The Elusive Search for Connectedness

I always have a hard time gathering my thoughts after reading a Haruki Murakami novel.  His writing is so captivating that the reader is swept along through bizarre plots, emerging at the end wondering “What just happened?” and still wanting more.  It’s a disorienting experience, probably one that the writer has intended to inflict upon his readers.

In the hands of a less skilled writer, Murakami’s stories could be incredibly frustrating.  There’s little explanation for the fantastical and often absurd situations in which the characters find themselves.  Forget looking for answers or resolutions at the end of his books – Murakami makes it difficult enough just to figure out what the questions should be.

In short, they’re a lot like real life.

Dance, Dance, Dance is, for me,  the last of work of Murakami’s fiction and, like the others, a sense of coherence is eluding me as I try to figure out just what it was all about.  A follow-up to A Wild Sheep Chase, the story follows an unnamed 30-something free-lance writer as he tries to find a prostitute he befriended years ago but who disappeared suddenly.  Along the way, there’s a precocious 13-year old psychic, a film actor, a one-armed poet, and a strange-talking man dressed in sheep’s clothing who happens to live in an alternate dimension located somewhere in a luxury hotel.  Try wrapping your brain around all that.

A recurring theme in Murakami’s works is that of connectedness.   In Dance, Dance, Dance this theme comes to the fore.

Something was amiss. Kiki and Gotanda and I were all connected, in a tangle, but why? I had to untangle us.  I had to recover my own sense of reality.  But maybe the connections weren’t confused, maybe this was a totally unrelated, new connection.  Still, I had to untangle the entangled threads.  In order not to break any.

In any novel, the main characters are all necessarily connected in some way.  Yet, Murakami elevates this connectedness to a central theme.  Far from being an ancillary point, Murikami’s characters spend quite a bit of time pondering their connections to each other and to society at large.

In the end, these connections are not always clear.  Murakami doesn’t peddle in cheap pay-offs.  But, in Murakami’s world, it’s the search that’s important.

I’ve left too many loose ends hanging.  So now I’m trying to tie up as many of those loose ends as I can.  If I manage to do that, maybe then I can explain things a little more clearly.  Maybe then we can understand each other a little better.

As often as not, these loose ends don’t get tied up.  But, in attempting to do so, the characters do, from time to time, connect with and understand each other and those moments of connection are what make Murakami’s works so compelling.



  1. I have wanted to try one of his books. Had Wild Sheep Chase became afraid to open it. Your review makes me want to try again. You write a really good review.

    1. Certainly give it another go. It’s been over a year since I’ve read A Wild Sheep Chase and reading Dance, Dance, Dance makes me want to pick it up again. The narrator of these books has a wonderful voice, one I really found myself identifying with in so many ways. Thanks for the comments!

  2. With Murakami I find I need time to absorb what happened.Its that element of the fantastic peering out of the every day mundane reality of the characters that has to be accepted, just as the characters accept it. Just finished reading After the quake, am about to start on underground so living in a murakami theme park at the moment.
    ps have you read Roberto Bolano just read “the savage detectives” loved it.

  3. Nice post. I like Murakami, though I haven’t read this one. The last one I read was Kafka on the Shore, which read quickly and flowed easily, despite being a large book. I don’t know if part of it is the skill of the translator, but I floated right along on the words.

  4. @Parrish: That time to absorb is especially important with Murakami. Good comment about the characters accepting the “fantastic peering out of the everyday mundane.” I find that one of the reasons Murakami’s work is so accessible is that the reader is willing to suspend disbelief along with his narrators.
    @Charley: I had the same experience with Kafka on the Shore. I brought it with me on a long train ride. Never before or since, have I wished that a Chinese hard seat train ride would last longer. The book just consumed me and I lost all track of what was going on around me. A truly great read. Definitely give A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance, Dance a try. Thanks for the comments!

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