THE RUNNER by Richard Watson


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If you've ever been cornered in conversation by a fanatical runner, you may have some idea of what this achingly dull novel is like: Watson (author of the more interesting Under Plowman's Floor) blandly reports every detail of a middle-aged runner's running life, from 40 to 70, as the reader keeps waiting in vain for a hint of depth, texture, or plot. The runner is accountant Gregory, who starts running in his forties. We watch him as he buys shoes and togs; suffers beginner's pains; learns how to warm up; tries a marathon (disappointingly); develops medical problems; goes through non-running periods; reads about running; starts running again (with better results); runs marathons at 60 and even 70. Along the way, he also has some extramarital sex, loses his wife, goes rock-climbing with his son, and resolves some job problems--but none of this is delivered with any clear viewpoint or tone. (Are we supposed to pity Gregory in his obsession? Applaud him? Watson doesn't seem to have an opinion.) And most of this short yet interminable book merely consists of such fiat recitations as: ""Gregory had had some trouble with constipation when he was younger, but this had cleared up in his mid-forties after he had started eating bran and fresh vegetables--and avoiding sugar and processed flour--as advised in the health literature that he still read occasionally. . . . He had not had a cold nor the flu nor any sickness for a dozen years. Whether this was because he took five grams of vitamin C a day he did not know."" So, except for the most boredom-immune enthusiasts--run the other way.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1982
Publisher: Copple House--dist. by Caroline House