What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Review)

March 21, 2011

Book cover for "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" by Haruki Murakami.Title: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Author: Haruki Murakami

Translator: Philip Gabriel

Narrator: Ray Porter

Publication Year: 2007

Pages: 192 (audio length: 4 hours 25 minutes)

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Source: Audio book purchased from Audible.com

From the cover:

From the best-selling author of Kafka on the Shore comes this rich and revelatory memoir about writing and running, and the integral impact both have made on his life. Equal parts training log, travelogue, and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers Murakami’s four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon.Settings range from Tokyo, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston, among young women who outpace him.

Through this marvelous lens of sport emerges a cornucopia of memories and insights: the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer, his triumphs and disappointments, his passion for vintage LPs, and the experience, after age 50, of having seen his race times improve and then fall back.

I have to say, I was hoping for a lot more from this book.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is one of those memoirs that’s been on my radar for quite some time. I don’t remember when I first heard about it, but since then, I’ve heard many good things. Most of those recommendations were focused on the way that Murakami reflects on his love for running and how it fits into his life and has made him a more complex person.

But you know what? I didn’t really come away from the book with that.

Rather, I came away from listening to this book with the distinct feeling that there really hadn’t been all that much substance to it. It felt as if I should have been coming to the end of a chapter, rather than the end of a novel. I think that part of this had to do with pacing – for the most part, WITAWITAB moved very slowly. Maybe that’s just something specific to Murakami, or maybe it’s specific to Japanese writing (this is a translation), but it just didn’t work for me. I like my reading to be fast-paced and eventful, or at the least to be extremely thought-provoking, but this wasn’t really either. For me, it just felt like the soft, slow meandering storytelling of a family patriarch, and that was neither what I was expecting nor something that I particularly enjoy in books.

Having said that, your mileage will definitely vary. I think that I approached the reading of this book in a much more subjective way than usual, because I was hoping that it would be an inspirational read for me as the summer running season approaches. And as much as I was fairly negative up above, I did enjoy many of the anecdotes in this book. I just didn’t really feel it as a whole. So if you’re interested in reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, don’t let my review dissuade you. Just keep my comments in mind if you tend to have the same tastes as I do, so that you can go into it with more relevant expectations.

Rating:

4 Comments

  • erisian23 March 21, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    ha!
    you have been as un-busy blogging as i have been! now i feel less like a slacker and more like i am part of a team!

    i am not a big fan of memoirs. sometimes, yes, but mostly not so much.
    Murakami is such a badass though.. i would also have high hopes for it… i will have to discount your review so as to give it a shot sometime. Should i find time for it, i give you advance rights to state “i told you so” if i fine it to only be so-so.

    nice pun with the ‘milage’

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