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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir (Vintage International) Paperback – August 11, 2009
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“A fascinating portrait of Murakami’s working mind and how he works his magic on the page.” —The Plain Dealer"A brilliant meditation on how his running and writing nurture and sustain each other. . . . With spare, engaging prose . . . Murakami shares his runner's high." —Sports Illustrated"Enthralling. . . . A quirky, brilliant gem."—Time Out New York"Murakami's descriptive eye is as acute as ever. . . . Fascinating. . . . A glimpse into the creative process of one of the world's great writers." —The Hartford Courant"A genuine memoir, filled with gentle minutiae that truly communicates the rhythm of Murakami's daily life and work...Murakami actually offers himself whole." —Jesse Jarnow, Paste Magazine"A felicitous, casual series of reflections and anecdotes...[Murakami] has a Warholian way of tinting the mundane with mystery and restrained humor...Do still waters run deep? This paean to a runner's life keeps us, pleasurably, wondering." —Joel Rice, The Tennessean"[What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is] a graceful explanation of Mr. Murakami's intertwining obsessions, conveyed with his characteristic ability to draw unexpected connections. Running may be a matter of placing one foot in front of the other on the ground, but, as is so often the case with Mr. Murakami, terrestrial objects have a tendency to take flight." —Chloë Schama, New York Sun"Beautifully written and full of great running aphorisms...Anyone who knows perseverance can appreciate this work." —Helen Montoya, San Antonio Express-News"Engaging, insightful...What I Talk About When I Talk About Running extends [Murakami's] winning streak." —Jenny Shank, Sunday Camera"Murakami constructs this piecemeal narrative with the same masterful, accessible prose marked by humor and streaks of magic which has made him a household name, the same staggering insights, the same fascinating connections...this is exactly what makes Murakami so special: his ability to render everything a part of everything else, and to end with monumental poignancy...In an extremely personal, candid and moving way, the book makes one want to read and run at the same time." —Reynard Seifert, Austin Fit Magazine"[What I Talk About When I Talk About Running] provides a fascinating portrait of Murakami's working mind and how he works his magic on the page...[a] charming, sober little book." —John Freeman, Newark Star-Ledger"Highly recommended...Practical philosophy from a man whose insight into his own character, and how running both suits and shapes that character, is revelatory and can provide tools for readers to examine and improve their own lives."—Library Journal
About the Author
Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into forty-two languages. The most recent of his many honors is the Franz Kafka Prize.
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I loved most of it. I found his philosophy with both running and writing to be similar to mine. There are many things that someone who’s not an endurance athlete can’t understand so maybe this book speaks to a narrow audience. But I’m glad to be a member of that audience. I found myself nodding along. I’d read a free sample on my Kindle, then found a used paperback to buy so I could underline passages and make notes in the margin. I loved this book so much I penciled it up.
Now that I’ve seen this glimpse into his mind I want to try his novels, too.
I would not say this is “equal parts training log, travelogue, and reminiscence,” as the book description does. It includes all those things, but not in equal parts. It’s a series of essays that he wrote, mostly during his training for the 2005 New York City Marathon, but the memories take him to other races and other periods of his life, and on a whirlwind tour of his stomping grounds across Hawaii, Boston, Greece, and Japan.
Oftentimes I'll pick up a book, read a few lines, and quickly close the covers. I'll instinctively know that no matter how much I want to read it that that book's message was meant for a later time. And sure enough, years later, I'll spot the book on the corner of my shelf and be moved to pick it up, only to find exactly what I needed to hear. It's funny how life, and reading, works that way.
Other times I'll find a book in the most random way - through a footnote or a random citation in an obscure periodical, for instance - and that book's message will be exactly what I needed to hear at that moment in my life. That was certainly the case with Japanese novelist Karuki Murakami's wonderful little book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
While training for the New York City Marathon Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami decided to write about it as well. What materialized was a unique memoir that discusses his twin passions of writing and running, and the interesting way they nurture and inform each other.
I've been struggling as of late staying focused on the hard work of writing, so when I opened the book and read the following lines I knew that a message that I needed to hear had found me:
"One runner told of a mantra his older brother, also a runner, had taught him which he's pondered ever since he began running. Here it is: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you're running and you start to think, Man this hurts, I can't take it anymore. The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand any more is up to the runner himself. This pretty much sums up the most important aspect of marathon running."
If you feel called to creative work, and are struggling with finding the discipline necessary to create a body of work, you'll find this playful, oftentimes philosophical memoir food for your soul.
Aside from the joy of gaining insight from his decades of experience, I found the author to be respectable, humble, and generally just a likable guy. Id' love to have coffee with him pick his brain some more. I found his humility and honesty refreshing and rare in a field where I am accustomed to sensationalized, horn-tooting tales of superatletes. I liked that he opened up about limits that come with aging, (though he's still faster than I may ever be) and how the love of running can wax and wann over time. Humility is an aspect often left out when people talk about running, but I find that at times I leave for a run expecting to feel a great sense of accomplishment, and return humbled instead, and those runs are every bit as important. I am grateful that he touched on those feelings.
Running is such a metaphor for life, it only makes sense that a writer may be an avid runner. I often write in my head while I run, and I enjoyed this account of someone who has been doing both for decades.