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Dance Dance Dance July 12, 2007

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Books, Reviews.

Dance Dance Dance is only the second of Haruki Murakami’s novels that I’ve had the opportunity to read, and it manages to betray much about the author’s style. Elements of these include the way he adroitly manages to weave an entire tale around an unnamed protagonist, his penchant for interjecting thoughtful insights on modern-day life and society (in this case, capitalism), and his affinity for themes that plainly involve the human psyche. However, this tale involving odd interpersonal relationships and high-class call girls (albeit done mostly in good taste) that tries to be one part out-and-out fantasy, another part social critique, and a third part murder mystery tends to fall short of being the least bit satisfying.

Undoubtedly, the situations that Murakami’s unnamed protagonist finds himself in are of the sort that will not appeal to audiences of certain persuasions (did I mention the call girls?); yet the novel feels off for an entirely different reason. In truth, Dance Dance Dance is a novel that mostly meanders but doesn’t really get anywhere. Yes, Murakami manages to bring the novel (or more appropriately, the protagonist) around full circle. And yes, perhaps this “meandering” as I call it is but a device to drive home some broader point; after all, the book is entitled Dance Dance Dance, as if to say graceful motion for motion’s sake needs no other purpose, as with his storytelling (and without giving anything away “dancing” is also conspicuously referred to in the narrative for similar reasons).

Or perhaps I just missed the broader point, something I will be all too willing to admit.

Murakami is generally regarded as a masterful novelist, but I would submit that Dance Dance Dance demonstrates that he is a better short-story scribe instead. The sense of aimlessness found in this novel is akin to those in the tales of his collected anthologies, yet is a little much to bear given a novel’s length. Indeed, there is a large chunk of Dance Dance Dance that calls out for asking “what was that all about?” Then again, to say this is to acknowledge that Murakami does have that uncanny ability to get into one’s head: the exact same question, in a none too dissimilar context, also figures prominently in the narrative.

Maybe I need more time to let this novel sink in; it might just be that type of book that merits further thought, especially for those (such as myself) who claim no particular affinity towards literature (as I said, maybe I missed the point). However, as a serial reader — albeit a casual one — I would go so far as to say that Dance Dance Dance is perhaps best left to the serious Murakami enthusiast, if not the dedicated reader willing to dance, dance, dance with the story until grasping it becomes practically second nature.



1. imani - July 12, 2007

Since Dance is only your second Murakami and you enjoyed Hard-boiled then I’d say you just happened upon one of his lesser efforts rather than it being any indication that he’s better at short stories. It’s considered the sequel to Wild Sheep Dance and I found that one to be the least accomplished of all his novels. I haven’t read Dance, Dance, Dance precisely because it’s connected to it.

2. Brian L. Belen - July 12, 2007

I wasn’t aware that it followed Wild Sheep Chase. I’m sure I’ll have a better handle on Murakami’s talents as I work my way toward Kafka on the Shore (the impression that he’s a better short story writer is informed mostly by the opinions of others that I happen to gravitate towards, as here and here). But for now I think it’s time for a little Murakami break.

Having said that, I liked the first third of Dance. It’s the sudden shift in the story’s direction thereafter that threw me off.

Thanks for the comment! I hope we find other things to discuss again in the future.

3. imani - July 12, 2007

Ah yes, not too many Murakami fans seem to be fond of Kafka, although it was my first so that may in part explain my more positive reaction. I haven’t tried his short stories (although I plan to rectify that soon after two acquaintances reassured me they were excelent) because I read one of them in the New Yorker from his latest and was nonplussed.

I took a quick browse through your site and found it interesting so I’m sure I’ll be back to comment. 🙂

4. Me Write Too Plenty « BRAIN DRAIN - August 18, 2007

[…] writers, especially those that take on writing gigs on a diverse array of subjects. To paraphrase Murakami, such hired hands may just be shoveling the snow of society, but it does take talent to put on and […]

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