What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

[rating=3] ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ is a promising title. They always are, aren’t they? Yet, my ongoing ambivalence towards Haruki Murakami continues. I always feel as though I should love his work; it’s weird, and focuses on themes that are close to my heart: noir, crime, fantasy, sheep… and now, running.

Murakami’s books frustrate the hell out of me, because it’s impossible to know if something is just being lost in translation, or if his writing really is as flat as it feels when I’m reading it. Like plain bread with no butter, or a cup of tea made with a once-used teabag. The solution is to learn to read in the original Japanese, but I’m afraid that’s a project for another lifetime.

This memoir was mostly interesting to me because of the timing: he started running seriously (and writing novels) at age 33, the age I am now. I enjoyed the early autobiographical segments that talked about his life as a jazz-club owner and his eureka moment with writing. ENVY!

The book mostly takes place between Japan and Boston, with some side trips to NYC. He also talks about running the original marathon course in Greece, from Athens to Marathon, which is a personal life goal of mine that I may never achieve due to an intimidating combination of dreadful air pollution in Athens, hilly course, heat and my asthma. Dammit.

Murakami’s passion for triathlons made me wish I could swim; I love cycling and running, but water gives me the creeps, and the idea of maybe getting kicked in the face by a swimmer ahead of me in the water at the start line is NOT APPEALING.

Overall, a fast read and a decent little memoir. Good if you run, or enjoy autobiographies by famous Japanese authors.

3 of 5 stars / bookshelves: read, 180 pages, Publisher: Vintage Books (2007)
Read from May 30 to June 17, 2011.

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