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Books I have read, re-read, am reading and will read in the course of a fiction-crammed summer.  It will be obvious that I am writing about Nicholson Baker, and about ghosts in fiction.

A Box of Matches, Nicholson Baker
U and I, Nicholson Baker
The Everlasting Story of Nory, Nicholson Baker
The Anthologist, Nicholson Baker

(Also re-looked-at The Mezzanine, Vox and Room Temperature.)

The Love We Share Without Knowing, Christopher Barzak
Beyond Black, Hilary Mantel
Alive in Necropolis, Doug Dorst
Asleep, Banana Yoshimoto
Stories by Haruki Murakami
Midnight Picnic, Nick Antosca
In Persuasion Nation, George Saunders, and other stories
Intro and selections from The Norton Book of Ghost Stories, ed. Brad Leithauser
Little Stranger, Sarah Waters
Magic for Beginners, Stranger Things Happen, Kelley Link

Waiting for the Straub-edited antho mentioned above.

This is more fiction than I have ingested in any summer since... I don't know when, sometime in the late sixties or early seventies probably, consuming John Barth and Thomas Pynchon and the Ballantine fantasy novels and Ada and and...

Comments

crowleycrow
Aug. 9th, 2009 12:24 pm (UTC)
No, just stories I have found in various collections, including the Vintage Murakami anthology. Can you point me to any stories or places in novels that actually feature ghosts? I keep expecting them -- I know that he has a fondness for the stories of Akinari Ueda -- but I haven't come upon any yet.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 9th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)
John,

very interesting reading list. I read The Little Stranger earlier this year.
If you haven't read Uyeda Akinari, may I suggest Tales of Moonlight and Rain. Japanese Gothic Tales. Translated by Kengi Hamadi (Columbia University, 1972), an amazing book of ghost stories (written in late 18th century).
Look forward to reading your essay.

Henry Wessells
mukashi_banashi
Aug. 9th, 2009 02:54 pm (UTC)
I second the recommendation. But I think the newer translation, done by Anthony Chambers, is supposed to be better. Plus it has an extensive and quite interesting introduction.

ISBN: 0231139136
mukashi_banashi
Aug. 9th, 2009 02:51 pm (UTC)
I actually haven't read any of his short stories yet. Just his novels.

Interesting that you mention Ueda Akinari. I am a student of folklore, and I recently did about four years' study on that of the Japanese. Akinari's Tales of Moonlight and Rain was really interesting. If you want some pretty good Japanese ghost stories, I'd recommend Izumi Kyōka. There's a book of his stories translated into English called Japanese Gothic Tales.

As for ghosts in Murakami...I don't know if there are any ghosts proper...Murakami is a surrealist primarily. What I like about his books is that they are, true to life, often unstructured, and at the end the mysterious and supernatural often remains unexplained. The closest I think he has to a ghost would be in the book Kafka on the Shore. It involves what the Japanese call ikiryō, which is the spirit, not of a dead person, but of a living person. That's one of my favorites of his books. Others are Dance Dance Dance, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and Norwegian Wood (the last being his only novel to feature no surreal elements at all). But Kafka is probably the best Murakami novel to start out with.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 11th, 2009 12:38 am (UTC)
Thank you for the hints. This is all a new area for me.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 19th, 2009 06:40 pm (UTC)
Ghosts in Murakami
In the short stories (which I've read all of up until his most recent collection _Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman_), I don't remember any proper ghosts. Lots of ghostly, but no actual ghosts. He is much more interested in impossible beings which may or may not be autonomous intrusions into the lives of his characters: Superfrog Saves Tokyo, The Dancing Dwarf, The Little Green Monster, and, in my opinion his best short story, Honey Pie. Though the supernatural in Honey Pie is so lightly invoked that it probably isn't there at all. I love not being able to tell

Only two of his novels contain what the editors of The Oxford Anthology of Victorian Ghost Stories so perfectly phrase "the spectacle of the returning dead": The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and A Wild Sheep Chase. In each case, there is a whole lot of novel before the dead show up, be warned. To understand _A Wild Sheep Chase_ you've really got to read his short but impossible-to-find early novel _Hear the Wind Sing_, which _A Wild Sheep Chase_ is the sequel to.

On second thought, "spectacle of the returning dead" isn't apt for Murakami, as it is the living who enter the world of the dead in both cases. The dead stay where they are. Probably. In any case, I love not being able to tell.

In my opinion, Murakami's reputation as a purveyor of ghosts is misdirected. He is really a purveyor of exquisite purgatories. If Murakami does ghosts at all, they are like those of Henry James, not M.R. James. Which is to say, they're probably not *really* there at all.