As a reader, I have a tough relationship with Murakami. On the one hand, I love his prose and find his voice mesmerizing. On the other hand, his stories often leave me a tad cold with their loose, sort of postmodern narrative skeletons. Yet, because his prose is so enthralling, I find myself coming back time and time again, just wanting to know how he will word something.
Men Without Women is a collection of short stories, running the gamut of Murakami's range. At times they are Kafkaesque, quite literally too, and at times they read more like his stream of conscious non-fiction. Yet there is a connecting tissue among all these stories: eventually all men become Men Without Women, and losing the women in our lives removes a piece of us which is integral to who we are.
The stories are of varying quality, yet all are written in that staple Murakami voice that leaves you clamoring and hungry for more. Even when a sentence doesn't quite make sense, it fits within the overall context, adding rhythm and beauty to the passage. For this, a great debt is owed to the translators, who have done a wonderful job of rendering a consistent voice for this Japanese author. Yet calling Murakami a Japanese author missing so much of what he is, because ultimately he is an author writing about universal feelings. This is true of any author of course, yet in a special way Murakami's writings seem to transcend the Land of the Rising Sun and make sense to us all.
The reason, perhaps, is because we all eventually become Men Without Women, and even if we don't know it, the fear of the possibility rests within us. To be Men Without Women is to lose a large portion of what makes you who you are. Murakami, in a very strange way, cuts to the core of this.