Murakami's Running Lags Behind

| Wed Aug. 20, 2008 8:51 PM EDT

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I can't tell you how excited I was to read Haruki Murakami's new memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. As a runner and admirer of Murakami's work, I raced to the bookstore in hopes of discovering thrilling personal connections between myself and the great novelist.

Unfortunately, what aspects I could relate to— the pain of training for a marathon; the feeling of running outside in the wet New England fall—were eclipsed by a parade of high-school-gym-class-style clichés ("Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."). Even more disappointing was the pace and style of the book: The rambling trains of thought did not arrive at interesting destinations, and despite Murakami's claim to months of careful editing, the collection is about as organized and well thought out as your average LiveJournal entry.

And that's what this book seems to be—not a memoir or an essay collection so much as Murakami's personal blog, printed out and placed between two hard covers. And no matter who keeps them, personal blogs are ultimately records of the quotidian. Even giving Murakami the benefit of the doubt—perhaps his hackneyed phrases are much more beautiful in the original Japanese—the book cycles again and again through the kinds of small revelations that I have on every run. Running is hard. Running is like writing. These are not insignificant, but neither are they worth $21.

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