In a review of Haruki Murakami's short story collection Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Terrence Rafferty, writing for the New York Times, referred to Murakami's storytelling style as one that exudes a sense of "hang on and see what comes next." Rafferty also calls Murakami an eccentric writer who has developed "a remarkably distinctive narrative tone."
These qualities are exemplified in Haruki Murakami's short story "Crabs," published in Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (2006). The story takes place in Singapore and focuses on a young Japanese couple in their twenties who have come to Singapore for a vacation. They are lovers who want to get away from everyone, desiring some time just for themselves.
As they wander through the streets of the city, this unnamed couple comes across an out-of-the way restaurant that specializes in a variety of meals featuring crabs. The couple had grown tired of the food served at their hotel and are excited about tasting the food at this new-found restaurant. There are only a few people sitting at the unadorned tables, which makes the couple feel comfortable. They are not in the mood for crowds.
Over the course of this short story, the couple returns to the same restaurant several times in the next few days, sampling the different dishes offered, all of them featuring crab. One night, the young man has a stomachache. He goes to the bathroom and vomits up an unusual amount of crab meat. He does this several times throughout the night. He feels miserable. At one point, the man stares into the toilet at the mass of crab meat he has thrown up. As he stares, he imagines that the mass is moving. This cannot be true, he thinks. So he turns on the light and looks more closely. Sure enough, the clump of partially digested food is moving. In fact, it is wiggling with hundreds of squirming worms.
The man contemplates waking his girlfriend to warn her, since they had shared all the crab dishes that were put before them at the restaurant. But he changes his mind and just watches her sleep. But he cannot help but imagine that her stomach is filled with worms. But there she is sleeping, unaffected by the infected crab meat she had eaten. And the man sees this as a problem. She had not noticed this defect.
He sits all night in a chair, wishing he could fall asleep and then awake the next morning and find that everything was as it had been the morning before. He wants to feel as certain about life as he had before he had eaten the crab. Before he had realized that something was wrong with his girlfriend. But now he is shaken. The only thing that is certain is that he will never again eat crab.