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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running Hardcover – July 29, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Murakami's latest is a nonfiction work mostly concerned with his thoughts on the long-distance running he has engaged in for much of his adult life. Through a mix of adapted diary entries, old essays, reminiscences and life advice, Murakami crafts a charming little volume notable for its good-natured and intimate tone. While the subject matter is radically different from the fabulous and surreal fiction that Murakami (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) most often produces, longtime readers will recognize the source of the isolated, journeying protagonists of the author's novels in the formative running experiences recounted. Murakami's insistence on focusing almost exclusively on running can grow somewhat tedious over the course of the book, but discrete, absorbing episodes, such as a will-breaking 62-mile ultramarathon and a solo re-creation of the historic first marathon in Greece serve as dynamic and well-rendered highlights. Murakami offers precious little insight into much of his life as a writer, but what he does provide should be of value to those trying to understand the author's long and fruitful career. An early section recounting Murakami's transition from nightclub owner to novelist offers a particularly vivid picture of an artist soaring into flight for the first time. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Haruki Murakami has established himself as one of the most interesting and innovative novelists of the last two decades, combining pop culture with a magic-realistic sensibility that has garnered the author a faithful following. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running couldn’t differ more from the rest of Murakami’s work. This slender volume catalogs the author’s love for that most solitary of athletic endeavors, though even Murakami’s prodigious talent as a writer can’t quite bridge the gap between the cultish world of hard-core running and a broader audience. This hit-and-miss effort—with something, literally, lost in the translation and some lazy writing—will be welcomed by a small (probably athletic) audience, but may not reach readers who aren’t already on board with Murakami or running.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
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Me running together with Murakami
This is a very special kind of book. I wonder whether anybody having nothing to do with running would be interested in reading this book. On one hand the subject matter of the book calls for personal engagement with running, but on the other, the author is a big master of formulating his ideas so that.... He could make an interesting story out of a block of wood, why then not of his personal experiences of looking around while using the simplest means of transportation in a most effective way.
Murakami really runs his eyes open and observing. Having done that already a quarter of a century as a means to writing books and distributing them in millions of copies in tens of languages all over the world is utmost impressive. What a fantastic simplicity in combination! Just running, seeing and writing!
While reading this book I felt myself his co-runner, already for the reason that I started my running only a few years before Murakami, in 1977 at the age of forty years. But sadly enough, especially looking at it now, in the light of this story, finished my career only seven years later, physically, but not spiritually. Twelve marathons, half an hour faster than Murakami - proud to say. Once runner, always runner, that is the main thing and the motivation to read this book.
The second chapter of the book is a good rough description of my own career. The same steps, same transformation of every day habits in eating, resting, body hurting and enjoying a new way of life. Murakami started his career as writer about parallel to his running. I also wrote books, text books in economics, but was at that time already finishing my career after tens of thousand books and going over to computer programming, still continuing it today. And differently from Murakami, never have I been able to see any direct connection between my motioning and writing.
Murakami's devotion and stamina are impressive. At several occasions he is telling, how important it is to make running an everyday habit. I found it shocking, when he tells about leaving his smoking. Perhaps, instead of pills, running should be advised as a means of getting rid of smoking! Running and smoking - a completely impossible combination, it really seems to me. My big thing was getting rid of 20 kg overweight. Another big was that I first time found myself a long distance runner after having been a sprinter in my young days, up to 20 years of age.
Starting this running book I was already familiar with Murakami's grass root level writing style from his later book about the lone rider Tsukuru in 'Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage'. Now having finished this running book I only remember, how I was somewhat disappointed with some overly detailed description of certain technicalities after the takeoff of the flight in running and even more interesting in the parallel start of his author's career. There are two more very big causes of disappointment in this otherwise so excellent and under the skin going story. One is his, or the editor's, or the translator's, or the publisher's harring to miles as the measure of distance. Is it only the English translation that requires miles, or is this true also in Japan in general? Another disappointment was that he never gives his exact running times in plain numbers. I would have preferred that way in stead of roughly putting it in words like three hours forty five minutes etc.
There is still another very personal disappointment to me. I expected that I would find in this book the solution of the main riddle after the other book mentioned above. How on Earth does Murakami give my country Finland a special treatment in that other book? Perhaps something to do with running? With the Finnish great champion, his exact coeval Lasse Virén, double gold medal winner of long distance running in two olympic games, that is: one man, four gold medals! No answer to this question. Not in the other book, not in this, not even in Wikipedia. So perhaps I must continue reading Murakami. Not an unpleasant undertaking for the future! Do I dare to give only four stars - mainly because of the continuous nuisance of miles in stead of kilometers?
Murakami has been a runner for years (his results are on athlinks.com). I have actually seen him running along Charles river in Cambridge, as his stay there overlapped with mine. In his very personal account of the running experience, he describes how he began running seriously. I really love how he writes about his successes and failures, his feelings while running training runs and races, and his evolving attitude to running.
Because Murakami is a writer, his book is different that other runners’ accounts or advice on running. He simply writes better. He is able to make the reader feel his pain, elation, frustration, tiredness and pride associated with the training process and participation in races. I loved his first marathon choice – he ran the original route in reverse, from Athens to Marathon, alone, and wrote an article about his experience. Also, his account of an ultramarathon in Japan (100 km race) is breathtaking, and his notes on the transition into triathlons are very honest.
Sometimes he sounds a little too proud of himself – like when he comments on the female Harvard students passing him during his training runs in Cambridge – but this just makes the descriptions of his thoughts more believable and. He seems to be completely genuine, no matter what he writes, and this is also why I liked even his opinions on particular brands of running gear – they did not sound like a product placement at all, just a frank opinion on what he personally thinks is best for him. Particularly interesting are the thoughts on the impact of running on the rest of the author’s endeavors as a writer, pub owner and lecturer. Strikingly, he writes very little on his marriage and I would like to hear more on how he and his wife incorporate his running into their daily life as a couple, but I understand it might be a private matter.
I will return to this book for sure, I understand why it is a cult book among runners, and I wish Mr. Murakami many more years of satisfying running and triathlons!