I have a hard time playing the favorites game. My absolute favorite book might depend on the genre or the time in my life I read it or my mood. However, I can say that Murakami is probably one author whose works I have enjoyed most consistently. I haven’t read everything, but Kafka on the Shore was my starting point and I’ve tried to slowly read through his works since then. I say slowly because I don’t want to binge read Murakami and suddenly have nothing left. Lately though I’ve started building up quite a pile of his books and have needed to work through them. What I Talk about When I Talk about Running is one I’ve had laying around for a while and I finally decided to tackle it.
I say tackle because I’m neither particularly interested in running nor keen on reading books abut running. I like running, but I’ve been stuck in the middle of a Couch to 2K for about 2 years (didn’t even know this state had a name until a month ago). I bought it because it is Murakami and he is a pretty interesting guy. Not many people just decide in their 20’s to open a jazz club and then when they turn 33 just as quickly decide to become a writer. Around his Jesus year he also decided to become a runner. And there you have it. Now he is a marathoner and triathelete who writes amazing books that deftly combine the mundane and the surreal.
What I Talk whose title is based on a Raymond Carver short story collection called What We Talk about When We Talk about Love chronicles Murakami’s path to becoming a runner and his preparation for the 2005 New York City marathon. He reflects somewhat on his writing, but for the most part he talks about running. This may disappoint some Murakami fans, but as he describes his obsession with running we see the familiar themes of alienation and independence, especially when he runs the mythological marathon route from Marathon to Athens and later during an ultramarathon in Hokkaido, Japan. I can’t even imagine the drive someone would need to push through so many solitary miles and so much blank time.
Expect a well-written memoir/travelogue about running from one of our contemporary treasures. Not my favorite Murakami ever but it would be difficult to choose just one anyway.