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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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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. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
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 --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
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Top customer reviews
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.