In the fall of 2011 we celebrated the long-awaited publication of the big novel IQ84 by the prodigious Japanese writer Haruki Murakami with a Symphony Space marathon SELECTED SHORTS program called “Murakami Madness.” Earlier in this radio season we’ve heard portions from that epic evening, including the opening chapter of the novel, and several short stories which we selected to show the remarkable range and variety in subject matter, literary imagination, and diverse moods—from provocatively comical to truly frightening—that characterize Murakami’s work.
On this program we’ll hear three other Murakami fictions that demonstrate his range. The first, “Airplane: Or, How He Talked to Himself as if Reciting Poetry,” reminded SHORTS’ literary commentator Hannah Tinti of a comment of the author’s: “Tolstoy wanted to write the total description; my description is focused on a very small area. When you describe the details of small things, your focus gets closer and closer, and the opposite of Tolstoy happens—it gets more unrealistic. That’s what I want to do.”
Listen to how Murakami builds up a sense of space and time around the two lovers, in this read by indie star Parker Posey, whose film credits include “Waiting for Guffman,” “Best in Show,” and “A Mighty Wind” as well as television roles on “The Good Wife,” “The Big C,” and “Boston Legal,” among others.
If “Airplane” is dreamy, “The Mirror” is eerie, using to great effect the classic device of a story within a story, in this case a host recounting a kind of ghost story to assembled guests. Tinti comments: “Two of Murakami’s favorite writers are Dostoevsky and Raymond Chandler, who wrote all those great hard-boiled detective stories. Murakami has said that his goal, when writing fiction, is to put Dostoevsky and Chandler together in one book, and I kept thinking of that mix of existentialism and suspense while listening to “The Mirror.”
Reader Campbell Scott’s many film and television credits include work on “Royal Pains,” “Damages,” and “Six Degrees,” as well as the forthcoming film “The Amazing Spider Man.”
We complete this Murakami hat trick with “The Little Green Monster,” an example of his ability to insert completely surreal and dreamlike events into the context of everyday life. You’re a buttoned up suburban housewife, and suddenly, on your doorstep, is a subterranean alien professing its love for you. The protagonist is clearly not a fan of close encounters, as you will hear in this devastating but droll read by Dana Ivey.
The "Murakami Madness" evening included a tribute by a fan of the author’s from a different world—the fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, who may have missed his calling, since his brief stand-up style tribute to Murakami had the audience laughing from start to finish. He was introduced to Murakami by the Three Lives bookstore in Greenwich Village. After falling in love with "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles," he read all his other books voraciously:
Every one of them is so incredible, but it’s difficult to tell them apart, though, right? Am I wrong? There’s always a sort of lost cat, and a borderline sexy teenage girl who you worry about—right? And some passive protagonist who has a giant collection of jazz records, who’s between jobs and makes spaghetti a lot.
Listen to the rest of Mizrahi’s routine here:
“Airplane,” by Haruki Murakami, performed by Parker Posey
“The Mirror,” by Haruki Murakami, performed by Campbell Scott
“The Little Green Monster,” by Haruki Murakami, performed by Dana Ivey
The SELECTED SHORTS theme is David Peterson's “That's the Deal,” performed by the Deardorf/Peterson Group.
For additional works featured on SELECTED SHORTS, please visit http://www.symphonyspace.org/genres/seriesPage.php?seriesId=71&genreId=4
We’re interested in your response to these programs. Please comment on this site or visit www.selectedshorts.org
And for more thoughts on the stories in SHORTS, check out literary commentator Hannah Tinti’s site at http://hannahtinti.com