Book Review: Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami
The image of the well does not come as unfamiliar to Murakami’s fans. From Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World to The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle to 1Q84, Murakami’s novels often include some underground and reality-deforming place through which the protagonist must pass. The metaphor of the well has not been explicitly employed in Dance Dance Dance, but the story seems to swirl around a dark and timeless place at the bottom of the narrator’s mind where an enigmatic man dressed in sheep skin dwells. The sixth novel by Haruki Murakami, and the sequel to A Wild Sheep Case, Dance Dance Dance deals with motifs and symbols which are not unknown to anyone who is familiar with the author, but the immersion of the protagonist in the dark core of his being adds a powerful, although always ambiguous, dimension to the novel.
Unsurprisingly, the protagonist is a loner who has been abandoned by a mysterious woman he has lived with and who has no control on his life, but is rather moved by external and internal forces he uncomplainingly yields to. Feeling that his search has to start somewhere, the unnamed narrator goes back to the Dolphin Hotel, where he had sojourned with Kiki, the disappeared woman, and from there he finds himself caught in a net of characters and circumstances all connected to each other in some way he cannot grasp. The reader cannot but follow the protagonist in his attempts to understand the fil rouges which link together call girls who get murdered, a past schoolmate who is now a famous actor, a girl he fancies who works at the hotel, a thirteen year-old with psychic abilities, her rich and extravagant parents, a one-armed poet who lives in Honolulu and a room full of skeletons. If in real life he is alone, lost and blind to the actual meaning of the things that happen to him, from some deep corner of his conscience Kiki and the Sheep Man seem to be trying to help him connect the dots. The continuous wanderings, the lack of a safe place and of apparent sense are thus opposed to the only true “home” of the narrator, the darkness inside of him, to which he starts to connect again.
It is true that there is no real plot in the novel and that the events almost too casually unfold and succeed each other, but this chaotic structure does reflect the equally confused, inexplicable and unpredictable experience of the narrator. It is also true, as others say, that the protagonist is extremely similar to the ones of other novels by Murakami and that so are some motifs: indeed, this makes the book emblematic of the author’s style. So, if you are a fan of Murakami’s, do not hesitate to read Dance Dance Dance. If you are not, read it anyway, and be ready to possibly become one.