Skip to main content

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, 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.


Claire Noegel said…
I loved getting to the end. I was mesmerized, but failed to understand the ending which is endlessly frustrating. I am not in an English literature class where we can bounce ideas off each other. My best, old, literate friend is dead. Who shall I ask.

The beginnings are good and hook me, but the endings of the two Haruki stories I have read has been like serving me a slice of hot, homemade apple pie without Häagen-Dazs® vanilla ice cream... . Just keep the pie until you have the ice cream (Häagen-Daz)...

Why do these types of stories win awards? I will never understand. I like answers and will not be able to let this go... . I will find someone who will have an opinion on this story.

Popular posts from this blog

New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Apologizer" by Milan Kundera

Issue: May 4, 2015

Rating: $$

Review: It took me five years and three separate attempts to finish Milan Kundera's famous novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but in spite of that, quotes and insights from that book still rattle round my head on a weekly basis. What I mean to say is: my feelings on Kundera are very similar to my feelings on Haruki Murakami. I enjoy reading his work, but in small doses, like this short story.

Like Murakami, Kundera uses elements of magical realism, but where in a Murakami story you might encounter a flying dolphin or a disappearing hotel or a person who has lived his whole life in the same room, refusing to leave, Kundera's magical realism offers more direct insights and perspective on real life.

In Kundera's worlds, time and space are malleable and everything that ever happened in history is happening at the same time, and the narrator is a completely omniscient, caring, witty, and hands-on god-like being.

And so it is with "The Apo…

A Piece of Advice I Learned From My Grandfather

My grandfather was one of the most learned men I know. He read widely and voraciously, and not just in the sciences (he was a doctor); he loved politics, philosophy, and great literature as well. Whenever he finished a book he would write his thoughts about the book in the front cover and then sign and date it. To this day every once in a while I will open a book from my bookshelf or my mother's bookshelf, or at one of my family members' homes, and there will be my grandfather's handwriting. He was also a great giver of his books; if you remarked that you liked a particular one or wanted to read it, you were almost sure to take it home with you.

Reading is a very solitary pursuit but my grandfather was not a solitary person. He relished having family and friends around him which is convenient because he was blessed with a lot of both. And he carried out his intellectual life in a very "public" way as well. He was, in some ways, an intellectual evangelist. If he r…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "Meet the President!" by Zadie Smith

Each week I review the short fiction from a recent issue of The New Yorker. If you told me when I was 12 that I'd be doing this I'd have been like, "Dork. There's no such thing as blogs," and I'd have been right...

Issue: Aug. 12 & 19, 2013

Story: "Meet the President!"

Author:Zadie Smith

(Please note: I've developed a highly sophisticated grading system, which I'll be using from now on.  Each story will now receive a Final Grade of either READ IT or DON'T READ it. See the bottom of the review for this story's grade...after you've read the review, natch.)

Plot: Set in England, far into the future (lets say 2113) a privileged youth of 15, named Bill Peek, encounters a few poor villagers from a small, abandoned coastal town on the southeast shore. He meets a little girl named Aggie, who is going to her sister's funeral. Peek is cut-off from real life by a sophisticated video game system that is implanted in his head, therefore th…