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.
marathongirl, December 1, 2012 (view all comments by marathongirl)
I'm a runner and as I read this memoir I recognized bits of myself in Mr. Murakami. Like him, no one has asked me or ordered me to ever run, but, yet, I do. And, as he mentions, maybe it's a rather pointless act (nothing tangible is created) but the effort, the pain, the attainment of goals becomes the point. I run because it gives me more pleasure, more sanity then pain. And therein is a very compelling point.
Vintage Books USA -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by 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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information Inc.)
by Library Journal,
"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."
by The Plain Dealer,
“A fascinating portrait of Murakami’s working mind and how he works his magic on the page.”
by Sports Illustrated,
"In What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, [Murakami] has turned something seemingly mundane – his running journals – into a brilliant meditation on how his running and writing nurture and sustain each other...With spare, engaging prose...Murakami shares his runner's high."
by Paste Magazine,
"A genuine memoir, filled with gentle minutiae that truly communicates the rhythm of Murakami's daily life and work...Murakami actually offers himself whole."
by The Tennessean,
"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."
by San Antonio Express-News,
"Beautifully written and full of great running aphorisms...Anyone who knows perseverance can appreciate this work."
An intimate look at writing, running, and the incredible way they intersect, from the incomparable, bestselling author Haruki Murakami. While simply training for New York City Marathon would be enough for most people, Haruki Murakami's decided to write about it as well. The result is a beautiful memoir about his intertwined obsessions with running and writing, full of vivid memories and insights, including the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer. By turns funny and sobering, playful and philosophical, What I Talk About When I Talk About Runningis rich and revelatory, both for fans of this masterful yet guardedly private writer and for the exploding population of athletes who find similar satisfaction in athletic pursuit.
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