on April 10, 2004
I would still rate 'South of the Border, West of the Sun' more highly, but this is Murakami's most flat-out entertaining novel. Although it's billed as a sequel to Wild Sheep Chase, and it is about the same character, _all_ of Murakami's novels seem to be about the same basic everyman character, and reading Sheep Chase first isn't neccesary (I read this before I read Sheep Chase). Still, Sheep Chase, as Murakami's first novel, provides a good point of reference.
The characters in Dance, Dance, Dance are almost exponentially more vibrant than those in Sheep Chase, from the bored, occasionally clairvoyant young girl who might have stepped out of a Salinger novel, to the plucky one-armed American poet. There's an almost cartoonish (not in at all a bad way) quality to these people; they stand out that much, and are that sharply drawn. The intriguing criticism of genius offered in Sheep Chase recurs, more subtly and kindly, in the form of a brilliant woman photographer who happens to be a very poor mother. Murakami is also unexpectedly kind to another character, the superificial actor Gotanda, who reveals a sharply human side. In the end, that may be exactly it about this novel; a sense of warmth and quiet joy underneath everything, even the more sinister events, which not many novels of this modernist type can muster. Every stroke of good fortune seems deserved, and every tragedy is lamented.
Most of the time, when I start to read or to listen to a book, I have a number of expectation of what the story will be about and how it might proceed. I have learned not to do this with books by Haruki Murakami. I selected this book based on having enjoyed The Wind-up Bird Chronicles, and decided I would just go with the flow and let the story reveal itself to me as I listened.
That is exactly what happened. Murakami slowly peeled back the layers of the story exposing characters and twists that I couldn't have anticipated. The narrator is a 30 something freelance writer. We find that he is going through the motions of living life; he lives each day, but doesn't really experience any of it. Just a taste here and there just as with the restaurant reviews he write. He'll order a vast assortment of delectable dishes, but only take a bite from each. His job is very much like this as well. He is a free lance writer who accepts pretty well every job that comes his way. He allows the jobs to direct the course of his life. The experiences that he tastes are all the result of these random jobs.
A continuing series of dreams about a run down hotel he once stayed in draws him back to Sapporo to the Dolphin Hotel. The old dump has been replaced by a modern steel and glass construction, though the essence of the old hotel remains. It is here that the narrator connects with the sheep man, who becomes his guide in moving him along the path to really living, to learning how to dance.
He is further aided along his journey by an unusual assortment of companions. Thirteen your old Yuki has been abandoned in Sapporo by her photographer mother and needs and escort back to Tokyo. I've already mentioned the fast talking sheep man. The one armed poet in Hawaii stops our narrator and sets him to wondering how how much that has changed/affected the poet's life. Then there is Gotunda, a former classmate of his who keeps popping back into his life via the movies that he has acted in. I'm still wondering if the narrator has a man-crush on Gotunda.
Rupert Degas was the reader for this story. He does a wonderful job of portraying all the characters. I particularly liked his voicing of the sheep man with his almost none pause speaking. When he spoke for Yuki, I was convinced that I was hearing a thirteen year old girl. Unabridged 12 hours 45 minutes.
on July 2, 2003
Before I start actually reviewing this book, I should note that I haven't read any of Murakami's other books, so I can't comment on how this one compares. I was also unaware until just now that the book was a sequel to "A Wild Sheep Chase." I actually have a hunch that "Dance Dance Dance" works better without having read that book, but obviously I can't say for sure. At any rate, it stands on its own.
Despite containing many impossible things, "Dance Dance Dance" is a very realistic book. I say this because not everything that happens fits neatly into an overarching structure, and some events never end up making sense. Neither of those things are true of most novels, but they almost always apply to real life. The characters, weird as they are, almost all have authenticity. This is especially true of the nameless protagonist.
It's necessary to learn what to expect from this book. If you read it looking for a straight-up mystery that resolves itself in the traditional way, as is tempting, you will be disappointed. What you can expect is an entertaining, darkly surreal, and ultimately reassuring story which probably would have been classified as urban fantasy had it been written by an American or British author or magical realism had it been written by a Latin American. Seen that way, I really can't think of any particular flaws in it. The lack of a fifth star is due to the absence of superlative things, not the presence of bad ones.
The authors this book reminded me of most were Philip K. Dick and Neil Gaiman, though it doesn't resemble either so strongly.
on May 22, 2003
In Dance Dance Dance, we are drawn into Murakami's typical murky world where our nameless narrator from "A Wild Sheep Chase" continues to search for his place in a world of "advanced capitalism" - struggling to place meaning behind a world of false values/aspirations and pressures to conform.
Old friends such as Kiki, the Sheep Man, and his copywriting partner surface for a much welcomed appearance - while new warm and fuzzy characters are introduced in familiar places such as the Dolphin Hotel to further propel the plot.
