Novel: Dance Dance Dance

‘Mediocrity is like a spot on your shirt, it never comes off.’

Dance Dance Dance Is a novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, first published in 1988. It follows the life of an unnamed narrator as he struggles to make sense of the world around him, and his place within it. Combining a cast of offbeat characters with a world that frequently comes across as unsettling and grim results in possibly the darkest of Murakami’s books, but also one of the best, yo-yoing from gripping to disquieting and back again in the space of a few pages, yet managing to be incredibly entertaining throughout.

The world of Dance Dance Dance seems to take aspects of the genre of magical realism, weaving ordinary events with plot devices that would be impossible in the real world. This does not detract from the novel however, with each new impossibility being presented into the book as if it belongs there, with even the bemused narrator accepting such oddities as a clairvoyant 13 year old, or another world accessed through the lift of an expensive hotel. While these concepts seem ridiculous, their placement in a book that is otherwise firmly rooted in reality reduces this improbability, until by the end of the book the reader accepts such concepts as matter of fact, rather than out of place, ultimately enhancing the feel of subtle unease that pervades the text.

The story itself plays out as a series of forking paths, with each being visited in turn, it isn’t that there is no coherent plot, but more that this plot is often sidelined in favour of such events as a detour to Hawaii, or a rendezvous with a call-girl. It is to Murakami’s credit than none of these deviations seem frivolous or unnecessary, and the way in which he manages to link the vast majority of these unconnected events by the end of the novel is nothing short of masterful, with the reader at no point feeling lost or frustrated. The ever present narrator is the main method by which these seemingly unrelated scenes are brought together, and by the end of the novel one feels close enough to the unnamed protagonist that his experiences truly seem to matter.

If there’s one criticism of Dance Dance Dance it is that at times the pacing does seem to be inconsistent, with one scene in a police station dragging on for longer than necessary, but this is a small and infrequent complaint, and does not detract from the overall brilliance of the Novel. the book seems to be written by the author, for the author, yet gives the reader a well crafted window into another’s perspective. To quote the narrator I don’t give a damn about what people say. They can be reptile food for all I care’. It is precisely this attitude that makes Dance Dance Dance such a pleasure to read.


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