Haruki Murakami’s memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is not a book I can easily categorize. I enjoyed it and found it enlightening to get a personal glimpse into the mind of a modern literary giant. First off, I do admit that my views are bias. I’ve read almost all of his works, and if you haven’t heard of him, I suggest picking up at least Hardboiled Wonderland and The End of the World. But what about this book, though?
It wasn’t as earth shatteringly revealing as I had hoped. His novels investigate humanity and metaphysics on a much deeper level. I sort of expected this from the title and size of the book. There’s only so much truth that can be revealed in a 180 pages. In his memoir, Murakami takes a much more humble and laidback approach. The majority of the book deals with his analogy of being a serious novelist and running marathons. While the writing is very pleasant to read, I don’t know if there’s enough to keep non-runners/writers/ and Murakami fans interested.
I don’t run, but I like to surf, and found his views on reaching higher spiritual levels through physical discipline a very honest analysis. He spends a lot of time writing about accepting getting older but enjoying the quality of life rather than by how many points one gets. I wished there was more on the actual art of writing (something similar to Stephen King’s On Writing), but sadly most of it stayed on the topic of running and its connections to writing, which we’re usually vague. One thing I’ve learned from living in Japan is that Japanese people love to be vague. It is part of the culture to avoid being so direct. It kills me in real life and it sort of annoyed me in this book. Still, when he did directly write about writing, his advice was indispensable.
In the end, despite my bitching, I have to label this a book that was fun to read. It was easy going, the imagery was strong, and you could feel a genuine quality of sincerity. I recommend you give this book a try. Read a sample, it might be for you.