What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

To many, the term self-help is tantamount to profanity. Haruki Murakami realizes this, and thus notes in the foreword to What I Talk About… that this enthralling athlete’s memoir is emphatically “not a treatise on how to be healthy.” The veteran novelist and distance runner does include training tips, but above and beyond the Raymond Carver allusion of the title, two crucial factors distinguish this brief work from a garden-variety fitness tome: the Japanese author’s charmingly deadpan style and his insistence that the book is more a subjective case study than a generalized handbook. In other words, any inspiration derived from his personal experiences is purely coincidental.

Still, there’s plenty to be gleaned. Most revelatory is Murakami’s refreshingly deglamorized account of the literary life. The author does relate his career’s whimsical genesis (writing a novel occurred to him while watching a baseball game), but it’s clear what side of the inspiration-versus-perspiration fence he’s on. “Writing novels, to me,” he states, “is basically a kind of manual labor”—in other words, a mental marathon.

But running isn’t just Murakami’s convenient metaphor. It’s been a way of life for the 59-year-old since 1982. Fans will be delighted to learn about not only his exercise soundtracks—including plenty of the Lovin’ Spoonful—but also his impressive résumé, which includes 20-odd marathons and even one 62-mile ultra-marathon. Throughout this quirky, brilliant gem, Murakami’s life lessons unfold with a plainspoken power that should prove valuable to a broad readership—even those who have no ambitions to write elaborate novels or run grueling races.

Here is the second page of the body.

By Haruki Murakami. Knopf, $20.