Selected Shorts: Little Green Monsters

About a year ago, I was walking down Broadway and noticed a giant bug hanging on the door of a building. Normally I dismiss any large insect as some kind of roach. (I have seen NYC cockroaches as big as my own hand.) But the bright green wings of this creature made me stop and investigate. It was an enormous praying mantis, right in the middle of New York City. I picked him up, and his long arms latched onto the skin of my hand. Under the neon lights, the crowds and taxis and buses whizzing past us, he turned his monstrous head and seemed to gaze at me. The strangeness of this encounter came to mind as I listened to our final set of Haruki Murakami stories on Selected Shorts this week. Murakami has a knack for making the ordinary suddenly extraordinary. He does this by focusing on the details. It is in these details that he makes the reader feel unsettled, to see the weirdness in their own lives. A fan of Tolstoy, he once said, “Tolstoy wanted to write the total description; my description is focused on a very small area. When you describe the details of small things, your focus gets closer and closer, and the opposite of Tolstoy happens—it gets more unrealistic. That’s what I want to do.” The objects he focuses on in our first story, “Airplane”—such as the clock and the train—do exactly that—they start to feel strange, even magical (especially with Parker Posey’s wonderfully dramatic reading). The magic continues with “The Mirror,” performed by Campbell Scott, and then gets completely surreal in “The Little Green Monster,” performed by Dana Ivey, where a mythical creature crawls out of the earth to declare his love. You can hear these wild stories and examine the details yourself by listening on podcast or tuning in to your local public radio station. As for my own little green monster, he crawled up and down my arm like a parrot as I carried him across the city. People stopped and stared. A few asked me where I’d found him. “On Broadway,” I said. We continued until we reached central park. And there, deep in a wooded glade, I let him go.