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Friday, October 31, 2008

Murakami Keeps On Running...

It is with somewhat a sad feeling that I come to the last pages of Haruki Murakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running." I was able to "milk" all 180 pages as far as I could. It was intense at times, wanting to read more, delaying the inevitable, etc. It's just the way it is when you really, really love books and their authors. Murakami writes about the sense of isolation in both running and writing, and, as they are two activities that are front and center in my life was well, this passage had a mesmerizing quality to me:

"Emotional hurt is the price a person has to pay in order to be independent. That's what I basically believe, and I've lived my life accordingly. In certain areas of my life, I actively seek out solitude. Especially for someone in my line of work, solitude is, more or less, an inevitable circumstance. Sometimes, however, this sense of isolation, like acid spilling out of a bottle, can unconsciously eat away at a person's heart and dissolve it. You could see it, too, as a kind of double-edged sword. It protects me, but at the same time steadily cuts away at me from the inside...."

All those years--especially the ones in Washington, DC--come crashing into my memory like a fantastic wave. It is amazing to realize how universal so many of these feelings are. Despite the over-romanticized notion about writers doing their work in solitude, I think Murakami just about nails it here in simple and succinct language. Nothing fancy, nothing elaborate... just the fact of what solitude is and what it can do. I think this is the reason running comes so naturally to a writer:

"I'm the kind of person who likes to be by himself. To put a finer point to it, I'm the type of person who doesn't find it painful to be alone. I find spending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to anyone, as well as four or five hours alone at my desk, to be neither difficult nor boring. I've had this tendency ever since I was very young, when, given a choice, I much preferred reading books on my own or concentrating on listening to music over being with someone else."

Outside of my years with the orchestra, when coming to work was like a social event of sort, most of the time I had to myself in Washington I spent either in the office grading papers or writing, or at home reading and--just like Murakami--listening to music. I guess that, to anyone reading this, it may sound like I had a pretty good balance in Washington, DC, and I probably did. This book made me look back and remember those times for some strange, odd reason I am still trying to figure out. This was, perhaps, a book about meditation and solitude, more than it was about running and reflecting on the comparison to writing. It truly resonated with many of my own personal manias and peccadilloes and that is why I am so happy to have read it.

So, okay, Ubuntu 8.08 didn't work as planned, and I had to downgrade to Ubuntu 6.06 in order to get ONE critical program to work (this is my old Toshiba I use for the only writing class I am teaching now). I use a program call Smartboard. It's an interactive whiteboard and the Linux version would not run on the latest Ubuntu because 8.08 doesn't have the Linux kernel. Having fixed that, it is now working like a charm!

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow (November 1st) at midnight. I am staying up tonight, at the ready, come 11:59 PM I'll be sitting at my desk, perhaps the very same way Murakami stands waiting for the gun to go off before a marathon. These are the things we live for. It may not be much... but to some of us, it's a blast. See you in a month (although I'll be writing updates here and there).

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At 8:14 PM, Blogger Suzan Abrams said...

Good luck with the NaMoWriMo, JCR. Do let us know how it all went. I just realised it's that time of year again, when you (hopefully) and I and other book lovers all over the world will be making enthusiastic resolutions for our reads next year.
Would love to spot your list on this.


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