Book Review: Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami

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“The skin of my soul was no longer tender. I tried not to feel anything at all. My resignation was a silent rain falling over a vast sea. Even loneliness was beyond me. Everything was taking leave of me, like ciphers in the sand, blown away on the wind.”

At its heart Dance Dance Dance is about a man who feels disconnected from the world he lives in. His wife has left him, he has no love or passion for his job, and he spends his days just getting by. The novel is his quest to bring to together a bunch of disconnected threads and to find meaning in life.

This is one of Murakami’s early works and it really shows. It isn’t bad, per se, but it doesn’t showcase the storytelling prowess that Murakami is truly capable of. Granted, the last Murakami I read was The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which is arguably Murakami’s masterpiece in plot and storytelling. Here in Dance, he’s still learning his craft and finding himself as a writer.

I’ve been very slowly trying to make my through Murakami’s large (and still growing) oeuvre since I first discovered him through Kafka on the Shore back in 2007. Dance topped my list of Murakami to-read books 2 years ago when a guy in my fiction writing class told me that this was his favorite Murakami novel out of all the ones he’s read (which was quite a lot). I expected to be wowed by this book but I wasn’t. It’s hard to criticize though because I don’t think its a bad book or story. It’s engaging and I was really swept up in the story and the characters. The element of surrealism and just plain weirdness that characterizes Murakami’s work is there, but more softly felt. I think if this was the first Murakami I read I would have liked it but because I’ve read his later work, I can’t get past the fact that his early work feels so young. All of the potential is there but its like buying bananas that are still green. You know they will eventually ripen and will become good to eat but right now its not there yet. 

All that said, I did find myself connecting with the narrator and all of the characters. They’re a strange bunch of people but if you’re ever feeling lost and directionless and just have a lack of real feeling and passion, Murakami captures that really well. His real gift lies in his ability to take completely ordinary people and put them in extraordinary situations without extinguishing the shine of their ordinary-ness. If I had to recommend one Murakami book to read, would this be it? No. But I would definitely recommend this to a Murakami fan who would like to familiarize themselves with all of his work. 


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