What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel

In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he’d completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and on his writing. Equal parts travelogue, training log, and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers his four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon and settings ranging from Tokyo’s Jingu Gaien gardens, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston.
  
By turns funny and sobering, playful and philosophical, this is a must-read for fans of this masterful yet private writer as well as for the exploding population of athletes who find similar satisfaction in distance running.        

Review

This is, I must say, a rather odd little book. Odd, but intriguing – a combination that Murakami fans will recognise and appreciate. The framework of this revealing, odds-and-sods memoir is Haruki Murakami’s four-month preparation for running the New York marathon. Against a changing backdrop (Hawaii, Tokyo, Boston), the novelist coolly meditates on his love affair with long distance running, which evolved almost in parallel with his writing career. He reflects on writing and running in almost equal measure, talking about how the discipline that his running develops feeds into his writing, and how taking up full-time writing (a stationary activity that burns few calories) necessitated the running.

There are some wonderful personal reflections here too, on himself (‘I don’t think most people would like my personality’), his love of music, public speaking, and the differences between Japanese and Western culture. He tells the story of how, in 1978, watching a baseball game, beer in hand, a thought struck the then jazz club owner: ‘You know what? I could try writing a novel.’ That’s how his writing career began. It progressed through persistence, discipline and sheer mental hard work. A fascinating read for fans of running, writing or Murakami.

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