Posts Tagged ‘ haruki murakami ’

#16 Dance Dance Dance – Haruki Murakami


Haruki Murakami… Pretty sure you guys know I’m a big fan of his writing already; idiosyncratic prose where no word is unnecessary, sentences and story lines that leave you disjointed at the end of the chapter. I have to admit, after reading Sputnik Sweetheart, I was a little disappointed, so I avoided picking up his books again. It’s probably my least favourite of his that I’ve read so far, and for some reason that prejudice prevented me from picking up old favourites like Kafka on the Shore because I just couldn’t get back into reading them.

Dance Dance Dance changed all that.

This. This is a book I can quite easily fall in love with. It is deceptively dark and sinister, something you only realise as the novel peaks and falls. The unnamed narrator is as rich and interesting a character as After Dark‘s Takahashi; there is something charismatic about their plainness. Murakami’s female characters are often striking – they have a strangely attractive physical feature or mental lure to them, whilst the men are usually without these particular characterisations.

I don’t want to go into too much depth about the plot because the whole ‘spoiler alert’ system sometimes grates on my nerves and I don’t know how you guys will perceive that. Basics of the basic, a commercial journalist sets out to find someone who he thinks is crying for him and ends up on a journey looking for an ex-girlfriend with beautiful ears, befriending an old high-school friend turned popular actor and a snappish psychic 13 year old.

Apparently this is the final in a trilogy (preceded by Pinabll, 1973 and A Wild Sheep Chase); I would have picked up copies if my local bookstore stocked more than the keystones of Murakami (it’s a tiny, tiny place. The local McDonalds and chip shop are actually bigger than the bookstore…). Maybe next time!


#8 Haruki Murakami – Norwegian Wood

click here to view on amazon

At first I avoided anything and everything Murakami. Everyone and their mother seemed to be reading it and I thought that I would at least wait until the hype had died down.  That didn’t stop me from passing his books in the high street book shops and wondering whether they were worth the read. Even the covers had piqued my interest but, as it was, I couldn’t really afford to spend time and money on a book when I was busy with work. Now I wish I’d picked one of his books up earlier.

By rights, Murakami’s novels should be frustrating and annoying; at first glance, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly special about them and, even now, I still find the endings to leave far too much to be desired. There is never quite enough satisfaction in the conclusion.

That, however, is part of the charm of Haruki Murakami’s writing style though. You need to have a certain charisma to your work if you can end without closure and still have a huge worldwide readership, still desperate to buy as many of your translated works as possible.

Norwegian Wood draws on Murakami’s talent to write frankly and directly about subjects without over-complicating matters. The book itself addresses, like much of his work, the themes of sex, death and the rites of passage of growing up. Normally, such topics are taboo or difficult to engage but Norwegian Wood tackles them with a quiet sense of simplicity. There is no dancing around with euphemisms or awkward pauses. Things just simply are.

Certainly there are moments where things feel repetitive and dragged out which can potentially slow the novel down but with that comes a sense of realness; life may be fast and hard to keep up with but most of us live a life full of repetition. We do the same things every day for years upon end and change isn’t always rapid. Sometimes change never occurs at all. Murakami captures the essence of humanity and the relationships we create in all three hundred and eighty six pages of Norwegian Wood.

The novel itself has a sense of timelessness. Although it begins in 1986 and the narrator spends the majority of his time back in 1969 and the 70’s, it feels almost as if you could take Norwegian Wood and use it to describe even a current university student’s life. Though time and culture are far removed from our own, Murakami is easily able to create a universally approachable story which I was captivated by.

Although Murakami’s writing style is simplistic, it is also enigmatic. Perhaps Norwegian Wood isn’t the best example of this, however. After reading Norwegian Wood, I became enamoured by his writing and decided to pick up several more books, namely Kafka on the Shore and the trilogy of 1Q84. The enigmatic, puzzle-like quality to Murakami’s work is much more evident in these and, if you simply read them as is, they can leave you feeling more disoriented than when Norwegian Wood comes to a close. To truly appreciate his work requires returning to the text again and again, much like a film; hidden secrets and missed signals become much more obvious after repetition.

Norwegian Wood is the perfect starting point for any Murakami-virgin, not quite as full on and head-tripping as Kafka on the Shore. Proof of the novel’s success lies not only in its translation in forty languages and its impressive sales both locally in Japan and internationally worldwide, but also in the recent 2010 film adaptation directed by Ahn Hung Tran. Norwegian Wood is definitely worth a read and probably worth watching on the big screen too if the cast list is anything to go by.