1 star stories: New York Mining Disaster, Airplane, A Perfect Day for Kangaroos, Dabchick.
2 star stories: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Hunting Knife, A Poor Aunt’s Story, Nausea 1979, The Year of Spaghetti, The Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes, The Ice Man, Crabs, Where I’m Likely To Find It.
3 star stories: Birthday Girl, Mirror, A Folklore for my Generation, Man-Eating Cats, Tony Takitani.
4 star stories: The Seventh Man, Chance Traveler, Hanalei Bay.
5 star stories: Firefly, The Kidney-Shaped Stone That Moves Every Day, A Shinagawa Monkey.
Reading Murakami could be like looking at a painting. Sometimes, it makes perfect sense, sometimes it is frustrating, sometimes it is puzzling. But sometimes, it talks to you. And when it is does, it stays in your heart. While Murakami is best known for his surrealistic, dream-like storytelling, I’ve always preferred his stories that are firmly rooted on reality. And that is the reason I gave up on Wind-Up bird chronicles. It wasn’t the fault of the story but of its reader. As I’ve mentioned before, reading Murakami is like looking at a painting and whatever that you grasp, is completely reflective of you.
“Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” contains of 24 short stories which range from philosophical to plain out wacky, or should I say, dream-like. There are a few stories that are great, few that are thought-provoking and the rest are puzzling.
“Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman”, is a story of reflection and of stagnation of a young man.
“Birthday Girl” is about a girl being granted a wish on her 20th birthday and having it actually come true. The wish in itself is never elaborated, but is hardly the point. This is more of a what would you do story while trying to make a point on individuality.
"A Poor Aunt’s Story" could be an allusion of depression or any other sad emotion for that matter, if not about writing.
"The Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes", while puzzling and pointless at first, seems funny after having the prelude where Murakami reveals that it's about the literary world and what his opinion of it is.
"The Ice Man", again, was puzzling at first. While it seemed like a story about loneliness, change and marriage, it was clearly apparent that it was more than that. Then, I had the chance of reading that the "Ice Man" indicates a "gaijin" and from then on, the story seems horribly xenophobic. But then again, not knowing if it is indeed true, I'd like take it on it's face value, as hard that is now.
"Mirror" is a nice little spooky story that raises a question of individuality.
"A Folklore for my Generation" is (as much as I can recall) a nice little story that talks about love, sex and the relationship between the two.
"Man-Eating Cats", which was later developed into "Sputnik Sweetheart" is a nice story about life, the choices one makes and how your decisions can change you or devour you.
"Tony Takitani" is a story about loneliness, but I had the feeling that it was under-developed. There's a brilliant tale underneath that can be great if told right but the actual story felt as if it fell short.
"The Seventh Man", one of the better stories in this collection that talks about fear, letting go and facing your fear, getting strong and attaining peace.
"Hanalei Bay", again is a story of an old lady forming a motherly bond with two teenagers albeit having had a failed relationship with her dead son. It is about letting go, moving on and of realization.
"Firefly", later to be developed as the novel "Norwegian Wood", is one of the best stories, if not the best. The story is about teenage love, angst, letting go and of maturity. The allegory of Firefly is quiet apt and beautiful. Almost all of it present in Norwegian Wood, but it was much more realized, melancholic and better, not to mention its central theme of Life vs death being better handled than the theme of this one, maturity.
"The Kidney-Shaped Stone That Moves Every Day" comes right next to "Firefly" as the best of the lot. A deep psychological story about relationships and love, this one too, has a very nice allegory of a stone.
"A Shinagawa Monkey", a poignant tale of a monkey that steals names and about living life as you would wanna live it and taking the good and the bad on its stride.