Eclectic mix of 40′s mystery à la Raymond Chandler and crazy metaphysical musings. All in that characteristic Murakami style that makes you feel like you’re reading a Lynch movie. And poetry.
Read in English, translated from the Japanese by Alfred Birnbaum
Original release 1988
First things first: I really loved this book. But, as all Murakami novels, I am unsure if I can ever really understand it.
‘Dance dance dance’ features an unnamed protagonist, recently divorced and with a certain detachment to life in general. The story starts with his repeated dreams of and old inn where he once stayed with a girlfriend, the Dolphin Hotel. In these dreams someone is crying for him, longing for him. This haunts him to the extent that he takes time off from work and goes to see the old, dusty place – only to find it replaced by a sparkly new upper-end accommodation.
At the same time our un-named character starts looking for his old girlfriend Kiki, who suddenly disappeared a few years back. His search leads him to reconnect with an old high school friend – now movie star; meet a psychic 13-year old; fall in love with a prudish hotel clerk; befriend a one-armed poet; and sleep with a small string of high-class call girls. A famous, but untalented fiction writer by the name Hiraku Makimura also makes an appearance.
When a call girl ends up dead, the narrator is even further entangled in this web of strange incidents where ‘everything is connected’. The protagonist is questioned by the police, and is increasingly worried. Good thing that he has met his spirit guide (?), the Sheep Man, in a different dimension inside the Dolphin Hotel, who could comfort him with the simple notion: ‘dance dance dance’.
” ‘Dance’, said the Sheep Man. ‘Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays. Yougotta dance. Don’teventhinkwhy. Starttothink, yourfeetstop. Yourfeetstop, wegetstuck. Wegetstuck, you’restuck. Sodon’tpayanymind, nomatterhowdumb. Yougottakeepthestep. Yougottalimberup. Yougottaloosenwhatyoubolteddown. Yougottauseallyougot. Weknowyou’retired, tiredandscared. Happenstoeveryone, okay? Justdon’tletyourfeetstop.’ “
Murakami really impresses me as a writer. He clearly lives and works in his own universe, where everything really is connected. But he possesses the strange ability to write exceptionally original stories, while being funny – I actually laughed a lot while reading this book – and while writing poetry in the middle of the Chandler-style murder mystery. How does he do that? Impressive.
A few things dented an otherwise smooth reading experience. It became clear during the book that this is an independent sequel to ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’, which I haven’t read – I wish the publisher could have bothered to write that on the cover. And remember me writing about my bad habit of trying to anticipate every twist of a story? I figured out the murder mystery early on. But perhaps it wasn’t supposed to be a surprise.
This book will stay with me for a long time. Mostly, perhaps, because I read my own message out of the story:
Life is for living. You gotta keep dancing.
Dance dance dance.