Peter John McLean

Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami (Your Plot Can Have Loose Ends) (Reviews)

I recently finished reading Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami, which means I am running out of new Murakami books to read. I ordered a copy of Norwegian Wood, but that doesn’t count because I have already read that one. I still need to read his newest one, and a few others.

Dance Dance Dance essentially picks up where A Wild Sheep Chase leaves off, but for those who haven’t read A Wild Sheep Chase it really doesn’t matter. For instance, when I started reading Dance Dance Dance I didn’t actually know it was a sequel until I was twenty or so pages in and it didn’t change my reading experience at all. I haven’t read A Wild Sheep Chase since probably 2011 and only remember the loose structure and characters at this point. The protagonist is – you guessed it – a thirty something nameless Japanese guy in a world filled with madness.

The story reminds me of Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut for a couple of reasons. One, it is the first Murakami book to initiate philosophical ideas and then repeatedly harp on them throughout the story. In the case of Dance Dance Dance the concept is advanced capitalism. He regularly reiterates the madness of advanced capitalism with examples like sports cars and prostitutes as tax deductions and how his efforts as a freelance writer are entirely pointless. He equates his writing efforts to shoveling snow, which he then equates to prostitution, and advanced capitalism.

The other reason it reminds me of Cat’s Cradle is that it isn’t centered on the nameless protagonist, but on him, a girl, an old middle school acquaintance, the girl’s mother (who is an eccentric photographer), the girl’s father (who is a failed writer), and a shy hotel employee who sporadically dates the nameless protagonist. These characters are all interwoven chaotically in the story, fulfilling the other major concept, which is that everything is tied together.

The story is about a hotel called The Dolphin Hotel which played a part in A Wild Sheep Chase. The hotel, which was a seedy back alley hardboiled noir cliche of a place, has been completely overhauled into a luxury hotel…with the same name. Also sometimes when you get off the elevator shit is dark and The Sheep Man is there talkinginhisratatatstatementsthatarehardtoreadandunderstand. Is any of this properly explained in the ending?

Of course not.

Your Plot Can Have Loose Ends

Lately, while rewriting my book about a rat, I’ve been frustrated with how I fit everything together. The story, which is about Tlön and simulacra themes, is a coming of age story of an anthropomorphic rat in a slow decline dystopia. As the rat becomes close friends with a faceless stranger he met through his girlfriend, he becomes frustrated with his own lack of success in life. This drives him to commit felonies, kill his friend’s landlord, and eventually almost die.

Can I get all of the loose ends tied up? Should I reduce some complications to make the end fit neatly together like an Agatha Christie novel?

I don’t think so. I think that Murakami (and probably some other writers I haven’t read) are proof that a story can be chaotic and messy and filled with odd and eccentric characters and plot points and structure and even settings without everything being explained effectively on the last page. Murakami does this in most, if not all, of his books.

My only real complaint with his style is that sometimes he throws characters together in weird and unrealistic ways. Near the end of (spoiler) the book the hotel employee basically falls in love with the nameless protagonist and they brave the crazy dark alternative hotel zone together and it really comes out of nowhere. It lacked sufficient development but who knows, maybe that’s just proof that your romance pacing doesn’t matter much either.