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New Yorker Fiction Review: "Kino" by Haruki Murakami

Issue: Feb. 23 & March 2, 2015

Story: "Kino"

Author: Haruki Murakami

Rating: $$

Review: Hallelujah, and thank the New Yorker Gods for the odd double-issue, allowing your humble New Yorker fiction blogger to get caught up, and barely-so, I might add: there's already a new issue out this week but I don't get mine in the mail until Thursdays, so...here we go with another great Murakami tale.

I'm a complete Murakami convert after trying unsuccessfully to read one of his novels a few years ago, and have since found his short fiction much more enjoyable. I'm at a loss to say exactly why, except that -- most likely -- his slow, methodical writing about simple characters doesn't grip me enough to stay with him over 300 pages. Over 3,000 words, on the other hand? He's got me.

"Kino" tells the story of a recently divorced bar owner who has a spiritual "moment" after a number of visits by a strangely mysterious patron to his establishment.

The character of Kino is vintage Murakami: he is a lonely man, wounded by the world but not crippled by it, and with enough strength and dignity to allow him to go on but to know not to ask for much in life. Hell..that could describe most of us in this world, right? Which is probably why Murakami's fiction can be so touching.

Also, naturally, the story has elements of Magical Realism thrown in: the mysterious patron and the odd spiritual thingy that happens at the end, and which I don't fully understand. Again, vintage Murakami...except that something about the ending here seemed much too convenient, almost as if the author wasn't taking enough "responsibility" for the character or for the resolution of the story. I know I'm guilty of some rather extreme Murakami puffing in my last entry about one of his stories...but in spite of that, I've got to say the end of this story left me very unsatisfied, even if the journey to that point was well-wrought.

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