RaveThe New York Times Book Review... brilliant ... One can feel him easing up in the eight stories collected in First Person Singular, allowing his own voice—or what sounds like his own voice, wonderfully translated by Philip Gabriel—to enter the narratives, creating a confessional tone that reminded me of Alice Munro’s late work ... Murakami is not popular throughout the world because he consciously integrates Western ideas and language into his fiction, but because his work—fueled by a tension with his forebears—fuses cultures, or perhaps leaps over them, defying time, beating like pop songs, touching universal nerves ... That’s how Murakami’s stories often roll, luring us into strange moments, making us ask the questions we once chewed on about life, about what it means to bear the burden of selfhood, about how time seems to bend around us like the wind around the trees—invisible but clearly active ... As a short story writer myself, I feel my own acute inability to urge the reader to spend time with this collection, to purchase a sequence of brief experiences that will not, as a novel might, immerse them in the hours of a steadily unfurling narrative. But these are flickering, quick times, and what a story can do that a novel can’t is pull us into the intricate motions of a single instant, expansive on both ends—the before of everything before the narrative begins, and the infinite future beyond the terminal sentences—and, like a song, or a poem, leave us wanting to reread, to rehear the voice, to relocate the pinpoint in the map of our lives.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewIf there’s a thematic thread weaving through this collection, it’s the complicated relationship between entrapment in the physical body — her characters are often probing, picking and searching with their fingertips, as if seeking beauty and potential grace — and entrapment in social landscapes ... A good story is a high-wire act that uses angle of vision, voice and plot to produce a work that somehow, against all odds, radiates meaning at all levels — in the sentences, the structure and in the absences. Each story in a collection has an aesthetic burden it has created for itself, and it must carry that burden properly. A few of Moshfegh’s stories don’t quite manage to do it; they stagger under their own weight ... Still, even the few other stories that falter give us a sense of watching a fluent, deeply talented artist extend herself and take risks in her quest to master the form ... In several stories set in California, Moshfegh writes with Didionesque precision of blinding white sunlight, of streets lined with dying palm trees and suffused with a dreamy anomie particular to Los Angeles.