Dance, Dance, Dance

High-class call girls billed to Mastercard. A psychic 13-year-old dropout with a passion for Talking Heads. A hunky matinee idol doomed to play dentists and teachers. A one-armed beach-combing poet, an uptight hotel clerk and one very bemused narrator caught in the web of advanced capitalist mayhem. Combine this offbeat cast of characters with Murakami’s idiosyncratic prose and out comes Dance Dance Dance. It is an assault on the sense, part murder mystery, part metaphysical speculation; a fable for our times as catchy as a rock song blasting from the window of a sports car.

The Elephant Vanishes

When a man’s favourite elephant vanishes, the balance of his whole life is subtly upset; a couple’s midnight hunger pangs drive them to hold up a McDonald’s; a woman finds she is irresistible to a small green monster that burrows through her front garden; an insomniac wife wakes up to a twilight world of semi-consciousness in which anything seems possible - even death. In every one of the stories that make up The Elephant Vanishes, Murakami makes a determined assault on the normal. He has a deadpan genius for dislocating realities to uncover the surreal in the everday, the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Underground: The Tokyo...

In spite of the perpetrators’ intentions, the Tokyo gas attack left only twelve people dead, but thousands were injured and many suffered serious after-effects. The novelist Haruki Murakami interviews the victims to try and establish precisely what happened on the subway that day. He also interviews members and ex-members of the doomsdays cult responsible, in the hope that they might be able to explain the reason for the attack and how it was that their guru instilled such devotion in his followers.

The Temple of Dawn

The Temple of Dawn meanders through Honda’s life in his 50’s, as he falls in love with the Princess of Thailand who, he suspects, is the reincarnation of Isao and Iunima, the protagonists of “Spring Snow” and “Runaway Horses”. The book provides for deep reading, and with Mishima’s wonderful descriptions and exploration of the mind, it is a book not to be missed. The story deals with the multilayered emotions of Rie (Honda’s wife), Keiko (his neighbour), Makiko (Iunuma’s romantic interest in Runaway Horses) and other characters. With Honda as the main character, the development of his thoughts on life and death are dealt with in detail, which may provide some moments of “skipping”, if you’re not into that kind of stuff.

Runaway Horses

“See just the trees, but not the forest” is an old Chinese saying, meaning to comprehend, and thus evaluate, things only from partial angles and views. To assess/critic, even compare any one of the 4 “Sea of Fertility” novels is to do just that. The 4 novels are all part of a grand design in a way very much like 4 movements from a symphony. Yes each novel stands on its own as a great literature accomplishment, but so does each movement of any symphony by Beethoven or Mahler. Now, I am not a write or a literature critic in any shape or form, but I have read the complete “Sea of Fertility” twice before, and am onto “Runaway Horses” for the third time now.

The Decay of the Angel

Here comes the real culmination of the tetralogy. It is intellectually stimulating, highly mystical and very personal. It is also very sad and pessimistic. The main characters are, of course, Honda - the man of Reason, who is more real and attractive and complete than in any previous book, but also a rich hedonistic lesbian destroyed by old age, Toru - the last reincarnation of Kiyoaki — a mad ugly girl, who believes she is very beautiful, mysterious and enlightened Satoko and the main protagonist of the novel - Japan that gradually lost her uniqueness and tradition and spirit during the infamous XX century.