Rambling about books

Book review: Birthday Stories: Selected and Introduced by Haruki Murakami

Book cover from goodreads

Selected and introduced by Haruki Murakami. A collection of twelve birthday stories from some of the most distinguished writers of western literature.

What will you get for your birthday this year? A chance to see into the future? Or a reminder of the imperfect past?

In this enviable gathering, Haruki Murakami has chosen for his party some of the very best short story writers of recent years, each with their own birthday experiences, each story a snapshot of life on a single day. Including stories by Russell Banks, Ethan Canin, Raymond Carver, David Foster Wallace, Denis Johnson, Claire Keegan, Andrea Lee, Daniel Lyons, Lewis Robinson, Lynda Sexson, Paul Theroux, William Trevor and Haruki Murakami, this anthology captures a range of emotions evoked by advancing age and the passing of time, from events fondly recalled to the impact of appalling tragedy. (Goodreads)

Okay, let’s start this post with the fact that I am sad. No, the book was not sad per se; I am sad because as of yesterday, I am officially back to work. I don’t need to go on a rant about how work is just something that is very unappealing for me, but I am definitely going to complain about the fact that work will totally get in the way of my reading schedule. I noticed very distinctly how I am having an incredibly hard time finishing this book. Well, anyway, I’m here to write about this collection of short stories, and so I shall stick to the topic at hand.

The book started on a good and heartwarming note with Murakami’s introduction. His notes on his own birthday made me think about my own birthday, and maybe that was the point on why Murakami decides to made a collection of birthday themed short stories, he wanted the reader to reflect on their own birthdays. His introduction felt close to my heart, it was very personal especially for me who have never read any of his works apart from his fictional works, it’s like getting a new glimpse of Murakami. On that note, I have high hopes on his selections.

Too be honest, some of the stories were sweet, although you can still taste the bitter sadness behind it all, but most are just downright weird and felt too pretentious. But I can’t really complain about it, I don’t even know a single author that were featured in this book before I picked this book up, safe to say I obviously don’t know what I was bargaining into when I start these collection of short stories. Some notable short stories that I had enjoy were The Moor by Russell Banks, Timothy’s Birthday by William Trevor, The Birthday Cake by Daniel Lyons, The Birthday Present by Andrea Lee, and of course Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami himself.

On hindsight, I think Murakami was very spot on when he said that most of the stories are rarely happy, if not downright dark. It made me wonder about my previous birthdays also; although I always see my birthdays as the days worth celebrating (although by myself), it was rarely anything happy or warm. Why is it so? Murakami wonders about that, and, now, I wonder the same. But, this is where Murakami’s own short story came into the picture as the closing story of the book. His short story was not necessarily happy, but it was definitely not dark nor sad. I think the story itself was more about being reflexive of one own’s previous birthday, and the ominous ending obviously was a nice touch to end this book.

I actually got this book as a birthday gift from RAM on my 27th birthday last year, and I genuinely think this book is such a great gift for someone who would rather spend their birthday reading with a nice glass of their chosen drinks. But, maybe not for someone who can’t really take some of the dark theme on the stories.


Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️☆☆

Title: Birthday Stories

Author Selected and Introduced: Haruki Murakami

Genre: Fiction, Short stories, Cultural

Goodreads link

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