Having only read Murakami's novels beforehand (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and South of the Border, West of the Sun), his short fiction took some getting used to. I read this second collection of short stories -- The Elephant Vanishes being the first, after the quake considered a "concept album" by the author -- in chronological order as detailed in Murakami's introduction to the volume. I found the earlier stories to be too short, too impressionistic to suit his deeply symbolic, lyrical style. Murakami wants you to think, and a few pages wasn't enough to clue you in on what he wanted you to think about. As the writing progressed, the familiar themes of depersonalization, alienation, and a hint of un-reality came back into view. As always his language is beautiful. I don't think I prefer his short stories to his novels -- they are like a different course in a banquet -- but I would recommend this collection as a more easily digestable appetizer of his style to Murakami virgins, and of course his ardent fans. Two short stories here are the prototypes to Sputnik Sweetheart and Norwegian Wood, respectively.