Murakami succeeds in Dance because he forcefully reminds us of the true value of things in everyday life. He tactfully revisits old themes such as - not realizing the value of things until it's too late - the fragility of the human psyche - and the pain of losing loved ones. Further more, only Murakami can compare and contrast the value of Rolex watches, Maserati sports cars with the joys of preparing and savouring simple but rich, mouth watering homemade-meals.
After flipping through the last few pages of Dance, I am glad to say that it feels as though I have fallen in love for the first time all over again.
on September 30, 2002
I finally found out why I love Murakami. Bear with me, because I'm still molding this idea... Murakami's protaganists are, for the most, not the typical Japanese sterotype. They don't work, or they little, or they work sporadically. They rarely follow tradition. They steep themselves in Western culture, trying to become Western. They reject their Eastern mindset without ever rejecting the East. They stay fundementally Japanese, no matter how hard they try to push away from that life. I think that many Americans feel this same way (flip-flopped, obviously). How many Westerners have become Buddhists? How many steep themselves in the insane culture of modern japan (wether it be Anime, video games, J-pop, whatever)? How many long for the East and reject the West without ever leaving the mindset? Many. I'm one. Murakami's books are the perfect relic of modern life. In our interconnected world (connected by Wind-up Birds and Sheep Men alike), cultural identity is something we long to shrugh off. Yet we can't. We dance in a never-ending sprial of life.
Dance Dance Dance is just as good as Wind-up Bird. Unlike Wild Sheep Chase, it does not have that brevity, almost short story quality that marred A Wild Sheep Chase for me (which isn't to say I didn't like it..just the opposite, it is certainly one of my favorite books, just not on par with Dance or Wind-up Bird). There are certain things we need to forgive Murakami for though. He certainly has a stock leading man. But so did Hemmingway, and no one is cursing him for it. The Hemmingway-Hero is a legit archetype now. Murakami repeatedly uses the same themes and motifs throughout his work. Well, so what? What great author hasn't? Pynchon and Dellio consistently do, but no one questions their ranking amongst the great writers. Murakami is a great writer, of incredible depth and insight. He is one fo the greatest treasures of the International literature scene, and there is no reason whatsoever that we should question his validity as a writer of genius Literate Fiction with a capital LF.
on September 27, 2002
Far superior to its successor, the Wind Up Bird Chronicle, this book wonderfully concludes the story of a protagonist started with "Hear The Wind Sing," "Pinball 1973," and "A Wild Sheep Chase." In this book, the protagonist, a self-employed loner who lives outside the "normal" conventions of the Japanese salaryman and society, sets out on a quest to find his girlfriend from "A Wild Sheep Chase." (For those who have not read "A Wild Sheep Chase," I will not ruin for you the circumstances that set this off). For the first few chapters, the protagonist is alone, walking the streets of Hokkaido, sitting in bars by himself and "contemplating the ashtray" (there must be tons of loners out there who can appreciate this) until eventually clues, both supernatural and other, take him to Tokyo and Hawaii, and introduce a slew of unforgettable, well written, deep characters. Such characters include Yuki, the troubled 13 year old psychic who is far superior to the undeveloped clone of May Kasahara in the Wind Up Bird Chronicle, the actor Gotanda, who can portray your life better than you can, the unforgettable detectives Bookish and Fisherman...the list goes on and on. What this book is, basically, is the fulfillment of the personal quest. It is a book that will be best appreciated by people who have been loners, stand removed from the "norms" of society of a wife, a 9 to 5 job in an impersonal office, two kids, a pet, and perhaps even a dedication to any particular religion, and have, as such, culivated a deep level of observation, a bit of an alienation to and from society, and perhaps a personal subconscious inkling/longing for a supernatural happenstance such as The Dolphin Hotel that make up for a lack of belief in any conventional religious notion accepted by the masses...
on April 16, 2002
I've read everything of Haruki Murakami's in both English and Japanese, and let me say, this is the best of them all. First of all, let me say to all the dummies who praise "Wind Up Bird" as the best: This book came first! Wind up bird repeats the missing woman, and the teenage girl, and doesn't make either as interesting as in Dance. May Kasahara is no Yuki, and Okada's wife is no Kiki. All "Wind Up" does is fulfill Murakami's fetish with wells. Yes, wind up has some interesting characters like the Kano sisters, but they're dropped a third through the book! So what if he wrote a good section on Boris the Manskinner et al...that again was the author just fulfilling a need to write something along a historical line, but it had nothing to do with the main plot. It should have been in its own book. Nothing in "Wind Up" got tied up in even a tiny little bit. Now, "Dance Dance Dance" on the other hand comes full circle. It starts with the Dolphin Hotel...and it ends there. All the characters are extremely rich...Yuki, her spaced out genius mother Ame, even Dick North. And never, ever did Murakami have such a fantastic character as Gotanda the actor who was just too "perfect." The detectives Bookish and Fisherman also deserve kudos. It is only in "Dance Dance Dance" that we see the lonely protagonist on his path towards his mysterious goal done at its most fulfilling. And a final word to all you untrue fans of Murakami who put this book down for "Wind Up", I bet you had no idea that in the native Japanese, the sheep man's lines are not strung together, they're written in regular, normal Japanese sentences. Didn't know that, did you?? I bet you also didn't know that the Japanese version has a whole chapter not translated into the English version! So who's the real Murakami fan? I am! All of you other "Wind up is the best" mindless drones, go read Danielle Steel...that's where you belong!!!
