Dance Dance Dance – Haruki Murakami

January 22, 2013

Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami

Dance Dance Dance picks up where A Wild Sheep Chase left off.  The unnamed, everyman narrator is shell-shocked from the events of the previous novel and worried that he has no connection to the world except for his well-worn Subaru.  He makes a comfortable living on whatever freelance writing jobs come his way, or “shovelling cultural snow” as he puts it, and spends the rest of his time doing the things that Murakami protagonists do: drinking beer, walking the streets, making simple meals and listening to music.  He is, in a word, adrift.

But someone is crying out for him in the dark: his old girlfriend, Kiki, with the perfect ears, who disappeared at the end of the last novel.  To pick up the thread of his life, he knows he must find her.  His search takes him back to Sapporo, to the Dolphin Hotel, which sets in motion a chain of events that bring into his orbit a psychic fourteen-year-old Talking Heads fan, her world class photographer and space cadet mother, a depressive movie star who hates his dependable image, and the Sheep Man, who tells him one thing: “You gotta dance.”

Dance Dance Dance was published after Norwegian Wood, which earned Murakami such unwanted fame in Japan that he fled the country.  While it is a sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase, it is not considered part of the Trilogy of the Rat books that made up Murakami’s first three novels, and it does not carry over any of the political and historical commentary.  Instead, it is a much more inward looking, psychological book that sees the author dealing with the trappings of success. Read the rest of this entry »


Murakami on Hitchens

February 12, 2012

Not really.  Murakami has never written on Hitchens, as far as I know.  That would be exciting though, wouldn’t it?  For me.

But I’m reading The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, and when I read the following passage on one of the characters, Noboru Wataya (the man, not the cat – it’ll makes sense if you read the book), I immediately thought of Hitchens.

“He knew how to knock his opponent down quickly and effectively with the fewest possible words.  He had an animal instinct for sensing the direction of the wind.  But if you paid close attention to what he was saying or what he had written, you knew that his words lacked consistency.  They reflected no single worldview based on profound conviction.  His was a world that he had fabricated by combining several one-dimensional systems of thought.  He could rearrange the the combination in an instant, as needed.  These were ingenious – even artistic – intellectual permutations and combinations.  But to me they amounted to nothing more than a gam.  If there was any consistency in his opinions, it was the consistent lack of consistency, and if he had a worldview, it was a view that proclaimed his lack of a worldview.  But these very absences were what constituted his intellectual assets.  Consistency and an established worldview were excess baggage in the intellectual mobile warfare that flared up in the mass media’s tiny time segments, and it was his great advantage to be free of such things.”

“He had nothing to protect, which meant that he could concentrate all his attention on pure acts of combat. He needed only to attack, to knock his enemy down.  Noboru Wataya was an intellectual chameleon, changing his colour in accordance with his opponent’s, ab-libbing his logic for maximum effectiveness, mobilising all the rhetoric at his command.  I had no idea how he had acquired these techniques, but he clearly had the knack of appealing directly to the feelings of the mass audience.  He knew how to use the kind of logic that moved the majority.  Nor did it even have to be logic: it only had to appear so, as long as it aroused the feelings of the masses.”

Too harsh?

PS Does an extended quote count as a blog post?

PPS Murakami uses alot of redundant sentences, huh?  It’s all about the rhythm, though.

After Dark – Haruki Murakami

July 28, 2011

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Considering some of Murakami’s stories involve dancing dwarves, talking cats and sheep with plans for world domination, you’d expect a novel in which he explores Tokyo’s dark side to be pretty damn strange.  But surprisingly, After Dark is one of his less weird novels.  Sure, a girl gets trapped inside a TV set for a bit, but that’s as mundane as a walk to the shops for this author.

Most of the action in After Dark takes place in an unnamed entertainment district, one of those places like Shibuya that lend themselves to stereotypical images of modern Japan, full of giant television screens, neon signs and pay-by-the-hour “love hotels”.  Murakami perfectly captures the nightlife and atmosphere of Tokyo: the salary men rushing for the last train; the constant traffic of kids heading between convenience stores and karaoke bars; the scavenging rats, cats and crows.  Read the rest of this entry »

A Wild Sheep Chase – Haruki Murakami

April 30, 2011

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

A sheep with a star shaped mark on its back and possibly nefarious designs for the human race.  A girl with supernaturally dazzling ears and a sixth sense.  A dying right-wing power broker.  A narrator haunted by a whale’s penis.  A slurring dwarf in a sheep outfit.  What could they all have to do with each other?  Why, they’re all part of the plot of one of Haruki Murakami’s earliest novels, A Wild Sheep Chase.  Naturally. Read the rest of this entry »

The Elephant Vanishes – Haruki Murakami

May 30, 2010

review by Gabriel

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

It’s Murakamipalooza!  By which I mean, I’ve read two Murakami short story collections in a row.  That probably doesn’t qualify for a palooza suffix, but I’m going with it anyway.  The Elephant Vanishes, like Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, is a random collection of short stories, being neither chronologically nor thematically linked.  It is probably more consistent in quality than the latter, and contains everything you’d expect of the author – readability, weirdness, a sense of playfulness and gratuitous references to jazz, classical music and cats.  But it also contains a few stories that surprised me with their characterisation and perspective, and showed me that Murakami can be more flexible than I’d thought. Read the rest of this entry »

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman – Haruki Murakami

May 9, 2010

Review by Gabriel

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

This collection includes the short story The Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes, in which an unnamed narrator enters a contest to win a two million yen prize by inventing a new kind of confection.  To win, he must gain the approval of an unusual panel of judges – the Sharpie Crows, revered birds that live deep in the bowels of the company, and who feed only on genuine Sharpie Cakes.  When he presents his invention to the crows (*spoilers on*), they tear each other apart trying to decide if his product is the real deal.

 In the introduction to Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Murakami states that The Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes was his reaction to the Japanese literary establishment.  When the narrator of the story walks away from the prize due to the savagery and ridiculousness of the judges, he says, “From now on I would make and eat the food I wanted to eat.  The damned Sharpie Crows could peck each other to death for all I cared.”  This pretty much sums up Murakami’s attitude to writing, and it’s what makes his books so damn enjoyable. Read the rest of this entry »

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami

January 24, 2010

Review by Gabriel

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Before Murakami became a full-time writer, he was running a jazz bar in Tokyo.  While working long hours, he managed to have two novels published, and achieved some critical success and recognition.  Not the type to do things by halves, he decided to sell his business to devote himself to writing full time.

At this time, he also took up running to keep fit, a habit he maintains to this day.  But he doesn’t just run – he runs marathons.  He runs for around three hours a day, between one hundred and fifty and two hundred miles a month.  He competes in at least one marathon a year, and also trains for triathlons.  As I said, he’s not the type to do things by halves.   Read the rest of this entry »