“You mean machines are like humans?”
I shook my head. “No, not like humans. With machines the feeling is, well, more finite. It doesn’t go any further.
With humans it’s different. The feeling is always changing. Like if you love somebody, the love is always shifting or wavering. It’s always questioning or inflating or disappearing or denying or hurting. And the thing is, you can’t do anything about it, you can’t control it. With my Subaru, it’s not so complicated.”
~Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance
Sorry for the hiatus, peeps. I’ve been backpacking through SE Asia and haven’t had a lot of time for reading, although I do have a few things on the list to catch up with. But today, while it’s fresh in my mind, I’m going to review Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami.
Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile know that I became a fan of Murakami with 1Q84, and my love for his snappy prose and metaphysical, meandering plots solidified after devouring After Dark – which reminds me, I should review that sometime as well because it is brilliant, and possibly one of his more cohesive works. Cohesive being a relative term. I’m pretty sure Murakami thinks up his plots after ingesting all the drugs there ever were, then washing them down with hallucinogenic whiskey and tears.
I suppose you want a plot for Dance Dance Dance. In one sentence: an unnamed commercial writers goes through waves of depression, regret, and loss – basically has a mid-life crisis – while around him, strange things happen, acquaintances die mysteriously, and mysterious and beautiful women surround him. Oh, and there’s an absolutely fantastic character named Yuki, who is a thirteen year old girl who the protagonist ends up forming a rather strange friendship with. She’s my favorite character, at turns sassy and angry and overwhelmingly wise beyond her years.
Murakami is a bit of a creep, though. He seems to include beautiful, wise underage girls in his novels quite often that the protagonists fall into some kind of worshipful weird love with. Not that they ever do anything untoward, it’s just…read it yourself and you’ll see what I mean. You get the impression Murakami would be that one guy in the coffeeshop/bar who starts conversations with girls to compliment them and keeps talking until they get freaked out and leave.
ANYWAYS. DDD does not exactly follow a traditional novel layout. It offers no cut-and-dried answers to the million little mysteries that Murakami weaves into his stories. It flows from one tale to another, to one time from another. It settles, uneasily, upon one idea before flitting away to new, sometimes conflicting ones. It is, like all of Murakami’s books, intensely philosophical and more than a little absurd. I believe one of the reviews on the back cover called it a comedy, which is – debatable.
Someone else compared it to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and I’m pretty sure they only did that because they both have something about a sheep within the book. Um, do these reviewers even read the books, or just go, “Ah yes, I saw the word sheep in there. Sheep, sheep. Where have I seen that word before? Ah! I could compare it to something about New Zealand. Wait, New Zealand doesn’t have books. I got it! There’s that book by Philip K. Dick that has the word ‘sheep’ in the title! And they even made a movie out of that one with Harrison Ford in it, so it must be good! Perfect. That’s my job. Now to the Google machine to look up photos of Han Solo for six hours. YASSS.”
Actually, that sounds like an amazing job.
ANYWAYS. Dance, Dance, Dance is also an uneasy, unsettling book. I read it on a 14-hour overnight train ride. Rocking in my austere, scratched bunk bed, I felt by turns amused, depressed, and overwhelmed, so much so that at points I had to put down the story and turn to some more lighthearted entertainment for awhile. Also, as I forgot to bring any alcohol and as I was sitting across from some monk and would have felt bad drinking it anyways, I couldn’t sleep.
Still, I finished it in well under 14 hours – it’s nowhere near the length nor breadth of story that 1Q84 is, coming in at a mere 393 pages. And while the tale Murakami weaves is complex and surreal, it sticks to a relatively short time frame. His characters are few enough to keep track of and care about, and the pace ticks along energetically, from Sapporo to Tokyo to Hawaii and back again. The trademark Murakami-isms are all there: the protagonist enjoys cooking, complete with detailed descriptions of what he makes and how it is prepared, resembling a cookbook more than a novel in some scenes. Snappy American slang and cultural references are scattered throughout. The protagonist enjoys a beer on his own and a glass of whiskey before bed, and he likes to go out for steak in restaurants and Dunkin Donuts for breakfast.
Murakami also not-so-subtly inserted a cameo of himself into the story, or at least an anagram. “Hiraku Makimura,” Yuki’s father, appears as an ambiguous force who helps the protagonist escape from the police and plies him with girls and money, but who also has no idea how to raise his daughter and is nothing more than a washed-up writer. This part Murakami writes about with some relish. I can just imagine him thrilled as punch to insult himself in front of his audience, right when he was at the height of his fame.
Overall, this is not my favorite Murakami book. I found it more disorganized than most, not enough questions with even a hint of an answer or resolution. Interesting leads that seemed like they were going somewhere would then trail off into nothing. I know this is Murakami’s style, and it’s good to an extent, but it’s like Marmite and fish sauce (not together, gross): better in moderation. I still enjoyed it, and would recommend it, but I don’t think it’s the easiest of his novels to get into. If you’re interested in reading any of his books but haven’t done so yet, I would recommend checking out After Dark or Norwegian Wood first. 1Q84 is my favorite, but it’s also incredibly long, meandering, and complex, and it took me nearly a year to get through it properly.
I leave you here with another quote:
“Life is a lot more fragile than we think. So you should treat others in a way that leaves no regrets. Fairly, and if possible, sincerely.”
~Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance