From Dance Dance Dance, by Haruki Murakami:
"The hotel should never have been built where it was. That was the first mistake, and everything got worse from there. Like a button on a shirt buttoned wrong, every attempt to correct things led to yet another fine—not to say elegant—mess."
Book Review: Dance Dance Dance: 1988 novel with Haruki Murakami's signature touch of magical realism. This sequel to "A Wild Sheep Chase" is even better. A Japanese writer goes through an early midlife crisis as people around him disappear. What's real? What's imagination? B+
After the jump, my full review.
The Dolphin Hotel is haunted by the Sheep Man. Who is that? Well, if you read Murakami's earlier "A Wild Sheep Chase", you'd know. Or at least you'd be familiar with him even if that novel doesn't fully explain just who he is. But reading the earlier novel first is not strictly necessary. Here, all you need to know is what the unnamed narrator himself says about him. "The Sheep Man is kind of like my caretaker, kind of like a switchboard operator. If he weren’t around, I wouldn’t be able to connect anymore...When I’m in search of something, when I want to connect, he’s the one who does it."
The novel has a diverse set of supporting characters. Yumiyoshi is a Dolphin Hotel receptionist who encounters the Sheep Man herself, but more often offers the narrator a necessary connection to reality. Yuki is a prescient thirteen-year-old girl whom the narrator meets in the hotel and takes under his wing and supplies the connecting link to other characters: her rich father who thinks giving Yuki money is a suitable substitute for parenting, her artistic and eccentric and unemotional mother, the mother's one-armed poet boyfriend, and an ultra-rich male movie star who is connected to two high-priced prostitutes. How all of these characters are connected to each other is what the narrator is trying to figure out. It's the novel's central mystery. That mystery is never fully resolved but that's kind of OK. The narrator comes to a slow realization that everything inevitably takes leave of us, that all connections are "like ciphers in the sand, blown away by the wind." He passes on this learned wisdom to young Yuki, advising her to set her own course in life knowing that "Unfortunately, the clock is ticking, the hours are going by. The past increases, the future recedes. Possibilities decreasing, regrets mounting."
Is it a murder mystery? A study of grief and/or loneliness? A trip to a surreal dreamworld? With Murakami, it's all of those things and more. I really like Murakami.