Thursday, January 21, 2010

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - Haruki Murakami (audio)

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


19 comments:

Melody said...

Great review, Sandy! I have yet to read all of his books but from what I read from a few titles, I really enjoyed them all. This sounds like an interesting read, and another one I shouldn't be missed!

Jackie (Farm Lane Books) said...

I haven't read this one yet, but do own it. It is very short, so I can see why you were tempted by it! I hope that you decide to read one of his fiction novels soon - they aren't that scary!

JoAnn said...

I still need to try Murakami. Great review, Sandy!

Harvee said...

I have the book and mean to finish it after I'm done with the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Nice review.

bermudaonion said...

This sounds like a good one, even though I don't need anyone to tell me about the affects of aging on the body - I live with it every day!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

What an interesting topic. Sounds like it would make a great audiobook for exercising!

Julie P. said...

Wow -- sounds wonderful. Great review. What an interesting take!

Beth F said...

I like the way you reviewed this. Good job. I haven't read Murakami, but for no other reason than I haven't gotten around to him and because I went through a Japanese phase in the mid-1980s and for some reason haven't returned.

Amy said...

I adore Raymond Carver's stories! When I discovered him several years ago, I read 4 or 5 of his collections in a short span of time. I periodically read some of his stories now & again. I wasn't aware that Carver's works inspired Murakami whom, alas, I have never read although he's been on my list for a long time. I will read him before 2011!
I haven't read much about this book but your wonderful review has convinced me I have to read this book. I'm always interested in what great authors have to say about the writing process and I would love to read Murakami's thoughts and experiences. And although I don't run, I know and have known many people who run for the joy of it and to keep themselves sane!
I've added this book to my TBR list and plan to pick it up very soon!

Thasnk you, Sandy!

Jenners said...

I've not read anything by this author but this one sounds more accessible and not so scary. He sounds like the exact opposite of me in many ways. You've made me want to try this book .. maybe it will get me to increase my willpower. Wonderful review!

kikiv68 said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this book with us. I have been wondering if to read it or not, and now I've made up my mind to get it...Thanks again!

April said...

I think I have Murakami on a pedestal after reading this review too!

Running for me is so relaxing. I know, weird. Anyways, I loved your review it has me convinced that I need to stop being afraid of Murakami and just pick up his books SOON!

Susan said...

This sounds like something I would like. Even though I don't run, and barely even make myself get on the treadmill. Maybe I would get inspiration from it, ya think?

The only Japanese novel I've read, and it was years ago, is Audrey Hepburn's Neck and I don't remember the author. Apparently Japanese men worship her.

Serena said...

I haven't read this author's books either, but it sounds like I should start with this one. I love when writer's have competing loves and yet they seem to find a way to let them both work together.

great review.

Nymeth said...

Reading Underground last year made me realise that Murakami himself is possibly as interesting as his novels! So I definitely want to read this, even if jogging is not quite my thing :P But like you said, that doesn't really matter. By the sound of it, it's about so much more!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I haven't read anything by Murakami, but you've definitely got me interested with this review.

I may like to read this to learn more about him before I read any of his fiction, like you have (wow, what a mangled sentence that is ... and I'm too tired to correct it!)

Anna said...

I haven't read anything yet by this author, but I'm thinking I must change that.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Zibilee said...

I have heard this is an amazing book, and for the life of me, I never got it! After reading your review I am really excited to read this one and to try to get into Murakami's fiction as well. It sounds like he speaks very passionately about both his writing and his running and I think it would be interesting to see the parrallels he sees between the two. Great review! This one goes on the top of the wish list!

Alice Teh said...

I've read this and loved it. I'm glad you like it too.