ダンス・ダンス・ダンス（上）(Dance, Dance, Dance Part 1)
Author: 村上春樹 (Haruki Murakami) (1988)
jusco’s Rating: ★★★★1/2
The Dolphin Hotel. The Sheep Man. The mysterious crying lady. The beautiful young girl. The attractive hotel attendant in glasses. The cautiously optimistic film star. Several prostitutes. The one-armed poet. The nameless narrator. Haruki Murakami’s typical surrealistic elements are abundant in Dance, Dance, Dance. But what differentiates this novel from the rest of his works is the surprisingly realistic formulation of the story and characters. The story is narrated by a 34-year-old man (also the narrator of Murakami’s previous novels, ie. A Wild Sheep Chase) who is experiencing a midlife crisis; his life is hopeless and meaningless. In this way, it is similar to Murakami’s other novels, dealing with the common themes of alienation and loneliness. Yet, the narrator is drawn into an impending mystery that is unlike any other; this is the world of Murakami where it is difficult to tell apart dreams and reality, where strange occurrences take place.
The main character is pleasantly a more rounded character than usual. There was a stronger sense of genuineness as he goes through a wave of emotions, something unique as Murakami’s characters usually ‘just do it’ without much feeling. The story, other than a few far-fetched and surreal events, was very reality-grounded, thus allowing us to relate further. Murakami’s storytelling genius comes into play through his nitty-gritty details that provide the realistic portrayal of Tokyo’s despondent backdrop. As this is just the first half of the entire novel, it serves more as an introduction to the characters and slowly builds up. One of the main characters is Yuki, a 13-year-old beautiful girl, who reminded me of May Kasahara from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Both are headstrong and mature for their age, yet are vulnerable and need guidance. It is with Yuki that we are able to understand the main character further through their common experiences and their drives around town while listening to music.
Sometimes deadpan hilarious, sometimes absurd, but always entertaining and drawing you in, Murakami has written a masterpiece. Though the first few chapters seemed unpromising, when the story begins to kick off, you find yourself suddenly caught in a whirlwind of happenings and struggling to keep up with the fast-paced turn of events, though you’re more than willing to be dragged along.
(Read my review of Part 2 here)