Sunday, June 29, 2008

Haruki Murakami - Dance Dance Dance

Click here to go to Amazon and buy this book

"High class call girls billed to Mastercard. A psychic thirteen-year-old drop-out with a passion for Talking Heads. A hunky matinee idol doomed to play dentists and teachers. A one-armed beach-combing poet, an uptight hotel clerk and one very bemused narrator caught in the web of advanced capitalist mayhem. Combine this offbeat cast of characters with Murakami's idiosyncratic prose and out comes Dance Dance Dance. It is an assault on the senses, part murder mystery, part metaphysical speculation; a fable for our times as catchy as a rock song blasting from the window of a sports car."

I have a terrible habit of getting excited by the thought of books...the need to own them which results in piles of books I really want to read, but don't seem to get around to for a long, long time (this is currently the case with Brick Lane). In full dreadfully materialist honesty, very much the same can happen with CDs...and DVDs too. Perhaps I have a problem!
Anyway, I am not here for a shrink session, but to talk about Haruki Murakami and, specifically, his book Dance Dance Dance. The above introduction (mine, not the official 'blurb') results from me purchasing Norwegian Wood I really don't know how long ago. I only finally got around to it this year and, once I did, it made me want to read all of his novels! Dance Dance Dance was my second of his, and I finished it just recently.
I love Murakami's lyrical style of prose, his 'human' characters with bona fide human faults and confusions, and the subtle references to songs and pieces of music - placed so perfectly that they almost become characters in themselves, like when a song is so intrinsically tied to a memory that even hearing those first few bars conjures up vivid images in your head.
I am also a fan of the surreal - in art, in film, in literature - and Murakami nails this, without it ever seeming contrived, and without crossing that (for me) all-important line over into true fantasy or science fiction writing.
I can see Murakami books as I read them. The character-centric details, for example the descriptions of a woman's ears in this specific novel, make imagining almost unnecessary...the list of players really does come to life. I really hate it when a film is made of a book and the characters do not look like they did in your head, it spoils the whole illusion - I have always thought this, from reading Mallory Towers books as a child and feeling that the pictures on the front of the book did not represent the characters that I saw.
Some examples (from the first 30 pages of Dance Dance Dance):

"A fat maid walked the halls with elephant strides, ponderously, ominously coughing."

"High school girls came bustling along, their rosy red cheeks puffing white breaths you could have written cartoon captions in."

"Precipitate as weather, she appeared from somewhere, then evaporated, leaving only memory."

"A real live hotelier by the looks of him. I'd met enough of them in my line of work. They are a dubious species, with twenty-five different smiles on call for every variety of circumstance. From the cool and cordial twinge of disinterest to the measured grin of satisfaction. They wield the entire arsenal by number, like golf clubs for particular shots."

Haruki Murakami's writing often reminds me of another of my favourite authors, in a number of ways: the surreal imagery; the journey inside the protagonist's mind (which is often somewhere far short of 'peachy' in terms of mental health); the intimately detailed descriptions; the poetic turns of phrase; the personality and idiosyncrasy. The writer of whom I speak is Richard Brautigan (although all of the above could also be true of Tom Robbins), whose work I urge you to read if you are unfamiliar with it to date. Although not as well-known as Jack Kerouac and the like, he was one of San Francisco's beat poets and, whilst his books are very 'of the time', they are so beautifully written that, in my opinion, there is no issue about them being dated.

I came here with the intention of actually writing a book review of Dance Dance Dance, but it seems to have turned into an all-out rant. I kind of like it that way, and think I will just leave this as my stream-of-consciousness first 'bash', without self-editing or worrying about my own writing style and vocabulary. It gives you all the more reason to read the book, rather than just the precis!
I was especially pleased to be able to find five whole songs of the same title! Here they are:

Dance Dance Dance - Lykke Li

Dance Dance Dance (Live) - Neil Young

Dance Dance Dance - The Beach Boys

Dance, Dance, Dance - The Steve Miller Band

Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah) - Chic

Buy Dance Dance Dance


Anonymous said...

So this is becoming an arts blog, not just a music blog. As you know, I love Murakami also - my favourite is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. I agree with you about the Brautigan and Robbins resonances, though I think that Murakami is more subtle than Robbins hilarious slapstick and more 'on the ball' than the dreamy Richard. His genius is tying the mundane ( choice of noodles, drinking a lager, feeding the cat) to the whole issue of existential angst.
But, daughter of mine, you have failed me. I thought that you had learned well. All of your 'dances' are as nothing compared to 'Dance, Dance, Dance' by Solomon Burke, the erstwhile 'Wonder Boy Preacher, latterday Funeral Parlour operator and meta-grandfather. In my view, Burke was the greatest of the Atlantic soul generation ( I do not include Ray Charles in a genre so narrowly defined), if Ben E king was the most distinctive. Greater bthan Otis in both cases, in my controversial view. Give me a bell.

The Fat Man (still unfooled after many decades)

Divinyl said...

Still a music blog...but there are no rules in what I write about, so you may just get the occasional diatribe tied to some aptly-titled mp3s!

I agree completely with what you say about Robbins and Brautigan and I wish I'd thought to write this sentence:

"His genius is tying the mundane (choice of noodles, drinking a lager, feeding the cat) to the whole issue of existential angst."

It describes it perfectly!

I'm afraid I don't have the Solomon Burke track...please don't disown me ;o) And you already know that I agree with you on Ben E. King over Otis (although I love him too!).

ZenDenizen said...

You had me at "Talking Heads!" I miss them but I hope I at least get the chance to see David Byrne perform someday.

Anonymous said...

Can any of you suggest discussion questions for Dance Dance Dance?

I haven't read it yet, but am a huge fan of Kafka on the Shore...

weiwei said...

i am actually going to watch david byrne tonight!

thanks for list of dance dance dance songs. esp love the lykke li and neil young ones : )