Dance Dance Dance. Murakami, Haruki.

Murakami, Haruki. Dance Dance Dance. Random House New York, Toronto. Translated by Alfred Birnbaum. 1994. F; 4/13

I’ve really liked this Japanese author, particularly his short stories in Blind Willow; Sleeping Woman. The magnum opus 1Q84 was also good. He’s matured since this nearly-20-years-old novel, at the start I didn’t feel the same polish and charm. But in the end I was happy.

The different translator could account for some of the texture. But it was really only in the first 15 percent or so of the book that I found the figures of speech awkward and not maintaining the same logic of imagination of the more recent fiction. There was also a lot of serious anti-capitalist substance on the part of the fictional narrator, the kind of thing you might have found appropriate in the 1970s, and although this could have been just part of the character it didn’t really fit today’s context.

A glittering new hotel has been built on the site of an old one our hero visited with a girlfriend years before, and when he returns to try to find the hotel (about which he has had disturbing dreams) he spends some time in the fancy new building and discovers a weird dark territory within it where he encounters a spiritual guru sheep-man. He also meets a lovely but anxious girl who has seen the same thing. (PLOT ALERT) The original girlfriend has been killed, probably by an old high school friend of the hero’s with whom he reconnects, and several other people die (including the high school friend), all starkly foreseen by the 13-year-old lolita who is a realistically-rendered teenager to go along with her drop-dead looks and spiritual powers. Our hero has the political correctness to pass her up for the hotel-employee girlfriend with whom he presumably lives happily ever after (END PLOT ALERT).

Once Murakami gets going, we get not only the same themes which have apparently survived to his more recent work (crossing over into an imaginary world that in the narrative exists in more than the imagination, a character in transition and doubt who maintains a neutral observer stance, a very pretty young girl with some special clairvoyance, and a quest for transcendental understanding) but also a sense of conviction that saves the real-imaginary world from being videogame science fiction.

It’s that sense of conviction that helps me accept the unrealistic almost juvenile creepy stuff because the author manages seriously to double-track it as both metaphor and narrative. There’s no compulsion or even invitation to make a choice. I could stand to read more. 8.3

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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