I have to admit, I have an unhealthy love for Haruki Murakami ("The Wind Up Bird Chronicle," "Norwegian Wood," etc.). I have yet to find another author in his odd, jazzy realm, one who handles such difficult, bizarre things with almost-infuriating efficiency and ease. Murakami is unrivaled when it comes to complex simplicity.
After finishing a collection of his short stories, "after the quake," six stories set in Japan after the devastating Kobe earthquake of 1995, I feel as though I've just crossed paths with a ghost, something from my past, something deep and penetrating that no one was supposed to know but me. And yet Murakami knows. Somehow, he knows about those real, often painful things; shards of the human experience that would be taboo or clumsy to write for a lesser author. His bravery with the written word explodes off the page and nestles in the reader's brain.
It's not just that Murakami writes with simplicity (his restraint is powerful), it's that he draws you in with it, only to smack you over the head with something loud and unexpected, something that doesn't belong, but you accept his plot willingly because his prose is so delicate. "after the quake" was a marvelous, haunting experience, especially the stories "UFO in Kushiro," "Landscape with Flatiron," "Super-Frog Saves Tokyo," and "Honey Pie."
Short stories are often overlooked, especially compared to novels and other forms, but Murakami shows a mastery over the genre that his own characters often (ironically) dream about. He shares bits and pieces of himself, tearing skin and muscle and memories from his own body and slapping them down onto the page for others to touch. This collection is macabre, unusual, and often funny, and it's a can't miss for authors who want/need to simplify their prose and narrow their ideas.
One line, in particular, I read at least ten times, whimsically jotting it down in a notebook and thinking about it days later: