Having loved my first three experiences with Haruki Murakami's fiction, I decided to try his memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running on audiobook. The book combines the story of what running means to Murakami with various metaphors about the body, life and writing. He discusses everything from his training, to the races, to the places he visited and had the opportunity to run, taking place all across the globe. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a sneak glance into the world of an extremely talented writer, but it is foremost about running. I read the book despite the fact that I am not at all a runner, and likely will never be, as my body is simply not built for it. That said, I think it is possible to relate some of the feelings Murakami has about running to other aspects of our lives, especially when it comes to his contemplations on growing older and accepting our bodies.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running deals with Murakami's journey as an author, including how he prepares for speeches (always in English, not Japanese where he feels there are too many words to possibly narrow it down for a talk) and a discussion of the necessary components needed to be a writer, specifically, talent, focus and endurance. Murakami draws some interesting parallels between writing and running, both of which are solo activities, and I loved the opportunity to get some insight into a man I easily consider a genius.
There are significant portions of the memoir which will have far more appeal to readers who also run, as he goes into extensive detail on his preparation for marathons and triathlons. There is also a lot of numbers about how many miles he runs a day and other values such as the time it took him to complete a marathon which would only have meaning to those familiar with long distance running. While I did enjoy listening to the memoir, I did not think it had quite the strength of writing that his fiction offers and that is certainly where his talent lies. The narrator of the audiobook version, Ray Porter, had a soothing voice well suited to the topic of the book and I found him pleasant to listen to.
Overall, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a short, quiet but enjoyable book that would likely appeal most to runners, however there are significant portions of the memoir which discuss writing and aging as well as offering insight into the mind of Murakami. Also, it's impossible to read this book and not feel like a lazy bum in comparison.
Translated By: Philip Gabriel
Release Date: January 28th, 2008 (in English)
Length: 4 hours 23 minutes (180 pages)
Buy the Book