What we seek is some kind of compensation for what we put up with.
Dance Dance Dance, by Haruki Murakami
A lonely and nameless protagonist, a missing girlfriend with perfect ears, and a precocious teenage girl. As an avid fan of Murakami, I’m more than familiar with his various tropes, and perhaps because of this, reading a Murakami novel takes me far less time than any other book. When something surreal or slightly supernatural happens, as it inevitably does, I’m rarely surprised and simply read on.
Three of Murakami’s earliest novels are considered the Trilogy of the Rat: Hear the Wind Sing; Pinball, 1973; and A Wild Sheep Chase, the last of which I’ve read but haven’t reviewed. While Dance Dance Dance is a continuation of this series, it isn’t considered a part of the series itself. Personally, I enjoyed Dance Dance Dance much more than A Wild Sheep Chase, which I found unnecessarily convoluted and simply unenjoyable to read.
While reading Dance Dance Dance, I acknowledged the usual Murakami tropes and themes, yet I found the most fascinating aspect to be the theme of consumerism and commercialization, especially of people. Prostitution, especially the willing prostitution of upper middle-class, sophisticated women, is a common theme found in Murakami’s works, but the commercialization of people extends beyond this in Dance Dance Dance. The unnamed protagonist’s sole connection to the world appears to be through his work as a copywriter, and he is also paid to be a companion figure to Yuki. The novel is full of characters seeking other characters to relieve their own loneliness, rather than to actually enjoy their company, with many of these interactions having an admittedly transactional nature. Even with Ame and Dick North’s supposedly happy romance, Dick’s efforts at keeping the house tidy seemed to be necessary to continue his relationship with Ame. It made me think more closely about this question than I would have liked to – is all human interaction transactional? Is there a way to enjoy another person’s company without some sort of transaction taking place?
In addition to this, there are references to more conventional consumerism. The protagonist shops for groceries at Kinokuniya while complaining about its prices and luxurious brand image. Gotanda and the protagonist both view Gotanda’s Maserati as an unnecessary luxury, in some ways inferior to the protagonist’s Subaru. And even the new, gleaming Dolphin Hotel is a shadow of its former, shabbier self. Similarly, Gotanda’s luxurious lifestyle is shown to be just as devoid of real interaction as the protagonist’s. It’s the age-old message that money does not equal happiness, but somehow it is newly poignant, coming from Murakami.
YES OR NO?: YES. Compared to Murakami’s other works, Dance Dance Dance is simple and straightforward, other than the occasional moments of the supernatural. I think this book would also be a great introduction to a new Murakami inductee, since there’s no need to read the other books in The Rat Trilogy.