If I could ever say that a book had made me at least even think about picking up regular exercise of any kind, the one that comes closest is Murakami’s memoir about writing and running, What I talk about when I talk about running.
I have been a fan of Murakami’s writing ever since reading a copy of Norwegian Wood in my local library when I was young (probably too young to be reading its contents but I’ve never been squeamish of adult topics in writing – film is another matter though). I scouted out and purchased said book in my local bookshop, and soon after began building my collection with Sputnik Sweetheart following about a year later and then others such as his non-fiction Underground, short story collections Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, After the Quake, and most recently Men without Women.
HIs memoir, which is a term he uses but loosely, was one that I found almost by accident, with it being in a completely different section of the bookstore. I had just moved from the countryside to the middle of Manchester for University so I often found myself in familiar haunts such as the comforting embrace of a large bookshop.
I think that I was looking for a biography on Shakespeare for one of my lessons, and I saw the familiar name of Murakami and immediately began scanning the first few pages. It was obviously different to the fiction that he had written, and even the non-fiction that I had come across, but it was still recognisable as him and so I bought it.
I didn’t regret it and the only regret is that I am writing this review now instead of five years ago when I first read it in university (I had to pause at that… It feels like yesterday that I was attending a 9am lecture with a Monster can and a cold cookie from the campus shop – Nihilism on a Tuesday morning and lack of sleep… do not recommend).
I am currently at my parents’ house and so in close quarters with a lot of books that I had to leave behind when I moved into my tiny city flat once I finished uni. And, in typical Hannah fashion, I was intending to have a shower and maybe do a quick painting of some pictures I’d taken up in the Lakes. But instead, I glimpsed the name Murakami on my bookshelf, and like a nerdy moth to a literary flame, I was drawn in and before I knew it, my parents were back and I’d nearly finished it.
One of the things that I love about this book is that Murakami is honest. Honest that he’s not the best person to get along with, not got the best personality or physique, but he has a drive and once he decides to pick up a pair of running shoes or a pen, then he will give it his all and do it because he wants to.
I definitely share some of the traits that he describes such as not wanting to do something that someone suggests or forces you to do but if it’s decided on our own, we will commit 100% (though he definitely has more patience and endurance than I have – something for me to learn perhaps).
His tales of his training and the daily routine that he has managed to keep up for years (the book was published in 2008 but I will presume that he is still running) are really motivating and almost unbelievable to someone like me who hasn’t even run for the bus in years. But it gives you a buzz, like you suddenly want to pick up a new hobby, get back into swimming, cycling, running, tennis, anything that uses the body and this is coming from an academic artist (which means that everything that I do requires me to sit at a desk and barely move. I do try and go on regular walks in my defence).
The nonchalant passion that he has for his commitment to marathon and triathlon races in a writing style that, to me, feels like coming home really is a winning combination and made me not be able to put the book down until I’d experienced it beginning to end (and I was thankful that it was only 200 pages as my arms and back were killing me – see, not an athlete).
So if you like Murakami, even if you don’t really care for running, you’ll probably like this book – it’s his writing style at its most personal. A truly passionate and honest memoir.