leslie nikole
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(illustration credit to Hellen Jo)

I guess, when it comes to big cites, you've got to expect instances of six degrees of separation. Of course since this book was originally published in 1988, the degrees were a little more spaced out depending on the number of centres (be it for education, leisure, politics, etc…), but with the internet, social media, and rising density in big cities, good luck with that now. When I first picked up Murakami's Dance, Dance, Dance I didn't think much of it. I was solely filling up more of his space (read: low-key shrine) on my bookshelves, only to read it when I got the chance. Since my first Murakami novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I've realized that to read most of his works, you need to be ready for the randomly unexpected. The only thing I can compare it to is being an adult dragged around an unfamiliar neighbourhood by a small child who's determined and completely sure they know where they're going. That sort of "ooookaay, I guess…" feeling. Or maybe, as I just realized, I'm reading the fourth book in "The Rat" series. Well that's annoying…thanks anyways GoodReads.

The first, maybe thirty pages, start off normal. One man in his thirties recently divorced with a cat, getting by just off of "shovelling cultural snow", gets thrown into a whirlwind with a prostitute. Somewhere between this part and maybe fifty pages before its "conclusion" (because let's be completely honest, how many Murakami novels actually end?), a call girl dies brutally, a teenage acquaintance/lab partner turned into picture-perfect adult actor identifies as a low-key psychopath, an absent minded mother lets her socially fragile thirteen year old daughter (who smokes
) hangout with said thirty-something year old man (what? child services? I know Japan has some cultural differences, but this isn't…normal, even in the eighties), a man with one arm meets his fate doing groceries after surviving on a battlefield, and a million other things all linked to the mysterious Dolphin Hotel.

Basically this book is all over the place, while still keeping some sort of basic order. Maybe it's the sheep man keeping things together. Some roller coasters drop straight down after a long, laborious climb, but Murakami novels start at their peak and jerk back and forth from left to right without failing to drop and rise drastically. It would have been nice if I'd stumbled on the character map on page two hundred and ninety-five (of the ISBN 9780679753797 version), at the beginning of chapter thirty-three before getting that far. If you get confused easily (in which case Murakami novels might not be the wisest choice), I'd suggest you get a scrap piece of paper a jot down a few notes. I did this, which I learned to do when I read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and it was extremely helpful.

In terms of firsts, this is the first Murakami novel I've destroyed with quotations and spilled tea marks. Every few pages I found myself sectioning off quotes with my pen and dog earring the pages to remember where I left markings. At only three hundred and ninety-three pages, I probably could have finished this in a week, instead of the (well, not thirty-two consecutive days) month it took me. Dance, Dance, Dance took up a lot of my attention, but I got a lot out of it. I only wish that I would have read the three books in its series beforehand for a better understanding.

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