I want to try to post some shorter comments on books I read, instead of only writing about those books that I feel I can write about at length. So here goes.
Dance Dance Dance is the first Murakami book I've read. I really wanted to like it. For one thing, it was a holiday present from my father-in-law. I've been interested in trying some Murakami for some time, and he had no way of knowing this, so it was an excellent gift. Alas, I'm afraid I had a number of problems with it.
Murakami is often said to be in the vein of some of the so-called post-modern novelists, such as Don Delillo. Superficial evidence in support of this, I suppose, is that Dance Dance Dance is packed with pop-culture references, mostly Anglo-American, many of which seem to serve no purpose other than as surface noise. There's a mystery, and an element of the supernatural--an old hotel that "lives" inside a modern hotel. (I've noticed Murakami has been tagged with the "magic realism" label, too.) The novel opens with the narrator recounting a dream of this older hotel, which leads him to set off in search of a woman he'd lived with four years prior. This search doesn't seem to mean too much to him, nor does he seem to care all that much when he finds out what probably happened. He is adrift in his life, personally and professionally, and, indeed, he seems to drift from encounter to encounter in the novel, most of which are with a famous movie actor he went to school with, a thirteen-year-old girl and her inattentive parents, and a clerk at the new hotel, with whom he more or less falls in love.
My main problem with the novel was with what I felt was a flabby prose style. Of course, not having any familiarity with Japanese, I have no way of assessing the quality of Alfred Birnbaum's translation. (I am, however, aware of controversy surrounding the various translations of his work; as is so often the case, The Complete Review has a lot of links on this, as well as other Murakami-related items). The English is all I have to go on, and the English generally did not excite me. Often, it was just plain drab, barely functional. There were, yes, numerous isolated stretches in the novel, when it appeared as if the story might be getting somewhere, when the prose was much more crisp, and I found myself enjoying the plot, turning pages quickly, interested. But this rarely lasted long, and on many occasions I got bogged down and had a hard time continuing. The narrator's thoughts on ennui and the modern condition were rendered uninteresting by this flabbiness (I lost count of the number of times the words "advanced capitalism" appeared). There was a certain repetition of detail that could have served to underscore the narrator's position, but which the prose instead made boring. His conversations with the movie star, which often amounted to the actor complaining about how he'd rather have simpler life, were similarly repetitive and even more tedious. It's as if Murakami, as a writer, was more interested, or more skilled, in moving the plot along than in exploring his themes, and this was reflected in the variable quality of the prose.
I'm aware that I'm being vague here and that specific examples would be more convincing. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the inclination to go back and scour the book in search of examples of what I'm talking about. So I'll just leave off here (so much for "shorter", eh?).