By Haruki Murakami, Knopf, April 6, 2021, 1529113598

A collection of short stories some of which are autobiographical or perhaps not, written in the first person. The subjects are all over, but they are on the same subjects you hear from Murakami: reading, writing, music, baseball, and love.

Some of the writing made me cringe. It was tough reading the narrator’s sexist view of women. That was probably the point. I once heard from an artist friend that art is defined as something which provokes emotion. Murakami is an artist, for sure.

[k80] Each time I blew it, she had this “Give me a break” expression on her face. And she’d click her tongue–not loudly, but loud enough that I could catch it. I can still hear that sound, even now. That sound may even have had something to do with my decision to give up the piano.

[k274] Your brain is made to think about difficult things. To help you get to a point where you understand something that you didn’t understand at first. And that becomes the cream of your life. The rest is boring and worthless. That was what the gray-haired old man told me.

[k1328] That said, if I wrote about it as fiction, it lacked a clear focus, or a point. I could well imagine, even before I started writing about it, my editor’s puzzled expression after reading the manuscript, and the question that would follow: “I hesitate to ask you, since you’re the author, but–what’s the theme of this story supposed to be?”

Theme? Can’t say there is one. It’s just about an old monkey who speaks human language, in a tiny town in Gunma Prefecture, who scrubs guests’ backs in the hot springs, enjoys cold beer, falls in love with human women, and steals their names. Where’s the theme in that? Or moral?

[k1953] When I write novels, I often experience the same feeling as that young man. I want to face people in the world and apologize to each and every one. “I’m sorry, but all I have is dark beer.”

[k1970] I hardly ever wear suits.

[k1973] When I open my closet and check out what kind of clothes are there (I have to do that or else I don’t know what kind of clothes I own), and gaze at the suits I’ve hardly ever worn, the dress shirts still in the dry cleaner’s plastic garment bags, and the ties that look brand new, no trace of ever having been used, I start to feel apologetic toward these clothes.

[k1981] I get tired of wearing a suit and tie, the tie starts to feel itchy and too tight, like it’s choking me. The leather shoes click too hard and loud as they strike the pavement. So I go home, slip off the leather shoes, peel off the suit and tie, change into a worn-out set of sweatpants and sweatshirt, plop down on the sofa, and feel relaxed and at peace.