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

Posted on August 11, 2010


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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