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.