She is definitely calling me. From somewhere in the Dolphin Hotel. And apparently, somewhere in my own mind, the Dolphin Hotel is what I seek as well. To be taken into that scene, to become part of that weirdly fateful venue. (p. 5-6)
When our nameless narrator from A Wild Sheep Chase continues his story in Dance Dance Dance we find him searching for the Dolphin Hotel of his past. Where the girl with the beautiful ears had taken him, and they had lived together for a short while as lovers before she vanished.
It is no easy task to find the hotel, but when he does, he discovers an ultra modern, utterly changed, building from the tiny dump that he remembered. In this new international complex he discovers Yumiyoshi, the charming girl at the reception desk who tells him about her dreadful experience when the elevator took her to floor sixteen: a dark, lightless place of terror from which she could barely escape. He, too, encounters floor sixteen, and The Sheep Man who tells him that he must keep his feet moving. To keep everything going he must dance.
“Tendencies. Yougottendencies. Soevenifyoudideverythingoveragain, yourwholelife, you gottendenciestodojustwhatyoudid, alloveragain.”
“Yes, but where does that leave me?”
“Like wesaid, we’lldowhatwecan. Trytoreconnectyou, towhatyouwant,” said the Sheep Man. “Butwecan’tdoitalone. Yougottaworktoo. Sitting’snotgonnadoit, thinking’snotgonnadoit.”
“So what do I have to do?”
“Dance,” said the Sheep Man. “Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays. Yougottadance. Don’teventhinkwhy. Starttothink, yourfeetstop. Yourfeetstop, wegetstuck. Wegetstuck, you’restuck. Sodon’tpayanymind, nomatterhowdumb. Yougottakeepthestep. Yougottalimberup. Yougottaloosenwhatyoubolteddown. Yougottauseallyougot. Weknowyou’retired, tiredandscared. Happenstoeveryone, okay? Justdon’tletyourfeetstop.” (p. 85-86)
The narrator’s journey continues when he accompanies Yuki, a thirteen old girl left behind by her photographer mother, Ame, to her home in Tokyo. Throughout the course of his search he runs into his old friend from school, Gotanda, now a professional actor; Yuki’s father who’s a writer named Hiraku Makimura (!); assorted call girls named Mei and June, Yuki’s mother’s lover named Dick North, and eventually he sees Kiki herself, who leads him to a room in which six skeletons are arranged as clearly as if the flesh had melted from their bones while they were simply sitting there.
What is he to make of these six dead bodies? The continually vanishing Kiki? Life itself? This is why I love Murakami so much: the puzzles, the questions, the way they seldom have clear answers, and the way that this character abandons all pretentions in living his life. He is content with his Suburu, instead of a Maserati, if nothing else.
Tanabata’s discussion questions:
How does Dance Dance Dance compare to A Wild Sheep Chase? Did you prefer one book over the other? If you haven’t yet read A Wild Sheep Chase, do you plan to?
Both novels were a mystery, and I might add, for me, an almost unsolved one. I have questions as to the full identity of the sheep, as well as the reason why one must dance. Also, who’s the Sheep Man? Is he some kind of God? But, the two novels tie together, and I’m so glad I read A Wild Sheep Chase first, to give me the foundation for Dance Dance Dance.
Our narrator remains nameless throughout, but unlike A Wild Sheep Chase, many of the other characters in Dance Dance Dance were named? Do you think this was done on purpose? Did this alter your reading experience?
I suspect he named many of these characters for a sense of irony, or at least a sense of humour. Mei and June for the call girls? Hiraku Makimura for the famous author? I thought those were wonerful names! I’m not sure about Dick North, though, where his name points us.
Did you have any favourite characters, or scenes in Dance Dance Dance?
I loved his relationship with Yuki, that he was really there for her when her parents weren’t. They understood each other, and comforted each other, and I loved reading about them driving around listening to all those genres of music: jazz, rock, punk. When was the last time I heard the name Boy George or Duran Duran? Not since I was in college!
Did your perception of the Sheep Man change? Do you think he plays a different role in Dance Dance Dance, compared to A Wild Sheep Chase?
I can’t help but think that the Sheep Man represents some kind of diety to Murakami, some being which is all powerful, all knowing, and able to guide the characters along some path. I think he was the same in both novels.
The importance of human connection is a major theme in Dance Dance Dance. What do you think Murakami is saying here about relationships, and fate?
That we’ll all be sitting around in a dusty hotel room as skeletons together? I don’t see that Murakami has much hope for the after life, and if anything bothered me about his writing, it’s what I see as his complete lack of faith. Hope. The characters are pretty hopeless in my mind.
Do you think the chapter numbers, with the black lines in various positions relative to the numbers, had any significance? How about the fact that chapter number 42 was upside down?
I was trying to figure out what the black slashes in varying positions by each chapter number meant, and I have no clue! Also, I don’t know why the dance steps would intermittently appear from time to time throughout each chapter. I searched for a reason, a consistent theme in their placement, but it’s beyond me.
Who do you think the sixth skeleton represents?
I think it’s our narrator himself. I think that’s why there’s someone crying for him in the hotel, and that’s why he’s led there, for a glimpse into his future.
Did anyone else chuckle at the name of Yuki’s famous but mediocre writer father?
Any other thoughts or questions about book?
As usual, when I finish a Murakami work, I’m impressed and perplexed at the same time. I know I’ll read it again; each time I reread one of his books I find more clarity. Although I’m comforted when I read of what he’s said about Kafka on The Shore, for example; his books sometimes require your own interpretation. Thank you for hosting this read along Tanabata, and asking such wonderful questions. I only wish we were sharing a cup of tea in the same room together!