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The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

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Book Information  
AuthorHaruki Murakami
TitleThe Elephant Vanishes
SeriesShort Story Collections
Book Reviews / Comments (submitted by readers)
Submitted by monty mike 
(Dec 14, 2009)

Prior to reading The Elephant Vanishes I had read one other of Murakami's short story collections: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, which I personally felt was perhaps a slighly stronger collection on the whole. That aside, I enjoyed the stories in this volume tremendously and finished them all in a short space of time. I'm not a particularly fast reader, either. For me, the weakest story out of the whole collection was definitely 'The Little Green Monster', which I felt was really quite poor by comparison, and I guess 'Lederhosen' and 'The Fall of the Roman Empire...' didn't do much for me either. In fact, while I'm on a rant, considering it's the title story, The Elephant Vanishes also wasn't really anything special in my opinion. But enough of that, I don't want to start conveying the wrong impression here. All the other stories were excellent reads and I would honestly struggle to choose a favourite from among them. A few that I feel worth mentioning are 'The Wind Up Bird...', 'Sleep', 'The Last Lawn of the Afternoon', 'Family Affair', and perhaps 'On seeing the 100% Perfect Girl...'. Which still leaves nearly 10 I haven't mentioned. Of course, these are only my personal favourites.

Now, I realise I've maybe been writing this review for people who are already familiar with Murakami. So, what shall I say to those who have not yet tried his work but are maybe considering doing so? Well, for starts, Murakami lists some of his biggest influences as being Carver, Chekhov, Kafka, Fitzgerald, and Capote, among others, all of whom are giants of the short story genre. So when you consider this you realise that Murakami hasn't invented anything here, he hasn't changed the way short stories are written. But what he has done is captured what made his predecessors so great and added his own unique flavour into the mix. He's taken the essence of what they were trying to do and built on it. 'We see so far because we stand on the shoulders of giants', and Murakami is no exception. Now understand that I am in no way trying to discredit any of what he has achieved, in fact the opposite is true; I'm simply trying to tell everyone that these comparisons to the giants of the past are in every way justified. How better to describe a writer than by comparing him to the writers that came before him? Murakami is in every way a modern Carver, a Chekhov for his time. To me, that is the biggest compliment someone writing in the short story genre can receive. He's continuing their legacy and when his run is over I'm sure the writers of tomorrow will judge themselves by whether they are in turn compared to him, just as he was once compared to those giants before him. And so on until the end of time.

So, rather than explain what I believe to be Murakami's qualities as a short story writer (or writer in general, for that matter) I will simply leave you with those thoughts. Pick up some Chekhov, or some Carver, and then once you have understood where Murakami's roots lie, you will be ready to appreciate what he has brought to the genre in a whole new light. But more importantly, you will see that we are all truly standing on the shoulder of giants. Murakami has become one of those giants in his own lifetime and there's no doubt about it.

Well, to keep this brief I'll say thanks here and hope that my thoughts have inspired you to pick up one of the great authors of our time! All the best!

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