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‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ by Haruki Murakami July 7, 2010

Posted by ayasawada in Books.
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Murakami What I Talk About When I Talk About Running cover

I like Murakami’s fiction, but I also like his non-fiction. Underground was an unexpectedly brilliant take on the Tokyo Gas Attacks and, as I previously wrote, an interesting form of journalism.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running isn’t quite as polished as that. It’s a collection of random thoughts and essays loosely strung together by a narrative about Murakami’s training.

Sometimes he’ll stick with the standard narrative — his training for the New York Marathon — but he’ll veer off wildly in between that as he tells you what he thinks, well, while he’s running.

For Murakami fans like myself, this is brilliant. What we like about the author is his view of the world, his opinions, his perspectives. Murakami touches on almost everything, from his career change to writing, to his childhood, love, music, different world cultures as he’s experienced them. Sometimes this will be matter of fact, but interesting takes on life in Hawaii or Boston. Other times he’ll flirt a little with climate change scepticism. And on occasion he’ll say something really insightful, like his approach to writing, how it makes him feel, or what, to him, is really important about life.

It’s beautifully written (and translated) but not especially well structured. He says he didn’t intend to write a proper book, hence the slightly odd ending of a disappointing New York marathon and a couple of chapters on the triathlon, which offers more of a traditional uplifting (in a sense) finish.

It’s the usual philosophical/existential/slightly ponderous, a little morose, mostly matter-of-fact Murakami that we loves, and short enough that its shortcomings don’t annoy or distract too much.

And yes, it did kind of make me want to run more. Although I will never be that motivated!

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