The simian cover artwork theme in acclaimed Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami’s short stories collection First Person Singular kicked my funny bone; how ridiculous, to have a snow monkey, displaced from the hot springs it adorably frequents, look like it had forgotten one of its grocery bags back at the superstore. I know Mr. Snow-Monkey, we really did need those frozen meats – maybe swing back to the Walmart and collect? The absurd and surreal in a realistic, relatable setting is typical of Murakami work, and here we get an acquired taste of finding magic in the mundane realism of our lives. Shinawaga Monkies included. Other stories revolve around specific musical artists (The Beatles, Charlie Parker) or genres (bossa nova, classical), so Murakami’s taste is eloquently revisited (I’ve not read the predecessor, but “Confessions of a Shinawaga Monkey” is a sequel to the original 2006 story) – anybody looking for content on their BookTube channel should mine his curations.
Plenty of introspective human conversations can be had from “First Person Singular” – the loneliness of discrimination, the simple joy of letting life pass by, the utter nerve of strangers getting in your face – the human experience is recreated so vividly. Unlike a painter’s use of colour tools and innovative visual tricks to tell a story, Murakami shoots straight from the hip. His literary aim is so precise, the every man that is everyone can find themselves living in these stories. I saw myself so clearly in Murakami’s John Smith, who meets a monkey in hot springs bath. Unfortunately, the only animals in my vicinity available for my affection are the skunks and raccoons outside my apartment, sniffing about at 2am for their burrows and kits.
Choice cuts: “Cream”, “Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey”, “Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova”
“Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey” by Haruki Murakami, for The New Yorker
“Review: First Person Singular, by Haruki Murakami” by Heller McAlpin, for NPR
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