First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
Dance Dance Dance – a follow-up to A Wild Sheep Chase – is a tense, poignant, and often hilarious ride through Murakami’s Japan, a place where everything that is not up for sale is up for grabs.
As Murakami’s nameless protagonist searches for a mysteriously vanished girlfriend, he is plunged into a wind tunnel of sexual violence and metaphysical dread. In this propulsive novel, featuring a shabby but oracular Sheep Man, one of the most idiosyncratically brilliant writers at work today fuses together science fiction, the hard-boiled thriller, and white-hot satire.
Happy Friday everyone! At least I hope that everyone is ending the workweek on a high note because I can’t say the same for me. Earlier this week, I felt my throat go itchy but I ignored it thinking it was just an offshoot of the cold water I keep on drinking. The heat has been stifling here. But then I started to feel unwell. I started coughing and then the runny nose came. I already had a suspicion circling the fringes of my mind. Sure enough, I was COVID-positive. Thankfully, the symptoms are mild but it also means I have to go on quarantine which is very unfortunate because there is an event this weekend I wanted to attend. Oh well. I guess I really wasn’t destined to attend the 7Dream concert anyway. I guess it is a reminder that the pandemic is still a prevalent threat; yes, cases in the Philippines are again rising. Anyway, I hope everyone is doing fine, in body, mind, and spirit.
I am still looking on the bright side. As one of 7Dream’s songs goes, Life Is Still Going On. I must take inspiration from it, I guess. Anyway, as has been customary in the past three years, I will be capping the (work) week with a new First Impression Friday update. To coincide with my recent travel to the Land of the Rising Sun, I resolved to embark on a journey across one of my favorite parts of the literary world: Japanese literature. This is after I spent February and March going to and fro the United Kingdom and Ireland. Japanese literature is also my third most-read regional genre, after American and British literature but in terms of translated works, Japanese works rank first. The gap between translations and English works, however, is glaring. It has become my mission to close this gap and expanding my exploration of Japanese literature is a good starting point.
In April, all the books I read were written by new-to-me writers. My journey started rather slow but it didn’t take long for me to gather momentum. Earlier today, however, I concluded this journey even with my 13th book for the month, Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s Before the Coffee Gets Cold. This is despite the fact that April is not officially over. I have read quite a lot of books – 13 books in a month is already a personal best – so I decided to move forward with the next phase of my foray into Japanese literature. For May, I will be doing the reverse: I will be reading the works of familiar Japanese writers. I am kicking it off with a writer I rather missed, Haruki Murakami with his sixth novel, Dance Dance Dance (ダンス・ダンス・ダンス, Dansu Dansu Dansu, 1988).
The last time I read a work by the renowned Japanese wordsmith was back in 2021 when I read his first two novels: Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1976. In a way, these two books are connected with my current reading. Apart from the palpable fact that they were written by Murakami, these two books, along with A Wild Sheep Chase, form the Trilogy of the Rat. Dance Dance Dance is considered a sequel to the last book in the trilogy, however, the general consensus is that it is not a part of the literary series. From what I understand so far, the events covered by Dance Dance Dance happened four and half years after the events covered in A Wild Sheep Chase; in the interim, Murakami published Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985), and Norwegian Wood (1986).
For readers who have read the majority of Murakami’s works, one can already have a vision, even an ounce of it, of the direction of the story. It then comes as no surprise that the novel’s main character was anonymous; in some cases, it was a one-letter name like K of Sputnik Sweetheart. The main character, who doubled as the novel’s primary narrator, was male. Again, this is an element the book shares with the other works of Murakami. I haven’t gotten quite far into the story as I just started it this evening but it seems that the framing narrative is the disappearance of the main character’s girlfriend after they stayed in a hotel in Hokkaido called the Dolphin Hotel. Again, this is a sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase, a novel that concluded in Hokkaido.
Like any unexpected disappearance, the reaction of the main character was to seek closure. He wanted to investigate her disappearance, hence, he transported us (the readers) to Dolphin Hotel. Interestingly, disappearance is not a new thing in the Murakami universe. Sumire, the girlfriend of K in the aforementioned Sputnik Sweetheart, also disappeared. In The Wind-up Bird Chronicles, the cat of Toru Okada, the main character, also disappeared. This disappearance was the catalyst for the main action of the novel. I guess the point I am trying to make is that Murakami’s works are often interconnected, at least where elements are concerned. As I dig deeper into Dance Dance Dance, I wouldn’t be surprised to find cultural touchstones; Murakami is renowned for incorporating or referencing Jazz music into his works.
So what then do I expect to take from the book? There is still a lot I am looking forward to. The most obvious, of course, is the direction of the narrator’s sleuthing. Will he be able to get to the bottom of his girlfriend’s disappearance? I am also interested to know if Rat will make his appearance in the story. More importantly, I am looking forward to sifting through the novel’s (palpable) layers. I want to understand the message that Murakami is trying to obscure with these layers. I am pretty sure it is something interesting and deep. After all, Murakami rarely writes about something shallow.
The book is rather thick and knowing the complexity of Murakami’s storytelling and language, I know it is going to take me some time to complete the novel. Oh yes. I am reminded why I am reading Dance Dance Dance. This is primarily because of the news that Murakami was releasing a new work, 街とその不確かな壁 (Machi to Sono Futashika na Kabe, The City and Its Uncertain Walls), his first in six years. I was hoping it was already available in English but of course not. Instead of waiting for the book’s release to rediscover the world of Murakami, I decided to read Dance Dance Dance. With Dance Dance Dance, I will have now completed 13 of Mukarami’s 15 novels. Apart from the most recent novel, the only other Murakami novel I have yet to read is South of the Border, West of the Sun (国境の南、太陽の西, Kokkyō no minami, taiyō no nishi).
How about you fellow reader? What book or books are you taking with you for the weekend? I hope you get to enjoy them. Again, happy weekend everyone!