Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami, translated by Alfred Birnbaum
Life just seems better with a Haruki Murakami story stuck in my ears … being aurally enticed into the fantabulous absurdity of Murakami’s imagined worlds provides a little instant escape from the sometimes same-old, same-old of my own reality! I do admit to a preference for the animated narrator Rupert Degas (who has thus far read me this, A Wild Sheep Chase, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and select stories from The Elephant Vanishes), even if he does mispronounce far too many of the Japanese words and names … really, how hard can it be to make one phone call to a Japanese speaker and get a quickie pronunciation lesson? ACK! Don’t get me started!
Back to Dance-ing … and some quick housekeeping details here. Dance is the fourth book starring our (still-) unnamed protagonist. Even though Dance is considered the sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase, it’s not officially part of the “Trilogy of the Rat” which includes two prequels (Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973) and Sheep. And yes, both Sheep and Dance work as standalone titles, although if you read Sheep first, you’re likely to enjoy Dance more. The jury is still out about the two prequels but I do possess those titles now and have every intention of reading, so stay tuned for future posts.
Picking up about four-and-a-half years after the events of Sheep, our Tokyo-based narrator is drawn back to the same Dolphin Hotel, convinced that his ex-girlfriend – she with the amazing ears who deserted him near the end of their Sapporo chase – is calling from another world for his help. When he arrives, he’s shocked to find a modern, overpriced luxury establishment rather than the ramshackle original. Making inquiries as to the former Dolphin and its owners leads our narrator on yet another Sheepman-chase, this time of magnified proportions that will take our odd-but-mostly good guy across the ocean to a Honolulu office filled with skeletons …
This time, his co-horts include a part-time aquatic hotel receptionist, a 13-year-old girl unexpectedly entrusted to his care, her incredibly neglectful parents – a world-famous genius photographer mother and a bestselling-though-talentless-novelist father who happens to have the name Hiraku Makimura (recognize those mixed-up letters? Murakami sure knows how to laugh at himself!), and a childhood friend who is now a major movie star.
Being on a Murakami binge, I’m having great fun noting some his favorite literary devices: tiny details as Seven Stars cigarettes, endless bottles of Cutty Sark, and toothsome plates of spaghetti, to his wackier penchant for cats, neglected teenage girls with extraordinary powers of perception, walking through walls, navigating pitch-black hallways, dry wells, and of course, the moon. Alas, the ending here didn’t quite do it for me (no spoilers), but that proves a minor detail, as any Murakami adventure is always an unforgettable, escapist, addictive wild ride!
Published: 1994 (United States)