I don’t have memorable birthdays. Although I keep a journal, I rarely write about my birthday. It comes and goes like the wind. After all those years celebrating in my father’s shadow I have become comfortable in the quietness of my birthday. I have no tragic recollections or glorious celebrations; my birthdays are as mundane as birthday cake—a necessary requirement. But what if your birthday was slightly eventful? What if your mundane birthday cake is topped with an unlikely gift, an unexpected wish or a deep sadness?
Haruki Murakami’s selection of Birthday Stories explores this peculiar set of stories on gloomy birthdays. Strangely, in the author’s search for birthday stories he realized none of them were truly celebratory, most of them always spiked with darkness and sadness. His selection explores unique birthday circumstances that dig deep into human emotions. Some of the stories will leave you saddened, others shocked and others puzzled. Though I am not one to read short stories, this particular selection piqued my interest. It was an unlikely collection and the stories chosen were engaging enough. More than anything, it made me want to write a birthday story of my own.
This book opens the reader to a set of new writers. What I like about such selections, if written and compiled well, is that you are introduced to authors whose books you never picked up from an assorted selection in a bookstore. Rarely are we that adventurous when it comes to new authors. We fear to spend our cash on a bad book, but selections such as Birthday Stories exposed me to the styles of the different writers. It made me understand why Raymond Carver is a celebrated author. To an avid reader, discovering new authors is exciting and seeing the kind of gloom and command they have in words can only promise a good harvest in the bookstore later on.
I have to warn you though, Haruki Murakami’s compilation isn’t for the conservative and naïve. To the more liberal reader the stories are acceptable and interesting; to the less liberal it may be shocking. To a Murakami reader it should be expected. That’s another thing about this selection, the reader gets to understand Murakami more on the basis of his selections. It’s like knowing a person by the kind of coffee s/he orders. There are a few “aha” moments—a discovery why this particular story was part of a Murakami selection.
I recommend this selection to those who like to be surprised in the midst of the mundane. It’s an interesting selection, one that will make you read up to the last story.
Reading Challenge Update: 4 of 7