It seems like Haruki Murakami is popping up on every bookshelf these days. His work appears on bedstands, in backpacks, and on tongues more often than any other single author. (Except for my homie, F. Scott. He’s experiencing a revival. I wonder why…)
His pervasiveness is exactly why I’ve been avoiding him. I’ve rented out my book-space to other works, some good, some bad. And then a friend handed me Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Since I both respect this friend’s taste and desperately needed a new book to read, I cracked it open.
All skepticism was dispelled immediately. Murakami writes candidly, artfully, and with (astonishing) humility. Right off the bat, he established his athletic hobbies as no big deal – marathons and triathlons are simply things he does because he wants to do them. He’s not in it for the glory or prize money or whatever. He’s in it to be in it. This is exactly the attitude I most admire in others. Simple, honest doing it for the sake of doing it.
I love the casual, shrugging way he tells the story of becoming a runner and, seemingly with the same breath, how he became a writer. Throughout the piece, running and writing weave together. The two activities are so thoroughly intertwined in Murakami’s life that it’s difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.
As a writer and runner who came to both writing and running in a gradual, almost accidental way way, I understand.
If I my pull just one passage to sum up the core of what I love about What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, it’s this:
“I didn’t start running because somebody asked me to become a runner. Just like I didn’t become a novelist because someone asked me to. One day, out of the blue, I wanted to write a novel. And one day, out of the blue, I started to run-simply because I wanted to. I’ve always done whatever I felt like doing in life. People may try to stop me, and convince me I’m wrong, but I won’t change.”
Excuse me. I have some running to do.
Have you read Murakami’s memoir or novels? What did you think?
Who inspires you to get up and go?