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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...


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.