Top 10 Quotes From Dance Dance Dance by Murakami.

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Dance Dance Dance is a haunting tale of the protagonist in finding his former lover who has cried out to him in his dream. Following the dream, he was later drawn into a surreal world full of bizarre characters and strange events. I find this book is a bit different as there were elements of mysticism, capitalism & politics which I have (yet) to find in his other books. These elements gratify the story & it added up the satisfaction even though the reading experience was a bit tedious and draggy, particularly in the earlier chapters.

I rated this book 4.5 out of 5 stars because personally Dance Dance Dance has awakened something in me as a reader – it was a charming and a teeny bit philosophical read with quotes of timeless wisdom, and also quite witty. Here are my ten favourite quotes from this book which I choose on an instinctive level because they are simply powerful and entertaining.

1.   The protagonist wondering what it feels like to belong.

“Gazing at the rain, I consider what it means to belong, to become part of something. To have someone cry for me. From someplace distant, so very distant. From, ultimately, a dream. No matter how far I reach out, no matter how fast I run, I’ll never make it.”

2.  The protagonist’ concern about capitalism.

“We live in an advanced capitalist society, after all. Waste is the name of the game, its greatest virtue. Politicians call it ‘refinements in domestic consumption.’ I call it meaningless waste.”

3.  Again, criticism on capitalism.

“Advanced capitalism has transcended itself. Not to overstate things, financial dealings have practically becoming a religious activity. The new mysticism. People worship capital, adore its aura, genuflect before Porsches and Tokyo land values. Worshipping everything their shiny Porsches symbolize.”

4.  The difference between machines and human being.

“With machines, the feeling is, well, more finite. It doesn’t go any further. With human, it’s different. The feeling is always changing. Like if you love somebody, the love is always shifting or wavering. It’s always questioning or inflating or disappearing or denying or hurting. And the thing is, you can’t do anything about it, you can’t control it. “

5.  Gotanda describing Kiki.

“The girl had – maybe not talent exactly – she had the makings of…presence. She had something. she wasn’t really beautiful. She wasn’t a born actress. But you got the feeling that if she ever got on film, she could pull the whole frame into focus. And that’s talent, you know.”

6. The protagonist on the science of human peak.

“Humans achieve their peak in different ways. But whoever you are, once you’re over the summit, it’s downhill all the way. Nothing anyone can do about it. And the worst of it is, you never know where that peak is. You think you’re still going strong, when suddenly you’ve crossed the great divide. No one can tell. Some people peak at twelve, then lead rather uneventful lives from then on. Some carry on until they die; some die at their peak. Poets and composers have lived like furies, pushing themselves to such a pitch they’re gone by thirty. Then there are those like Picasso, who kept breaking ground until well past eighty.”

7. On love.   

“People fall in love without reason, without even wanting to. You can’t predict it. That’s love.”

8. Easy regrets are useless.   

“What lasts, lasts; what doesn’t, doesn’t. Time solves most things. And what time can’t solve, you have to solve yourself.”

“Life is a lot more fragile than we think. So you should treat others in a way that leaves no regret. Fairly, and if possible, sincerely.”

10.  Things are never simple.

“People have their own reason for dying. It might look simple, but it never is. It’s just like a root. What’s above ground is only a small part of it. But if you start pulling, it keeps coming and coming. The human mind dwells deep in darkness. Only the person himself knows the real reason, and maybe not even then.”

A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama

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Pages: 288 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Japanese Literature
Goodreads Rating: 3.78
My Rating: 3.8

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A Hundred Flowers tell a story of a family living in China during the reign of Mao Zedong. During his reign, he introduced The Hundred Flowers Campaign where all intellectuals & artists were encouraged to freely express their opinions about the Communist party. Gradually, many intellectuals, students and artists grew bolder in raising their voices and once the criticism turned directly towards the Party members and Mao himself, the Campaign was abruptly halted and all the counter-revolutionaries arrested and were sent to prisons to be ‘reeducated’ – where Sheng was one of them.

Nothing much happened in the story, really. It is a very simple story of the everyday lives of Sheng’s family members which is told from multiple POVs which brings each character into sharp focus. The alternating narrators started great, but gradually it shifted too quickly, thus it felt less engaging.There are a few dramatic moments but overall the story revolves around the thoughts and hopes of the characters.I liked it, but that’s as far as it goes. Despite the plain storyline, I appreciate her simple yet gracefully descriptive writing style. I love Tsukiyama’s serene and peaceful tone. It was moderately slow, just how I like it. Slow but sweet.

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Even though there just wasn’t enough character development, Gail Tsukiyama has a way of creating characters that are inherently flawed yet lovable. One particular character of this story that I loved is Sheng’s father, Grandpa Wei. In the book, he was portrayed as a reserved and a quite man, which is completely different from his captured son, who was an outspoken and impatiently brusque. But throughout the story, readers may notice that Wei gradually has became more remarkably fragile and weary, which – until a secret was revealed – which made my heart ached. I also loved the part where Grandpa Wei went on the train trip to meet Sheng and met Tian.

Now, the encounter between Grandpa Wei and Tian sparked a question to my mind – Between national struggle and the love of your life, which one prevails? Imagine a situation where you are fighting for a cause, but your partner despise it because both of you simply do not share a similar political belief and struggle, would you leave her/him? This situation reminds me of Nelson Mandela where his first two marriages collapsed under the strain of politics. It was alleged that the separation was mainly because Mandela has always prioritized his citizens’ lives and struggle more than his wives. This situation can also be related with one of the Islamic legal maxims – A private injury may be tolerated in order to ward off the public injury. What do you guys think of this?

Alright, coming back to the review. A Hundred Flowers is a tale well told, definitely won’t be my last from Gail Tsukiyama. I strongly recommend this book to those who love a ‘quiet’ read, without the noise of the current world.

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

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Pages: 244 pages
Genre: General Fiction, Japanese Literature
Goodreads Rating: 3.67
My rating: 4.2

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-10-42-10-amAfter Dark is set within nocturnal dark hours – from 11:56pm to 6:52am. It follows a few characters on their adventures which strangely, connected to each other during the night. it centers around two sisters, Mari and Eri, who never knew each other really well and it leads to other characters, Takahashi, a jazz trombonist, a female hotel manager and her two staffs, a Chinese prostitute who was savagely brutalized by a businessman and a Man With No Face. Like any Murakami works, it deals largely with coincidence, randomness and alienation.

The narrative is strangely interesting. It’s told from a third person view, in the role of an imaginary video camera – it felt almost like a dreamlike screenplay, complemented with a set of vivid details and a very surreal storyline. Now, the storyline – it is Murakami, so don’t expect a full blown plot, packed with actions or a dramatic plot twist. It’s just a simple story, like nothing exactly happened and no real closure.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-10-47-05-amIt is a well-paced story and I like how the story kept me in check with the time. I love how profoundly odd the book is and strangely, it’s the oddness that sucked me into the story. I was left guessing at every turn, not able to guess what Murakami actually intended to convey – which somewhow frustates me.

But that is the thing about Murakami is, he don’t beat the readers with explanations, instead he leaves the atmosphere of mystery until the very last page, which is oddly satisfying.