‘First Person Singular’ delves into lost love and strange happenings

Terry Hong in The Christian Science Monitor:

The announcement of a new Haruki Murakami title inspires gleeful anticipation: Will there be music (classical, jazz, Beatles – yes), baseball (certainly), local watering holes (take a seat), thwarted young love (indubitably), the impossible made ordinary (naturally), and … cats (meow)? The Japanese writer doesn’t disappoint in his latest collection to arrive stateside, “First Person Singular,” a phrase that also succinctly summarizes his preferred writing style: The eight stories are each revealed by a contemplative “I”-narrator. Over the 40-plus years Murakami has produced novels, short stories, nonfiction, and personal essays, he’s first and foremost a remarkably accessible storyteller. His books are an intimate invitation to revel in his perpetually unpredictable, yet remarkably convincing, imagination.

Take, for example, “Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey” – the title already signals a willingness to suspend reality as monkeys don’t talk, much less confess. The plot outline could verge on the nonsensical: A traveler at a rural inn with hot springs; a low-voiced monkey offering back-scrubbing assistance; an evening sharing drinks, snacks, secrets; the narrator’s meeting five years later with an editor whose sudden inability to remember her own name confirms the lovelorn Shinagawa Monkey’s penchant for stealing women’s identities. Dubious …? And yet Murakami writes with such assurance as to turn the implausible credible, the outlandish engrossing.

More here.