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WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING

A MEMOIR

Though the insights don’t resonate on the level of his novels, as always Murakami employs his artful, lucid prose to good...

The celebrated novelist contemplates one of his favorite pastimes.

Adapting his title from the fine Raymond Carver collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Murakami (After Dark, 2007, etc.) pulls together various pieces he has written on the subject of running over the years. “I see this book as a kind of memoir,” he writes. “Not something as grand as a personal history, but calling it an essay collection is a bit forced.” It’s actually a slight but pleasant combination of all three forms, as the author recalls his near-obsession with running, an interest that has occupied him as much as writing during the past 25 years. Though he is often self-deprecating about his physique (“…the sad spreadsheet of my life that reveals how much my debts far outweigh my assets”), Murakami’s single-minded focus on the task at hand will impress runners and athletes of all levels. He maintains a methodical, disciplined training schedule, never taking two consecutive days off and never walking during a race. “I have only a few reasons to keep on running,” he notes, “and a truckload of them to quit. All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished.” His discipline also extends to his writing, which he approaches with the simple but devoted attention of a master craftsman. “I’m not the type who operates through pure theory or logic,” he notes, “not the type whose energy source is intellectual speculation.” By maintaining a steady work ethic—and exercise regimen—he hopes to avoid the “literary burnout” that afflicted many of his favorite writers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, Murakami reveres (“the kind of literature that nourishes you as you read”). Throughout this sleek volume, he draws many germane parallels between running and writing. He also recalls running in Central Park with John Irving in 1983, and remembers vividly the exact moment he decided to write his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing: at a baseball game in Japan at 1:30 p.m. on April 1, 1978.

Though the insights don’t resonate on the level of his novels, as always Murakami employs his artful, lucid prose to good effect.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-307-26919-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


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  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


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  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist


  • National Book Award Winner

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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