Review by Andrew Burmon
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Knopf), by Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami’s sentences have always ticked forward with the confident beat of footfalls. Even his most surreal daydreams unfurl with pace and deliberation.
In his latest book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a collection of essays on his decades-long career as an amateur marathoner and triathlete, Murakami briefly explores the connection between his runner’s discipline and his writerly reserve. “Writing novels, to me, is basically a kind of manual labor,” he writes in an essay entitled “Most of What I Know About Writing Fiction I Learned From Running Every Day.” The rhythm behind Murakami’s sentences, he reveals, is the echo of his shoes hitting pavement.
But What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a surprising book. It is not, as would be reasonably expected, an accomplished writer’s victory lap. On the contrary, the book is a slow and thorough tribute to the joy of exhaustion. The reader comes to know Murakami’s knees better than Murakami himself, which is to say that the book is geared more toward the nylon-shorts set than toward the tweed brigade.
The problem created by Murakami’s decision to write a book about himself as a runner rather than himself as a writer is that he is a much more accomplished writer than he is a runner.
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