Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March Reading Update: A Memoir By Haruki Murakami

It's the last day of March. My goal for this year is to read 15 books. So far, I have finished three and a half (see links to previous posts below!).

"What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" by Haruki Murakami. The title jumped out at me from a display table at Barns and Nobel. I was there Christmas shopping. The word --running-- peaked my interest. So I reached for the thin paperback book and read the back cover: "An intimate look at writing, running, and the incredible way they intersect, from the incomparable, bestselling author Haruki Murakami."

I held the book tightly in my hands while my head was spinning. This book had everything. I love to read memoirs and biographies. It's that nosy side of me. And I run and write! And obviously the book was written by some sophisticated Japanese writer who won prestigious writing awards. As I am rather uncultivated in the area of fine literature, this book was perfect for me, educational and interesting!

So I started reading, existed to learn what writing and running could possibly have in common except being favorite activities of introverts like myself.

Page 10: "I'm no great runner, by any means. I'm an ordinary --or perhaps more like mediocre--level. "

I though: Cool! I'm mediocre. This guy is like me. But I quickly learned differently.

Page 11: "My peak as a runner came in my late forties. Before then I'd aimed at running a full marathon in three and a half hours, a pace of exactly one kilometer in five minutes, or one mile in eight."

And this is the book in a nutshell, a detailed list of mediocre accomplishments. Actually, his story reminded me of the movie Forest Gump. Everything Haruki Murakami tries, he is successful at.

Living in Japan, as a twenty year-old, he ran a successful night club. Then one day, while watching a baseball game, he had an epiphany-like experience.

Page 27: "I can pinpoint the exact moment when I first thought I could write a novel. It was around one thirty in the afternoon of April 1, 1978. I was at Jingu Stadium that day, alone in the outfield drinking beer and watching the game."

Six months later, he finished his first novel, and submitted the manuscript to a contest and won. The novel was published. His writing career was born.

After this, still running his night-club, he wrote a second novel, and on the side, began to translate some short fiction by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Is it just me, or is he spreading on a thick layer? Or do most club owners keep a frayed copy of The Great Gatsby behind the bar? (I don't mean to insult any bartenders!) But really! How can a person, especially an award winning fiction author, be so removed from the real world of average people? Does he have a terrible editor? Did nobody feel like telling him that he comes across as an arrogant name-dropper?

Okay, so after telling me about running a 62 mile ultra-marathon, and competing in seven Boston marathons, four New York marathons, four triathlons, he finally runs out of juice. As a 56 year-old, his body is no longer the machine it once was. And it can no longer produce distances in the same amount of time as earlier, no matter how much he trains.

Page 147: "So in the end I missed the four-hour mark by just a little. I did complete the run, after a fashion, which means I maintained my record of completing every marathon I've ever been in (a total of twenty-four now.) I was able to do the bare minimum, but it was a frustrating result after all my hard training and meticulous planning. It felt like a remnant of a dark cloud had wormed its way into my stomach. No matter what, I couldn't accept this."

This is it. Haruki Murakami refuses to accept that there is something called normal, mortal limitations.

Previous post: How Many Books Are You Reading 2010? February Update


  1. LOL! Poor you - there you were looking for someone to relate to & you got this.

    So, was there any conflict? It sounds like there wasn't. And that's something we mediocre people rock at - creating conflict in our lives! And just think of how well that all that conflict translates into our writing. :)

  2. Kristen. No conflict, which Murakami admits to. He uses the word -anticlimax! Which by no means makes his memoir about anything deep and difficult. He went into his midlife crises later than normal. That's all. Perhaps a few men can relate. He's a spoiled 56 year-old man obsessing, bragging and whining.

  3. Big deal, so he ran 24 marathons. Did he ever have a poem published by EDP? I think not! And, can he speak Swedish? I think not, again.

  4. Susan, you're right. Hahaha! Does anyone want to publish my memoir? Didn't think so!

  5. You are too young to write a memoir.