What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami
August 8, 2009 § 9 Comments
This book is, technically speaking, my true first Murakami book. I *found* this book quite some time ago as I was browsing the local bookstore while waiting for a friend. I read the first chapter there and then, and decided that I will hunt it down in the libraries to read the rest of it.
Since then, I’ve read Murakami’s Dance Dance Dance, and it’s only now, after about one month or so, that I am finally able to sit down quietly to enjoy this book. Because that’s exactly what this book calls for; quiet, alone time to slowly take in the words and phrases that are contained within.
This book is not about running.
In my opinion, a quote found early in this book sums up quite nicely what I think the book is about. In Murakami’s own words:
I’m often asked what I think about as I run. Usually the people who ask this have never run long distances themselves. I always ponder this question. What exactly do I think about when I’m running? I don’t have a clue.
This book reads like a conversation. I felt it so strongly throughout the book: Murakami sitting in front of me on a wooden, average-height stool, me on a cushioned chair; Murakami leaning forward at times, and at others gesturing rather wildly with his hands to drive home a point. I felt like he was talking to me.
The details in this memoir did not necessarily have to be hidden secrets now revealed for the whole world to know. But it had an intimacy that I appreciated much throughout the narrative. He was telling me about his thoughts, about how he found his motivation, about his ups and downs. He was telling me about his life in general, with all the mundane bits that make the narrative even more engaging.
I don’t imagine that everyone would like this kind of book. In fact, I can even see in my head some people I know who would fall asleep on the book not even a quarter way through.
But here’s the thing. That Murakami can write a memoir on such a mundane topic (ie. running), run off in all directions to talk about all things under the sun in between running stints, and still keep the flow of the narrative so natural speaks volumes of this man’s writing skills.
He mentioned that as a marathon, long-distance runner, which is what he is, keeping the pace and rhythm is everything. I reckon it shines out in his writing too.
Postscript: Somewhere in the middle of this book, I suddenly became aware of how the structure of the sentences and paragraphs had such a Japanese feel to them, that I could almost hear Japanese speech jumping right out of the pages. (I watch a lot of Japanese anime, and so naturally, I listen to a lot of Japanese speech, though I understand only a small fraction of it)
I think we don’t nearly appreciate the translators enough, or as often as we should. Philip Gabriel did a fantastic job.