I first picked up a copy of The Diving Pool by Ogawa at the library six or seven years ago. This novella won Ogawa the Shirley Jackson Award in 2008. Her prose is spare, but manages to blend in tiny elements of the supernatural without it being forced. The stories have solid plot lines that are at once removed and relatable. You get the feeling from reading anything by Ogawa that she is an ancient soul who nonetheless "gets" the modern world very astutely. Stephen Snyder, the translator for the works of hers that I have read, must be given credit too, because it's his job to make her work accessible and preserve her style while making himself as translator disappear. You can read her story "The Cafeteria in the Evening and a Pool in the Rain," also translated by Snyder, here.
I had listened to some of Murakami's short stories via audiobook before I ever read any of his work. For some reason, I started out big, reading 1Q84 as soon as it appeared on the local library's "New Fiction" shelf. It's a big book - around 1,000 pages - but worth every minute I spent reading it. Like Ogawa, Murakami also blends the supernatural into his stories, but he does so more boldly and asks his reader to take a bigger leap of faith into the suspension of disbelief. But it pays off! Soon as I finished 1Q84, I read every other novel and story collection my library had. I think The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was my favorite, though the one that affected me most emotionally was Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. One thing is for certain, Murakami's latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, scheduled for release in English in 2014, won't have time to get comfortable on my library's "New Fiction" shelf before I grab it, take it home, and turn off my phone for a few days.
Photo Credit: gfernandez