Wednesday, August 06, 2008

What I Talk About When I Talk About Haruki Murakami

Well, I don't actually talk about Haruki Murakami all that much, but we read his overly long novel, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, in our book group a few months back, and I've often been intrigued by his novels if always not immediately drawn into them.

On the other hand, his new memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: a memoir seemed impossibly perfect, and is shaping up to be so. The book is simply his reflections on running and writing, with autobiographical information thrown in along the way. Right now, I'm reading the chapter on Tips on Becoming a Running Novelist, ironic because in the foreward he already confessed that his reflections are "personal lessons I've learned through actually putting my own body in motion, and tehereby discovering that suffering [as opposed to pain] is optional. They may not be lessons you can generalize, but that's because what's presented here is me, the kind of person I am."

Also appreciated this:

"I'm often asked what I think about as I run. Usually the people who ask this have never run long distances themselves. I always ponder the question. What exactly do I think about when I'm running? I don't have a clue... I don't think much of anything worth mentioning. I just run. I run in a void. Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void... essentially I'm not thinking of a thing. All I do is keep on running in my own cozy, homemade voide, my own nostalgic silence."

I often tell people that I write sermons when I write. This is true, and may indicate one way Murakami and I are different. But part of writing sermons (or anything else for that matter) has to do first of all with getting into the body, getting into silence a bit, so that actual discovery can occur. Running gets you out of the ordinary words, and if you are running hard enough, you can't actually think about anything other than "wow, my lungs are chugging, wow, my legs are burning, when can I stop." Slower jogging is actually conducive to contemplation, but if you run for a LONG time, say two hours or more, only some segments of that are productive for actual composition or thinking. Sometimes you kind of just disappear into the run, emerging minutes later wondering where you are.

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