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Read It: Snappy Shorts

September 27, 2006, 12:00 am

Who has time for an epic?

Haruki Murakami
Knopf ($24.95)
Haruki Murakami's work isn't known for its emotionality. Characters are generally unnamed and distanced from each other and readers. It's not that he can't write otherwise, it's that he doesn't. The short stories of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman aren't the author's best works, but they prove his range as a storyteller. "The Seventh Man" tells the tale of a young boy who sees a typhoon take his best friend out to sea. The details of guilt and pain, uncharacteristic for the author, brings tears to the eyes. "Toni Takitani," made into a film of the same name in 2004, takes the loneliness usually found in Murakami's novels and expands on it, rather than allowing it to be lost in the surrounding story. Several of these stories will be familiar to Murakami fans, as they've made appearances in his larger works, and a few have recently been in the New Yorker. In the end, Murakami is a novelist, but exploring his 10-20 page experiments is a compelling adventure.

Raymond Carver
Vintage Contemporaries ($11.95)
In learning the craft of the short story, Haruki Murakami translated much of Raymond Carver's work into Japanese. These stories are so different from what others are doing with the short, one wonders if Carver shouldn't have a genre all to himself. Some writers try to encompass in a short story what others do in a novel. Occasionally a writer comes along who starts the story right in the middle and ends it not too far down the road with such skill that readers are left satisfied and longing for more simultaneously. Carver's stories are the epitome of this craft. Lovers betray each other with reasons that are never revealed, but the love that brought them together still lingers around them. These stories are the moments we catch with ears up to hotel room walls-no context, no personal relationship, but filled with empathy.


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