Believe it or not, but I still have not read any of the amazing novels by Murakami. Kafka by the Shore and Wind-Up Bird Chronicles still sit on my shelves, intimidating me with their size. But time was ticking down on Bellezza's Japanese Reading Challenge, so in a moment of panic I started browsing my library's audio archives for a Murakami, and came up with this. Initially, I had no idea what I had stumbled upon. Then the clouds parted, and I was enlightened.
What you have before you is a peek inside Murakami's brilliant mind, a memoir of sorts. His life as an author, and the influence running has had on every facet of his author's existence. My first reaction was "Well, great. I used to run, but my knees gave out on me years ago, so I'm not sure how interesting this could be." It was riveting, in fact.
Murakami reflects on the parallels between writing and running...the requirement of endurance, training and practice, the solitary nature of both activities. How both force you, if you want to achieve your potential, to work through the "toxins" to get to the good stuff. Despite Murakami's insane schedule of touring, speaking to groups, and writing his novels that have a cult-like following at this point, he always makes time to run. It is his lifeline.
Murakami shares with us his life before running. He owned a jazz bar, working unhealthy hours, smoking over five packs of cigarettes a day. But one day, he decided, out of the blue, he wanted to write, and entered a contest (of which he won of course.) Later, he took a leap of faith, closed the bar, and started writing full time. He began running about the same time, for no other reason than because he wanted to, and this prepared him for the focus and the stamina he needed to become the success he is today.
He laments the effect of aging on his body. He admits that he is bull-headed, stubborn, a loner, and doesn't think he is a very likable person. He is hyper-sensitive but brutally honest about his faults with an endearing, self-deprecating humility. He tells us about his running a double marathon (over 60 miles?!), and about silly mistakes he's made when competing in triathalons. He examines his own fears and frailties, measuring their impact on his life. All of the sudden, this author, who is already on a pedestal in my book (without having read word one), is now real and human. I can only imagine the insight this may give me when I read his works of fiction.
Don't let the title of this memoir scare you. It makes no difference whatsoever if you've never jogged a mile. (In fact, it kind of makes you want to try!) What it does is provide an intimate view into the mind of an amazing author. If you are a Murakami fan, this one is not to be missed.
On a final note, the title of this book was inspired by a collection of short stories written by one of Murakami's heroes, the late Ray Carver, entitled "What I Talk About When I Talk About Love". Just as another form of proof that what you are reading here is nothing short of words from the heart.
4 out of 5 stars