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Dance, Dance, Dance like your life depends on it

It is difficult to write about a book you have finished awhile ago and it is even hard to write a review about Murakami’s books without sounding like a sycophant or Murakami Groupie that goes on and on to say how fantastic his books are… but the truth is : I love this one!!!! 😀

The protagonist, whose name is not mentioned, is the same one that appears in The Wild Sheep Chase, for some reason felt the urge to revisit the Dolphin Hotel again to look for Kiki, his girlfriend who has a pair of breathtaking beautiful ears. 🙂 In Sapporo, the Dolphin hotel is not what it used to be, it is taken over by a bigger company and has become more luxurious and up-market. Along the way, he strikes up a friendship with the receptionist, Yumiyoshi and become a reluctant companion of a clairvoyant 13-year-old girl called Yuki. Yuki came from a dysfunctional family of eccentric photographer of a mother, Ame and a rich, untalented writer of a father. Ame’s has a boyfriend David who was a Vietnam war veteran, now a poet and has only one arm and makes the best sandwiches. One day he came across a scene in a movie and he thought he caught a glimpse of Kiki and his high school classmate Gotanda, a matinee idol who only plays the role of dentists and teachers, who is recently divorced but still seeing his ex-wife.

The protagonist is somewhat of a drifter. 34-year-old, recently divorced and severed ties from his business partner, he is a food review journalist. Not exactly a famed writer but he describes his job as “shoveling snow” and “shoveling cultural snow” one i.e. not a great job but someone has to do it. He plods along and through a series of strange events he met this motley crew of characters. I somehow relate the book title as a reminder to the narrator’s mundane existence of a life and remember an advice that says: “Dance as if no one is watching, and dance as if you don’t care” that life is short, dance as if it is your last.

“Dancing is everything, Dance in tip-top form. Dance so it all keeps spinning. If you do that, we might be able to do something for you. You gotta dance. As long as the music plays…Dance, it’s the only way. Wish we could explain things better. But we told you all we could. Dance. Don’t think. Dance. Dance your best, like your life depended on it. You gotta dance.” – quipped the sheep man.

The strange encounter of both the protagonist and the receptionist Yumiyoshi is reminiscences of a scene in Hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world, where the lift takes you to a floor and it opens up to different realm than one would normally expect. This is where the sheep man makes several guest appearances.

So as the protagonist plod along aimlessly, the book details what he does every single day and the strange adventure and characters that he meet along the way. Unlike his other books, this one introduces a murder mystery and that sort of jived with my recent read of crime fiction and sated my appetite the mystery; but more than that the book is also a social commentary. In my view, no one writes about contemporary sense of loss as good as Murakami. It is imminent in all his novels and one formula that he uses it again and again. As ever, it’s what you do with the formula. Murakami knows how to fold, spindle, mutilate, and combine genres like no one else. Dance Dance Dance should be called a supernatural mystery novel, in a way that really only makes sense if you’ve read a bunch of other Murakami but I’m not one to box books into genre and I enjoy every Murakami as if it was my last. In this book, Murakami has created a really cool and excellent guy, considerate and attentive, which you can’t often say about Murakami protagonists.

Throughout it all, Murakami still takes my breath away with his profound words:

If you put an end to all the waste, mass panic would ensure and the global economy would go haywire. Waste is the fuel of contradiction, and contradiction activates the economy, and active economy creates more waste – page 19

What we seek is a compensation for what we put up with. – page 20

Take Gotanda. His doctor persona was all image. Yet he looked more like a real doctor than any doctor I knew. All the dependability and trust he projected.

What was my image? Did I even have one?

Dance, the Sheep Man said. Dance in tip-top form. Dance so it all keeps spinning.

Did that mean I would then have an image? And if I did would people be impressed? Well, more than they’d be impressed by my real self, I bet. – page 160

“You’re not such a bad cook,” Yuki said.

“No, not true. I just put my heart into it. That’s the difference. It’ a question of attitude. If you really work at something, you can do it, up to a point. If you really work at being happy, you can do it, up to a point.”

“But anything more than that, you can’t”

“Anything more than that is luck,” I said.

