Dance Dance Dance

dance-dance-dance

Title: Dance Dance Dance
Japanese Title: ダンス・ダンス・ダンス
Author: Murakami Haruki (村上春樹)
Translator: Alfred Birnbaum
Publication Year: 1994 (America); 1988 (Japan)
Publisher: Vintage International
Pages: 393

One of my favorite passages in Dance Dance Dance is the ending of one of the last chapters in the novel:

When I was little, I had this science book. There was a section on “What would happen to the world if there was no friction?” Answer: “Everything on earth would fly into space from the centrifugal force of revolution.” That was my mood.

Indeed, that is the mood of this entire novel, which is perhaps the strangest, most nihilistic, and most off-center Murakami novel I’ve read.

Dance Dance Dance is the sequel to Murakami’s popular 1982 novel A Wild Sheep Chase (羊をめぐる冒険). It concerns the unnamed narrator’s quest to return to the Dolphin Hotel and rescue his former girlfriend Kiki, who had disappeared at the end of A Wild Sheep Chase. Upon returning to Sapporo, the narrator finds that the old, run-down, mystery-haunted Dolphin Hotel of his memory has disappeared, and the Sheep Professor is nowhere to be found. A large, modern, high-class resort hotel, also called “The Dolphin Hotel,” has gone up in the same neighborhood, but the managers and staff claim to know nothing of the former hotel. One receptionist, however, responds the inquiries of narrator by telling him about a cold, pitch-black phantom floor at which the hotel’s elevator sometimes stops. In order to recover Kiki, and, in doing so, save the part of himself that had been damaged by the events in A Wild Sheep Chase, Murakami’s protagonist attempts to pursue these mysteries, albeit in a somewhat half-hearted way.

Of course, this being Murakami, there are many side stories that need to be explored along the way. The narrator catches a glimpse of Kiki acting in a bit part in a high-school romance movie alongside an actor named Gotanda, who had been an acquaintance of the narrator in high school. This connection leads our protagonist to a series of misadventures with his former classmate, who has been accused of killing a call girl rented out by a mysterious organization. Also, during his first stay at the new Dolphin Hotel, the narrator encounters and befriends a thirteen-year-old girl named Yuki, who has for all intents and purposes been abandoned by her famous artist mother and her famous novelist father, who have their own ties to shady organizations. Yuki is charmingly cynical, one of her best lines being, “I don’t give a damn what people say. They can be reptile food for all I care,” and she leads the narrator all over Tokyo, Yokohama, Enoshima, and Hawaii.

Do these plot points ever come together? Are the mysteries presented by the novel ever solved? If you’re familiar with Murakami’s fiction, you can probably guess the answer.

Even though this novel is dark and rambling and bears very little thematic resemblance to A Wild Sheep Chase, it should be an interesting and enjoyable read for Murakami fans. Although Dance Dance Dance is only a loose sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase, there are many things that don’t make sense without knowledge of the events of the previous novel. That being said, I also don’t think Dance Dance Dance should be read immediately after A Wild Sheep Chase, as it isn’t so much a sequel as an appropriation of characters and places for the purpose of creating an entirely different story. Alfred Birnbaum is, as always, a fantastic translator, and his rendition of Murakami’s prose makes this novel a fun, if somewhat gloomy, read.

2 thoughts on “Dance Dance Dance

  1. Wild Sheep Chase is likely my favorite Murakami book, and thus among my favorite novels period. I’ve never read Murakami in the original, but in translation, it’s such a wonderfully bizarre and unique writing style… I love it.

    I’ve never really thought about it thematically, or really analyzed it in any way, though I do generally try to think about the plot as a whole when I finish a book, or a movie, and find that hard to do with Murakami. There’s always something that doesn’t make sense, some leaps of logic as to why the story went the way it did.

    .. I don’t tend to think of Dance Dance Dance as a separate book, but just like the younger brother to Wild Sheep Chase. It’s not as good a book, and probably doesn’t stand on its own too well, but, as a companion to Wild Sheep Chase, it’s pretty good.

    Incidentally, if you ever picked up at all on my obsession with sheep in my happyo at IUC or anything like that, it stems originally from this book. And from interacting with actual sheep in Wales.

  2. I love Wild Sheep Chase too! I never noticed that you have a weird obsession with sheep, but I can imagine developing one as a result of reading Wild Sheep Chase. The history of sheep in Japan is really interesting. I wonder if all that is true – wouldn’t it be funny if Murakami were just making it up? I think the obsession that book gave me has something to do with mountain cabins in Hokkaidō (or in Vermont, whichever is cheaper when I get a job and start making money).

    I agree with your assessment of Dance Dance Dance. It isn’t as good of a book as Wild Sheep Case, but it’s worth reading as a companion piece. I very much like the “little brother” analogy. (^_^)

    In any case, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is my favorite Murakami novels, and yes, therefore one of my favorite books ever.

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