Ahoy there me mateys! Blustery winds and crazy seas are still severely limiting the time I have to read. So here be a Tidings post with a twist! The First Mate has been reading like a fiend. I
ordered asked him to write a review of something he recently read because I be going through withdraw and NEED to hear about books. At the end of his review I will decide whether the book is kept in the hold for me future reading pleasure or be keelhauled into the watery depths. Hope ye enjoy!
From the First Mate:
Over the years, I think I’ve soured a bit on Murakami. I remember reading Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World for the first time and being struck at how much it seemed like a more accessible version of a David Lynch film. That opinion was only strengthened by reading A Wild Sheep Chase not too much later. But following that, I didn’t really connect with his work in quite the same way. Might have been me; might have been his work going in a different direction. I doubt I’ll ever read 1Q84 or Killing Commendatore again. And I have no idea if I’d pick up a new book by him if it came out now. But that’s his fiction.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is one of those books that I’ve had in boxes for years and had never read. I bought it when it came out because I was then still a Murakami fan. I couldn’t state a particular reason why I didn’t read it when I bought it. A memoir about running didn’t seem terribly appealing at the time, and I suppose very little over the last fourteen years made me think to pick it up.
It almost seems like Murakami was as vaguely disinterested in writing this book as I was in reading it. Unlike his novels, the language here is very loose and a little rambling. He tells us that he doesn’t actually think about anything when he’s running. But he does have lots of thoughts about how important running has been to his life and career. And he weaves a narrative about his career as a novelist through descriptions of various races he’s run.
The consistent theme of the first 4/5ths of the book is Murakami talking about training for the 2005 New York Marathon. In talking about his training, he meditates on getting older, discipline, disappointment, competition, and regret. The way the book is structured it feels as though it’s building to a chapter where he’s going to give us some description of what that particular race was like. But, no. He tells us that it didn’t go as well as expected, and then he moves on to talking about triathlons.
I’m not a runner. The Captain would likely tell you that I’m more a beast of burden. When we go hiking, I carry all of our supplies, and even carry the Captain when we cross rivers. Perhaps I would’ve gotten more out of the book had I been a runner. I don’t know. I enjoyed the memoir elements. The few races that Murakami talked about were very interesting. It just felt like this was not a finished work. It left me thinking about other things.
Recommended to Murakami fans and fans of unconventional memoirs. Avoid if books about running are not in your interests.
Yer Captain’s Verdict:
KEELHAUL! Arrrr! This Captain doesn’t run. Ever. Sometimes one has to strategically retreat but I always make haste slowly. This book holds no appeal for me. But apparently it does for other folk. It was put into the free little library and was gone in less than one day!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he’d completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, not to mention triathlons and a dozen critically acclaimed books, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and–even more important–on his writing. Equal parts training log, travelogue, and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers his four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon and takes us to places ranging from Tokyo’s Jingu Gaien gardens, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston among young women who outpace him. Through this marvelous lens of sport emerges a panorama of memories and insights: the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer, his greatest triumphs and disappointments, his passion for vintage LPs, and the experience, after fifty, of seeing his race times improve and then fall back. By turns funny and sobering, playful and philosophical, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is rich and revelatory, both for fans of this masterful yet guardedly private writer and for the exploding population of athletes who find similar satisfaction in distance running.”
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