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.