Thursday, April 1, 2010

Literary Bite: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

This book annoyed me. Which was disappointing because I liked The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami’s 1995 novel), and I like running (duh).

So What I Talk About When I Talk About Running should be my kind of book. But it isn’t.

I’ve seen this book around, and I feel like there’s been some buzz since the English translation came out in 2008. But mostly that’s because Murakami, one of Japan’s most famous contemporary writers, tends to generate buzz.

What annoys me is that Murakami is a runner, but he’s nothing that special. But then he gets to write a self-serving book about it, just because he is already famous. It’s too reminiscent of how actresses suddenly get record deals, or bikers can become “famous” marathoners (yes, Lance, I’m looking at you). I’m happy when authors write about running, and I’m happy when anyone becomes a runner. But for some reason, the book strikes me as very arrogant.

Murakami does run a lot. He averages 6 miles a day, six days a week, has run over 20 marathons, an ultra marathon, and a few triathalons. Which is impressive…but…well…there are plenty of people out there who have done the same and more. So perhaps he needs to get over himself?

 It is a remarkably passive book. Passive aggressive, that is (and anyone who knows me knows how I absolutely abhor passive aggressiveness). Why passive aggressive? Well, it’s passive in that he writes in his “kind of a memoir” that running is “sort of a vague theme.”

An astute NYT Reviewer pointed out, “He’s the ‘type of person,’ ‘kind of person’ — I lost track of the number of times this came up — who likes ‘sort of laid-back’ music and is ‘sort of a brazen person’ who sometimes has ‘a sort of arrogant attitude.’”


If that’s not passive, I don’t know what is. But then it’s passive aggressive because obviously he wants you to keep reading the book. He is indirectly forcing his passiveness on his readers. And that’s just obnoxious.

Do you see what I mean? Is that annoying to anyone else? Or am I just hangry as I write this?

I do like the inscription he wants on his tombstone:

Haruki Murakami


Writer (and Runner)

At Least He Never Walked

You have to admit, that is kind of fun.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running wasn’t a complete disaster. It’s just a nothing book that you will finish in about a day, and forget in half that time.

More Stuff:

NYT Review

 Runner's World Interview


Haruki Murakami Biography