you want to love me, understand it won’t be easy for me to love you back.

When “I’m done.”

When I say “I’m done” I honestly don’t mean that I’m done. When I say that it means I need and want you to fight for me, show me why you want to be with me. I need you to prove that I’m worth it and there’s no one else but me. If I was truly done, I would just walk away, and not come back. So if I ever tell you, “I’m done,” tell me all the reasons why I’m truly not done.

For the boy who will love me next, the work is cut out for you, you just have to be willing to do it. I’m not like other girls, I am my own person, and I will need to be treated as such. For the boy that will love me next, don’t bother with me unless you really want to be with me. I don’t have time to waste on you if you aren’t going to try and make something out of us. To the boy who will love me next, the last thing I would like to say is good luck, I have faith in you.

Cover Image Credit: Danielle Balint

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Must-See Movies For Your Summer

Check out these movies in theaters soon!

95
views

I can't wait till these movies come out. Going to the movies during summer is a great escape from the heat, giving you a few hours in the air conditioning while enjoying a big tub of popcorn.

Here are a few movies to check out this summer when you want to cool down for a little while:

1. "The Lion King"

2. "Aladdin"

3. "The Hustle"

4. "Men in Black: International"

Related Content

Facebook Comments