He Said, She Said

How important is dialogue in fiction? If a character's voice seems forced, banal or clunky, it can bog down prose pretty quickly. If the conversation is necessary, revealing and real, it can make the story resonate. So dialogue can be crucial to a story's success, that's fairly important.

Case in point:  Haruki Murakami. Maybe there is something lost in translation, but I find Murakami's dialogue to be wooden and repetitive at times. Every character speaks the same way. Since he leans toward surrealism and existentialism, I generally tend to give him the benefit of the doubt. Here is a sample of his work between the quotation marks. From Kafka on the Shore, this small snippet sounds to me like part of a Godzilla screenplay:
"The boss’s blowing a gasket as we speak, I’ll bet. I phoned him and said I had to take a few days off to take care of something, but haven’t checked in since. Once I get back he’ll really let me have it.”
And from 1Q84, some funeral parlor business:
“While your father was alive, he said he wanted as simple a funeral as possible..."
"He instructed me to have his ashes simply put in a suitable communal facility. That is, if there are no objections …”
He paused and looked entreatingly at Tengo with his large eyes.
“If that is what my father wanted, then I have no objection,” Tengo said, looking straight back at those eyes... The funeral director nodded, and cast his eyes down.
“Today would be the wake, and for one night we will have the body lie in state in our funeral home. So we will need to transport the body to our place. The cremation will take place tomorrow at one thirty in the afternoon in a crematorium nearby. I hope this is satisfactory?”
“I have no objection.”
“Will you be attending the cremation?”
“I will,” Tengo said.
“There are some who do not like to attend, and it is entirely up to you.”
“I will be there,” Tengo said.
“Very good,” the man said, sounding a little relieved. “I’m sorry to bother you with this now, but this is the same amount I showed your father while he was still alive. I would appreciate it if you would approve it.”
Now this last exchange may seem necessary to make some existential point in the author's mind, but I think as part of an entire chapter dedicated to funeral parlor technicalities, the mundane dialogue becomes a bit excessive and drawn out, distracting from the very same point he may be attempting to make.

In my next post I'll include some examples of how dialogue can improve the reading experience.