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Friday, October 24, 2008

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami

Wonderfully written, this "memoir" is a meditation on both writing and running by an author who has elevated those two things to spiritual ground. I am sure it all sounds like hyperbole, but Murakami does "write like the wind" on this one, and also "runs" like it. The only problem I have with the book (only in a very slight and thin-veiled way) is that Murakami's sense of self-deprecation/humble statements strike me as a bit overdone. That's really "small change" considering that this is a book that I will love for years to come... writing and running! The two realms of my life that I have all for myself... the total escape!

There are numerous passages in "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" that deserve mention. Murakami's prose is so clear, so succinct and easy flowing. I love reading that makes you lose yourself and forget where you are. I did most of the reading this past Saturday at (and I try to avoid these places like the plague when I am actually reading seriously) a Starbucks Coffee downtown. I decided a few entries ago that I was going to limit myself to a number of pages so as to "milk" the 180 pages of this great volume. Well, it goes without saying that I was unable to hold myself back and ended up reading over 90 pages in a couple of hours. I am not a fast reader, and I often stop to make annotations and underline passages, but I simply got so lost in the reading that before I knew it I had to put the book down and simply contemplate the people walking in and out of the coffee house.

Of all the analogies between writing and running Murakami makes in this book, the one that got most of my attention is that of talent and what to do when one doesn't have a "natural talent" for either running or writing. Murakami states that one must persevere, and, to make this wonderful connection between the two realms, that the runner/writer needs to 1) focus and 2) endure. This was advice that I put immediately into practice on Monday and Tuesday when I went running. Both of those days I reached the point I normally do when I need/want to stop. I kept thinking of what Murakami wrote so that was focus enough. But Murakami talks about his choice of music and how certain paces hit the mark with certain themes in music, and how it all ties together. Probably I was already doing these things, especially during my longer runs, but it was clearer to me once I read it in Murakami's book. Nothing like being "validated" by a master!

Certainly, I have been too busy to see about how my writing will be affected by his advice, but I can see that in committing to do NaNoWriMo this coming month, Murakami's advice should come home like truth to me. I am still a few pages off from finishing, and with a week to go before the end of the month, having seven days to finish off this jewel/marvel of a book is the icing on the cake for the month of October.

If you are out there in Kanagawa, Mr. Murakami... thank you for all you do in both running and writing. You are certainly reaching some of us. I do hope some day you shoot out like a star out of the short list and into the pinnacle of the Nobel Prize for Literature. I know it's a long shot, but you are one of my candidates and at least I hope one of you two gets it.

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