Whatever Haruki Murakami has been smoking, I'd like a case of it sent to Earth Goat for "testing." This is another of his curious modern folktales/fairy tales/magic realist stories. I'm not sure what to make of it. I had no idea there were wild monkeys in Japan, let alone marauding troops of them. But this seems to be the case. As the article states,
Murakami takes this phenomenon to another level, in which monkeys have become like leprechauns or elves, who steal personal items from folks and explain themselves when captured. A fairly cool idea. My problem is that the idea is not really developed in an innovative way, but rather trotted & plotted out by rote, in nice prose (do we thank Murakami or the translator, Philip Gabriel?), leading to a pretty standard denouement. In fact, it ends like a cliche detective story, with the seized culprit confessing, asking for mercy, a good cop and bad cop (literally hitting his own palm softly with a nightstick) standing by, and the innocent but likeable victim getting to press the perp for details and tie up all the loose ends. You wouldn't have to change much for this to be an episode of "Columbo" or "Scooby Doo." And that can't be totally a good thing.
Monkeys have long been a problem in rural Japan, where they damage crops, swipe food from grocery stalls and even bite humans. Rising monkey populations have prompted more frequent forays out of the forests and into farms and towns.... The monkeys, a species of macaque, are one of the most common wild mammals in Japan.
Still, though, there was something about it, having to do with the deadpan treatment of impossible events, that I found appealing. To me, Murakami is a very good writer who hasn't found the perfect vehicle for his talent yet. Something worthwhile is being orbited in his stories. Maybe he finds the mark in one or more of his seven novels, but I wouldn't know because I haven't read them. If anyone has, I'd be interested to hear more about them.