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.
Beautiful, ephemeral, and profoundly weird, the short stories in this collection by internationally acclaimed novelist Haruki Murakami are nearly impossible to describe. Characters move through thoroughly contemporary settings (high-rise apartments, holiday resorts, etc.) in a sort of fever dream, haunted by ghosts and spirits of the past. Including 24 tales, each one more surreal than the one before, this follow-up to Kafka on the Shore includes all the strange events, bizarre epiphanies, and mystifying twists and turns we have come to expect from Murakami.