on November 11, 2001
I couldn't get out of the bathtub until i finished this book! It's so engrossing, although you might not find that until you've realized you're deep inside a contemporary Tokyo mystery story. It's so engrossing that I accidentally found myself reading at the dinner table at Tony Roma's instead of talking to my boyfriend. However, if you get THAT excited over Murakami, just read aloud b/c you'll be spreading the word, and it's definitely worth sharing. In fact, my boyfriend thought the description of the Dolphin Hotel in the opening pages was brilliant. It's not any one thing that distinguishes this novel, but it's unique all the same. The narrator has an almost fetishistic mode of observation. He constantly undermines himself and his status by describing those around him in larger-than-life terms and delineating their various incredible qualities. but by the end of the novel, you realize that the one who comes out intact is our very own, humble and unhip narrator. And what a relief that is after all the close calls we experience vicariously through him! Dance Dance Dance is a paradoxical novel b/c it's both lighthearted and very easy to read while also raising and considering deep epistemological questions. I loved that combination, and it made the book both comic and also heartbreaking, a nice duality in these times.
on September 26, 2001
A sheep-man sits in a hotel room and operates a switchboard connecting the lonely, drifting narrator to a web of unforgottable individuals. The sheep-man's room is full of books about, well, sheep, and the narrator mostly experiences reality with the aid of his thirteen-year-old sort-of girlfriend. Logs of days spent "lolling" on the beach, wonderful descriptions of pizza, allusions to Boy George and the Talking Heads, and the sense of frantically trying to escape something (or is it find something?) all combine to make a novel that is not plotted, but choreographed.
Dance Dance Dance is electrifying, captivating, and intense -- and it's pretty brainy too, much like Murakami's characters. The narrator's perspective is standard Murakami: the slightly dreamy, out-of-place 30ish man trying to reason with a world that seems stranger by the minute. Assumptions constantly fall, and no one is sure what or whom to believe.
Yet the strange-goings on are the only thing rescuing the narrator from the miasma of ennui that comes from having rejected the dream of being a "salaryman" with a family and a linear, predictable lifestyle. This is a novel about staring out into the unknown -- and staring deeply into that unknown, it seems Murakami is saying, is the only way to find meaning if we reject the traditional lives that have been prearranged for us.
The only slightly negative thing I can say about this novel is that the plot and the characters have uncanny similarities to those in The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. It almost seems as if Murakami had one outline of a novel, which could go two different ways, and made one into the Wind Up Bird Chronicle, and the other into this book. The narrator's voice, and many of the supporting characters, are exactly the same, as are several plot elements.
Overall, this is significant, and highly enjoyable literature. It manages to ask deep questions about reality, fate, relationships, family, and life, while still packing the thrills of something much more pulpish.
on August 25, 2001
This was the second time that I have read this book. The first time I read this book i read something like 10 books in between reading it and A Wild Sheep Chase. This time I read it right after A Wild Sheep Chase, and i found the book to be more enjoyable.
The book is about the unnamed narrator of A Wild Sheep Chase. Something like four years have passed since he has talked to his dead friend the Rat and the disappearance of his girlfriend. We find the narrator living day to day shoveling cultural snow. He dreams of the Dolphin hotel and soon returns there, but finds the place a massive, beautiful expensive hotel. Not the run down sheep research haven that it had once been. He meets a pretty employee there named Yumiyoshi and soon strikes up an odd relationship with her. She tells him of a night when she went to the 16th floor and she ends up in a dark hallway. She walks down the hallway and sees a light underneath a door. She knocks, but soon runs when she becomes unnerved at the sound of foot prints. The Narrator winfds up on the dank, chill hidden hallway himself and runs into the Sheep Man. The Sheep Man tells him that he has been waiting for him a long time. The Sheep Man then tells the Narreator that he needs to find himself, and what an adventure he has. He meets a movie star, a washed up writer, a spaced out photographer, and a beautiful psychic girl. Wonderful book.