Book Review: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Part II)

Posted on August 11, 2010

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The appeal of Murukami’s memoir doesn’t end at the style.  Interwoven with the training journal tidbits are thoughts on the author’s personality and his process as a writer and a human.  He acknowledges, confesses even, that he enjoys the solitary nature of his life.  Ironically I find it reassuring to hear such sentiments from another individual.  Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate my family and circle of certain friends, and all the strangers with whom I have had interesting exchanges.  Solitude suits me, though, in doses many would consider unbearable.  Given a day’s worth of free time, I will happily run, read, do some yoga, sample the farmer’s market, and cook myself a lovely single person’s dinner.  I’m not sure if it is a byproduct of running that I enjoy being absorbed in my own thoughts, or the other way around.  (An old teacheronce divulged that he found running frightening for precisely this reason, an idea that I had never considered before that point.)  I have never needed an Ipod or treadmill to run; I find my mind entertaining and raucuous enough.  I am grateful for the privileges of such a rich inward life, and the legs that have carried me through it.

And because running informs such a myriad of self-examinations, I believe I understand why Murukami found it difficult to start and write his memoir.  Making coherent prose out of the huge web of human experience wrapped up and metaphorized by running is a real achievement.  The thought and care involved in his endeavor must have been exhausting.  Murukami compares the exhaustion of running to the whole body investment of his writing practice.  I am certain he found it amusing to write about running, then, to exhaust himself describing exhaustion.

I had not allowed myself previously to acknowledge the physical aspect of writing.  I believed the distraction, weariness, and boredom I felt from long expositions was a sign of weakness. It is not.  Like my running muscles, my writing abilities need recuperation.  I have some talent at each, but the real practices thereof require me to train easy, then train hard, and finally rest.  And because I need a cheap ending to this thought-piece, I shall rest here, and leave you, the reader, to decide whether to seek out Murukami’s work.

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Posted in: Book Review