“You really know how to depress people, don’t you? Is that what you call being adult?” – page 253

As time goes on, you’ll understand. What lasts, lasts; what doesn’t, doesn’t. Time solves most things. And what time can’t solve, you have to solve yourself. – page 312 Narrator to Yuki.

The friendship that develops between the protagonist and this girl is the most convincing character development I’ve found in Murakami. He feels tenderly toward her — sort of fatherly, but more like a wise older friend. She’s a classic teenager: sullen, believing everyone else is so lame, smacking gum loudly and wearing her headphones whenever everyone else just gets too lame for words. Their relationship is very captivating and as I got sucked into the story, I imagined myself spending idyllic time with them in Hawaii.

There is a murder, the narrator has been interrogated and watched by the police, his friend Gotanda is living the high-life as actor yet very unhappy, and there is a lot more eroticism in this one than his other books which some reviews have mentioned. He was led to a dark alley and saw 6 skeletons on a couch. He could identify the 4 deaths but who is the other 2? Often in these sorts of situations, Murakami would take the easy route out: put some balls in the air, then walk off to and left us figuring out what’s the other supernatural incident is all about (I’m referring to Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle). Here he finishes the juggling routine which is why I like his earlier novels a little bit more, a tidier ending. The result is an uncannily gripping story that’s also emotionally affecting. I can’t recommend it strongly enough. One of my favourite Murakami.

I can’t wait to read all three volumes of 1Q84 from the library soon!


I’m reading this for Haruki Murakami and J-Lit 5 Challenges.

Paperback. Publisher: Vintage 1988, 2003; Length: 393 pages; Setting: 80′s Japan. Source: Reading Library Loot. Finished reading at: 14 November 2011. Translated by Alfred Birnbaum.

Other views:

Read gathering books review as it attempts to explain the metaphysics of the book, more eloquent than I could!:

Gathering Books:

And they ask us to dance, dance we shall.

The novel is a journey to a metaphorical dance. We follow the narrator go with the rhythm of his life. He doesn’t over think his decisions. He dances to the tune and discovers that in the random events a connection can be drawn. Everything seems like a big play on fate, while at the same time it echoes the idea that we are the decisions that we make.

In the case of our narrator, he opened himself up to the events and as he does, he meets people, hear their lives, and meet himself.

So, did I like it?

After re-reading Dance, I found myself smiling. Its place in my list of favorite books remains. It is for the same reason it was a favorite seven (7) years ago—it spoke to me. The narrator’s life, his journey was tied closely to mine…the sense of loss, the sense of fleetness, the desire for solidity, the relaitonship with people, the warmth, and the darkness all melded into one person. Yup. That’s me…most definitely.

Wilfrid Wong: It is rare to spot an opportunity to witness the turning point of a writer’s career.  This is one.

Mel U @Reading Life : Dance, Dance, Dance was, to me, a fun read.It is in the bookish boy genre and one should know that before reading it. In my classification, a book can be a work of very high quality and be a bookish boy’s novel.

Ti@Book Chatter: Part mystery, part fantasy…Dance, Dance, Dance is a beautifully crafted, wicked-good example of a surreal story that works.

Murakami is a master of dialogue. When his characters speak, I listen. It might be the most mundane thing coming out of their mouths, but for some reason, I always find myself sitting on the edge of my seat when they speak.  I think it has to do with the complexity of his characters. They’re complex, so their dialogue doesn’t have to be.


About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


30 thoughts on “Dance, Dance, Dance like your life depends on it

  1. Thanks for including my review here. I felt i was already sounding like too much of a murakami groupie. Anyway, I’m even for glad to find someone who enjoyed this book as much as i did. And i think one of the most interesting characters in the story was Yuki. 🙂

    Posted by Iphigene | November 23, 2011, 11:41 am
  2. Yes, it’s a great book to reread, good comfort reading – and, as I point out in my review, more than a little autobiographical 😉

    Posted by Tony | November 23, 2011, 11:57 am
  3. I enjoyed this book (last year or the year before) but the story didn’t really stick very well. Reading your review I remember lots more. I didn’t like it as much as A Wild Sheep Chase (which is one of my favorite Murakami books) but it was still very enjoyable.

