After she left, no one knows how wretched I felt, how deep the abyss. How could they? I can barely recall it myself. How much did I suffer? How much pain did I go through? I wish there was a machine that could accurately measure sadness, and display it in numbers that you could record. And it would be great if that machine could fit in the palm of your hand. I think of this every time I measure the air in my tires.
I prefer novels to short stories, but this week I was in the mood for short stories. I've seen a few positive reviews of Murakami's new collection, Men Without Women, so I decided to make it my next read. This collection was published in Japan in 2014, but not translated to English until 2017 (many of the stories appeared in The New Yorker before 2017). I have some experience (though not extensive) with Murakami's magical realism: I read Norwegian Wood and Wild Sheep Chase. I loved both books.
The first thing to know about this collection is that it is not uplifting. I would not advise reading Men Without Women if you're going through personal heartbreak (unless you're one of those people who wants to wallow in external sadness during episodes of intense, personal sadness). Most of these stories are downright depressing. Murakami describes the emotional lives of men who have lost a woman (to death or another man). Generally, this process of uncoupling leads Murakami's characters to illness, depression, loneliness, etc. In the story "An Independent Organ," the main character actually dies from a broken heart. From what I can tell, Goodreads folks who rate this one or two stars tend to see the male characters here as "soft" and "wallowing." If you are one of those people with no patience for post-heartbreak angst, you probably shouldn't read this. Or maybe you should.
While it makes sense to be choosy about when you dip into this collection, it is absolutely worth reading at some point. I love Murakami's writing. As in most of his books, there's a healthy dose of magic and mystery in the form of strange forest creatures, disappearing cats, and bizarre relationships. Though very sad, the collection is also deeply insightful. Highly recommend.