Friday, June 17

Book review on the run: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Take a master of the short story, give him a pair of running shoes and a pen. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami is a clever glimpse into the mind of a runner. I regularly found myself nodding along, or smiling an I-know-what-you-mean smile as I raced through the book.

Admittedly, the first few pages sometimes drift into stream-of-consciousness. But, much like a tempo run, the rest of the text is worth the initial slow pace. There are dozens of gems that kept me turning the pages. For example:
For me, running is both exercise and metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself...
In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.
I've never recommended running to others. I've tried my best never to say something like, Running is great. Everybody should try it. If some people have an interest in long-distance running, just leave them be, and they'll start running on their own. If they're not interested in it, no amount of persuasion will make any difference.
If I used being busy as an excuse not to run, I'd never run again. I have only a few reasons to keep on running, and a truckload of them to quit. All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished.
Even if the skill level varies, there are things that only runners understand and share.
If those quotes don't convince you to read the book, then Chapter 3, on Murakami's first marathon, should be reason enough to check the book out of your local library. His description of the event, where he ran from Athens to Marathon Greece on his own, makes the reader feel the heat, traffic, and exhaustion of the run... and taste the beer at the end.

In the spirit of full disclosure, the NY Times Reviewer didn't like the book, but he's neither a runner nor has he read any of Murakami's other work. The reviewer's response to his own lack of expertise is a dull "Oh well" and he then plunges into a blandly ranting review that misses almost all of the highlights of the book. Oh well. I don't work for the Times, but I am a runner, and I recommend reading the book anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog!
    Sorry you are still getting used to the FL heat/humidity. It's gotta be TOUGH! I just melt whenever I go back to MI to visit family in the summer and try to run.
    I'm a hard-core Murakami fan and have a dream of going to Japan and waiting outside his house until he leaves for a run then joining in with him. Stalker-like.


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