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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running Paperback – 2 Apr 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 181 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (2 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099526158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099526155
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"There's a wandering, digressive, free-form quality to the writing - like improvised jazz - familiar to anyone who has read the novels, with their labyrinth plots, perplexed, solitary male protagonists, meaningful coincidences and dream-like sequences. The narrative voice here is as persuasive as in any of the novels, candid and jaunty, and you finish the book charmed by the simple, unaffected grace of Murakami"--The Observer

"Comical, charming and philosophical... an excellent memoir"--GQ

"[Murakami] says no-one can warm to a character like his, but when he talks like this, on the run, we keep pace and pay rapt attention"--The Times

"Murakami manages to set a course that takes in views of all literature, sport and the uphill journey of ageing, all with a modest fluency that covers the ground without raising a sweat"--The Independent

Book Description

The first, fascinating insight into the life of this internationally bestselling writer

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By emma who reads a lot TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 10 Aug. 2008
Format: Hardcover
Haruki Murakami has run for his entire writing life, taking it up when he realised that the sedentary existence of a novelist was making him fat; he has eventually tackled more than twenty-five marathons, half-marathons aplenty, and even one gruelling 100 kilometre "ultra-marathon" whose odd spiritual benefits are described here in satisfying detail.

His simple approach to running is set down on the page with great skill and grace. But is it a hobby? An obsession? A way to keep fit? Or something more spiritual and meaningful? You can't help plumping for the latter when you read this book, so evocative and powerful are his thoughts on the way in which running requires tenacity, persistence, and a willingness to make the mind and body do things they don't really want to do. Running becomes a way of talking about all the difficulties of life - self-discipline, lack of willpower, the need for consistency.

On the other hand, he's also fantastic on the joys and delights of running: a "very attractive" young Japanese runner who smiles at him everyday on his Tokyo circuit; the mists of the wintry Charles river in Boston; a quick turn around Central Park reservoir in the company of fellow novelist John Irving.

If you aren't even slightly interested in running the book still has something to offer. It goes into detail about his philosophy of life, and he gives his thoughts about being a writer, which is intriguing for anyone who's read his strange and delightful fiction. But in the end I kept thinking about Zen buddhism - not a subject he directly touches upon.
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Format: Paperback
This is a strange little book, novella length, half memoir and half meditation on the act of writing, using running as an extended metaphor. The title is an allusion to a Raymond Carver short story (Murakami is, among other things, the Japanese translator of Carver) and, like a Carver character, Murakami has a knack of addressing his real concerns indirectly in the act of talking about something else.

Murakami insists that he is a rather physical and unreflective person, built for the long haul rather than speedy brilliance. As such, he finds in long distance running - marathon and triathlon - an analogy for his writing career. This isn't a technical manual for runners: written episodically over a period of two years as an exercise in self-knowledge, it's aimed at readers who want to know something about the man behind the writing of the novels. But Murakami is clearly uneasy with theory. He'd rather talk about the routines he follows in his life, the patterns and rhythms dictated by his parallel writing and running lives.

He's quite clear about the running as physical conditioning for the writer. Coming to the sport relatively late in life, and not conspicuously talented, he thrives on internal goals rather than external competition. A portrait emerges of a man in his fifties who is slowing down, pacing himself, learning to accept the limits that his ageing body sets while harvesting what he can from his self-imposed discipline.

An English reader who is familiar with Murakami's fiction will recognise his distinctive voice in these musings. It's the voice of a man who, as he says, has no problem with being alone: self-involved and rather dry, but unpretentious.
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Format: Paperback
I've not read any of Murakami's novels, nor have I seen him run, but this gentle philosophical jog gives a good impression of both his art and sport. He draws parallels between running and writing, often in a simple zen-like style, which is pleasing to read, but surprisingly slight. Although the long distance runner's sweaty battle between mind and body are engaging (the book is something of a running diary), I would have liked to read more about the parallel struggles of the long distance writer. Nonetheless Murakami's dogged example encourages this intermittent runner and occasional writer to try a wee bit harder at both.
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book immensely, both as someone who has read all of Murakami's books available in English, and as someone who has just trained for and run a half marathon.

For the first time, Murakami publishes a unique insight into the man behind the vivid imagination that created all his legendary titles, explaining how he started running to stay fit while sitting at home writing, and how the discipline he attaches to writing is very much the same discipline it takes to run an average of 6 miles a day, every day, for the last 23 or 24 years.

Having just trained for a reasonbly long run for 4 months, and run "only" 3 to 4 times a week, I enjoyed finding that Murakami describes so well the thoughts of a runner - he sums up brilliantly how you overcome the fatigue and pain when running by stating: "pain is inevitable, suffering is not". Once you realise that, he explains it is a matter of how you manage your expectations when focussing on any task that requires stamina, dedication and a bit of pain, be it running, writing or anything else in life.

The other aspect of Murakami's personal life that comes out of this book is his sad realisation that you can not beat the ageing process; no matter how much he trains, he can not improve on his times any more, and he acknowledges with much pain the inevitability of getting older by the day. Alongside his diminishing running capabilities, he fears that his best writing years may be past him, though he takes comfort from knowing that a few writers produced their best works in their late years.

We will have to see what else Murakami has to offer - I certainly will continue to buy his books.
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