Daniel has wanted to be a writer ever since he was in elementary school.He has published stories and articles in such magazines as Slipstream, Black Petals, Spindrift, Zygote in my Coffee, and Leading Edge Science Fiction. He has written four books: The Sage and the Scarecrow (a novel), the Lexical Funk (a short story collection), Reejecttion (short story/ essay collection), and The Ghosts of Nagasaki (a novel).
Here is a review of Haruki Murakami's Dance, Dance, Dance,
It's still one of my favorite book reviews from Goodreads. Enjoy!
Stay with me for a moment. I’m writing about a scene happening within a movie within Murakami’s book (two or three degrees of separation, depending on how you count). So I’m reading Dance, Dance, Dance, and there is a scene in the book where the main character is transfixed by a scene within a movie he’s watching. The movie itself is pretty terrible—a film about a high school girl who falls in love with her teacher. But he can’t stop watching the movie. He goes to the same movie theater every day to watch the same movie because of this one scene.
As it turns out, one of the main character’s old middle school friends plays the teacher in the movie and the girlfriend is played by his old girlfriend whom he has been searching for for a while. In the scene, the teacher is sleeping with his girlfriend. Up until this point in the movie we’ve come to find out that one of the teacher’s students is in love with him. She bakes him cookies and shows up at his house to give him the cookies, she walks into his house because the door is open (the main character of the novel wonders why the door would be open). The young girl sees the teacher making love to his girlfriend. She drops the cookies and runs out of the house. The girlfriend turns to the teacher and says: “What was that about?” And that is the scene.
And the main character in Murakami’s book wonders: “What was that about?” Not particularly the action of the girl in the movie dropping the cookies, but the odds that he would see his old middle school friend having sex with his girlfriend in a movie. In some way, that is what Dance, Dance, Dance is about, figuring out what things are about. And like much good postmodern fiction we get a sense that there is something that it’s all about. We get a semblance of order…but only a semblance. In the end, things come together only so that things can tear themselves apart again. As I read this book, I’m tearing myself apart and putting myself back together.
Lots of things happen in the book: the main character, struggling with his life at 34 goes to a hotel which plays no small part in the arrangement of his universe; he meets a Goatman who lives in the shadows of his universe on a mysterious floor of the hotel; the main character helps out a 13-year-old girl struggling with her life; love, Hawaii, and everything in between. And the book encourages you to ask: “What was that all about?” But because the asking happens at so many levels—the girlfriend inside the movie about the young girl walking in on them, the main character about the movie he watches where his junior high school friend is in bed with his ex-girlfriend, the main character about his life, the reader about the book—this question tends to migrate further. And soon, days later, you’re wonder about your life up until this point: What was that all about?
I tear my 28-year-old self apart and re-assemble as a 34 year old looking at myself as 13-year-old. After reading the book, this act seems like the most ordinary thing in the world. What would my 13-year-old self say about my 34-year-old self? Would he think the same thing Yuki thought about the main character? Would I be hip or lame? Would I be tolerable or unbearably boring?
It’s been five days since I finished the book and I can already start to feel its imprint begin to fade. But then nothing really fades. Just as the main character says at one point, it’s hard to know where one thing ends and the next begins. Do I leave my imprint on the book? When others find the book, will they pick up a piece of me with it? Where does the book end and I begin?
I wonder if college students will still read 30 or 40 years from now? I have my doubts. If they do, will they read books like Dance, Dance, Dance? Will they pick up the same worn hardcover copy I did? If they do, I hope there is a page in Dance, Dance, Dance like the magical floor of the Dolphin Hotel? I hope I appear in a sheep suit with words of mystery and portent great changes in their life.
“And when I think of books and how they should be read, I think of people leaving them places, strangers picking them up, reading them, and then leaving them again…books are like strangers; they’re for strangers; they shouldn’t be treated as sentimental objects, just straw dogs…” Or, in the case of Murakami, perhaps they ought to be treated like wayward magical sheep men. But one of the things a Murakami book encourages you to do is to treat books sentimentally, or at least the time you spend with Murakami’s characters. After all, they reach out to readers in ways that are in equal parts intimate and casual.
What was that all about? It was about Murakami and me. He wrote a book so commonplace, so ordinary and unusual that everyday life becomes surreal—the book’s nonchalance couldn’t be anything but overplanned. It was about him and me and the place we shared in time. Not a floor of the Dolphin hotel, but not a series of dead pages either. Something lived and living…it runs deep in the fabric of the universe and continues to tie things together.