    Posted by Leeswammes | November 23, 2011, 12:20 pm
    • Judith,
      There was a lot of chasing in that Wild Sheep Chase…. so I didn’t like it that much. 🙂 This one is just a nice comfort read, a bit less focused in the plot and which I think is different from all his other books.

      Posted by JoV | November 23, 2011, 1:04 pm
  4. I am impressed at the fervor of the Murakami fans! He sounds a bit too outre for me however!

    Posted by rhapsodyinbooks | November 23, 2011, 1:30 pm
  5. I’ve only read one Murikami to date but it was so joyous and weird that I intend to read everything he’s published (in English at least… I’m not sure I love him quite enough to learn Japanese for him!). Love how enthusiastic your review was, and while I’ve never seen a copy of this one during my bookstore haunts, if I ever do, I’ll snap it up!

    Posted by Steph | November 23, 2011, 4:34 pm
    • Steph,
      Thanks for your comment. It is definitely worth reading ALL his books, each one of them brings delight and is one of the most unusual unique reading experience for me that sets him apart from all other authors.

      Posted by JoV | November 23, 2011, 5:26 pm
  6. Isn’t life crazy – we are all so busy these days? Then life throws you a soft ball. We had one last month…. yikes.

    I am listening to my first Murakami (at the 11th hour for the challenge) – Kafka on the Shore – and loving it.

    Did you see that he just recently received – “the bad sex award”? I am not sure which book it was for, I am suspecting his latest 1Q84.

    Posted by Shellie | November 23, 2011, 5:51 pm
  7. This is a wonderful review of Murakami’s book! I haven’t read this one yet but I’m looking forward to it…even more now!

    Posted by Amy | November 23, 2011, 8:08 pm
  8. Thanks very much for mentioning my post-I have just begun his IQ84 and am very excited over reading it-your review was wonderful-

    I agree there is no bad Murakami!

    Posted by Mel u | November 24, 2011, 12:00 am
  9. I loved Wild Sheep Chase, but haven’t read this one yet. I’m so pleased it lives up to expectations.

    Posted by Jackie (Farm Lane Books) | November 24, 2011, 12:38 pm
  10. You “Murakami Groupies” will have me picking up his novels soon enough … I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read anything by this author (and have read so many attention-getting reviews).

    Posted by Dawn - She Is Too Fond of Books | November 27, 2011, 1:23 am
  11. Hey there, I love reading this one too!

    I just finished reading 1Q84. Gosh, that is a jolly lengthy book!

    Posted by Wilfrid | December 4, 2011, 9:29 am
  12. I am so glad you liked this one!! I finished 1Q84 on Thanksgiving and it has been rattling around in my brain ever since, but I have not been able to write the review as of yet. I am hoping to do it this weekend. I mean, how do you review such an epic novel and make it sound ever better than it was?

    Right now, I am reading What I Talk about when I Talk about Running and it is really good. Can’t remember if you’ve read it but it goes into why he runs and how he writes. Murakami is just ten kinds of awesome to me. He can do no wrong. At least, so far!

    Posted by Ti | December 6, 2011, 5:07 pm
    • Ti,
      I think I would have trouble reviewing 1Q84. That’s the thing with chunkster and big novels, where do one begins? Murakami can do no wrong and yes I read the running book and made me want to get up and run after I finish it but coming from a couch potato, that won’t happen! 🙂

      Posted by JoV | December 8, 2011, 12:06 am
      • Well, I’m making steady progress with ‘1Q84’, and my review of Book One will be out later today (the reviews of Books Two and Three will follow next week!). A warning – my reviews will be a little strange (like the book itself)…

        Posted by Tony | December 8, 2011, 1:18 am
  13. did enjoy this one, but then I’m a fan

    Posted by Parrish | January 22, 2012, 4:27 pm
  14. Done with mine. Phew.

    I noticed that all protagonists I have read are male. But then again, I have only read a few of his works.. hmmmm so I am wondering do u know any work of his (if there is) comes with a female narrator or protagonist??

    Have a nice day, Jov!! 🙂

    Posted by Ting | February 26, 2012, 4:25 pm


  1. Pingback: It’s wrap-up (although a little late!): October and November 2011 « Bibliojunkie - December 7, 2011

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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