Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Monday, January 17, 2011

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami... a Review

What an amazing memoir, but not quite a memoir! What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is the memoir of Japanese author Haruki Murakami. But even Murakami admits that it's not a "traditional" memoir, and in fact his original concept was to publish it as a book of essays. The story has its roots in Murakami's training for the New York City Marathon, but what makes this story so interesting is his veering off the track to share thoughts about his life, career, his childhood, music, and love. He reflects on living in Boston and Hawaii. He shares his views of the world around him, and in doing he innocently gives the reader food for fodder for our own lives. And all cleverly linked together by his training.

"Once you set the pace, the rest will follow. The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed - and to get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can imagine."

What's particularly interesting to me is the insights he gives on writing and the origins of his writing. Not knowing much about Murakami except for his being a brilliantly popular writer, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running really let me get to know the man behind the writing. The bar owner turned writer, who loves to run even though his aging body is slowing down. And even a book "about running" in the hands of Haruki Murakami is beautifully written. It's inspiring, it's humbling.
"Sometimes when I think of life, I feel like a piece of driftwood washed up on shore."
I listened to the audiobook of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running as part of the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge, which includes listening to audiobooks. But I enjoyed the story so much I intend to buy a copy of the book! The audiobook itself is a little over 4 hours, and is narrated by Shakespearean actor Ray Porter, who has an extensive audiobook background. Although the voice of the narrator is pleasing, at first I was a little taken aback, because I really expected a different type of voice to represent Murakami, but I slowly got use to Mr. Porter, who did a great job with all the subtleties of sharing the story with us.

I would definitely recommend What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami to any runner or athlete, because it's a wonderful love story to the hard work of training for any event, but it's also a love story of living. There are so many other reasons to praise this book- it's inspiring, it's beautifully written, it's a great way to get to know the man behind the wildly popular books you can find in any bookstore. I loved it for all those reasons. And, if I could I would put on a pair of running shoes right now and go out running!


Amy said...

This is a book I want to read and have had on my TBR list for too long. I didn't know that it was more a group of essays than a real memoir but regardless it sounds fascinating and very interesting! Imagine to be able to make writing about running sound beautiful, wow!

Thank you for your wonderful review!
~ Amy

Suzanne said...

Hi Amy!
This book was wonderful! Haruki Mirakami does a great job of weaving his "essays" or better to say "side tracked thoughts" together so it doesn't feel like reading separate ideas. It really feels like a wonderful story of his life. And it really made me appreciate him as an artist.

When you do get a chance to read it, let me know what you think!

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