Friday, February 3, 2017

Contemporary Fiction: Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami

I have finally gotten around to reading and writing about the final installment in The Rat series by Haruki Murakami. Dance Dance Dance is the fourth and final book, coming after Wind, Pinball, and A Wild Sheep Chase. It seems like a year cannot go by without me reviewing at least one of Marukami's novels, and 2017 is proving to be no different.

The Situation: It seems our nameless narrator is just as aimless and lonely as we left him at the end of A Wild Sheep Chase. Work has been going well, though he still does not care much for what he does and only does it to put money in his pocket and food on his table. There isn't even anyone in his life for him to be excited about. So he decides to search for the woman who disappeared on him years ago, who now has a name, Kiki. The narrator retraces his steps back to where Kiki first left him, at the Dolphin Hotel in Sapporo, back when he was investigating an entirely different matter. He arrives at the Dolphin Hotel just fine, except it is nothing like he remembered it. The hotel he remembered was small, shabby, and not at all glamorous. The place he is now staying at is the exact opposite, but the narrator's strange connection to it seems to be the same, and finding Kiki will prove to be another adventure without a clear-cut path and direction.

The Problem: The narrator manages to make contact once again with the mysterious Sheep Man. Unfortunately, the information he receives is vague and hard to understand. The only thing he does know is that he is in fact connected to the Dolphin Hotel, and the path he is on is the right one, even though it may be hard to see and follow, which leads to more feelings of lacking direction. But as the months roll by, the narrator meets up with old friends, while also making new ones, and they all somehow move him forward in his adventure. Every person and every event is connected, which should be encouraging. But progress also seems to mean people must die, which is what starts to happen. And even progress without loss of life does little to cure the narrator of his loneliness and lack of connection.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a fiction novel that appears to be set in the 1980s. I only say that because tapes are mentioned, along with musicians such as Boy George, Talking Heads, and Phil Collins. As I mentioned, the narrator still does not have a name, but the people around him receive more names than they did in A Wild Sheep Chase. But it seems that if someone receives a name, even if it is a fake one, it means they will die at some point during the novel, with only a few exceptions. The narrator does not seem to have changed or grown much since the previous novel. He is still obsessed with Kiki's ears, and does not have many interpersonal relationships that are important to him. He does not even work at his old company anymore, so even those ties have been more or less severed. He embarks on another adventure that, from the outside, would not seem to have much action in it. But that may be the point: instead of waiting for something to happen, we move forward just by agreeing to continue living our lives. And being a Murakami novel, there are details regarding cooking and eating, strange dreams that may or may not be actual dreams, weird but intense sex, and the blending of lines between the real and imaginary.   

My Verdict: For whatever reason, I was not as invested in this adventure as I was in A Wild Sheep Chase. Granted, that adventure had more of a sense of urgency about it, while this one seemed to unfold at whatever pace the narrator felt comfortable with, sometimes even taken longer than he would of liked. Many of the same elements were present, but it just was not as interesting, and the ending may not have felt rushed, but it also did not feel fitting for the conclusion of the four-book series. Even so, the story was not terrible, and I never wanted to abandon it and move on to a different book. It was interesting enough that I wanted to know how everything was going to turn out, even though the further along I got, the more sure I was that things were going to come out in a less than satisfactory way.

Favorite Moment: When the narrator is able to outsmart the police, even after they manage to hold him for three days without a warrant and without officially arresting him.

Favorite Character: Yuki is a stubborn but sensitive 13 year-old girl the narrator ends up meeting by chance, but their paths turn out to be somewhat connected. She becomes one of the few people the narrator becomes concerned about and goes out of his way to look after, and they end up forming a strange and unlikely friendship that does them both a lot of good.

Recommended Reading: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is still my favorite Murakami book, and I recommend it to anyone as an introduction to his work. 

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