What I Talk About When I Talk About Murakami

I recently finished Murakami’s amazing memoir-ish book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running [Kindle].

I love Murakami’s writing, everything from his simple short stories to his hauntingly thoughtful novels.

I’m a big believer in reading as a mirror to your own life. You love the authors you love because in many ways, they reflect who you are or who you want to be. It could be their portrayal of a specific character; it could be their writing style and how it feels so sympatico to your own. It’s a deeply personal experience and when it clicks, it clicks. Murakami just clicks for me.

Anyhow as I’m reading What I Talk About…I found myself reflexively (what do you call it when you do something and don’t even notice you’re doing it?) highlighting quotes like mad. I want to share some of my favorites with you.

On being alone:

It might be a little silly for someone getting to be my age to put this into words, but I just want to make sure I get the facts down clearly: I’m the kind of person who likes to be by himself. To put a finer point on it, I’m the type of person who doesn’t find it painful to be alone. I find spending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to anyone, as well as four or five hours alone at my desk, to be neither difficult nor boring. I’ve had this tendency ever since I was young, when, given a choice, I much preferred reading books on my own or concentrating on listening to music over being with someone else. I could always think of things to do by myself.

On growing up:

At any rate, that’s how I started running. Thirty-three – that’s how old I was then. Still young enough, although no longer a young man. The age that Jesus Christ died. The age that Scott Fitzgerald started to go downhill. That age may be a kind of crossroads in life. That was the age when I began my life as a runner, and it was my belated, but real, starting point as a novelist.

On being himself:

What I mean is, I didn’t start running because somebody asked me to become a runner. Just like I didn’t become a novelist because someone asked me to. One day, out of the blue, I wanted to write a novel. And one day, out of the blue, I started to run – simply because I wanted to. I’ve always done whatever I felt like doing in life. People may try to stop me, and convince me I’m wrong, but I won’t change.

On persistence:

I think certain types of processes don’t allow for any variation. If you have to be part of that process, all you can do is transform – or perhaps distort – yourself through that persistent repetition, and make that process a part of your own personality.

On prioritizing:

I’m struck by how, except when you’re young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy.

Finally, on writing (I love the fugu analogy):

Basically I agree with the view that writing novels is an unhealthy type of work. When we set off to write a novel, when we use writing to create a story, like it or not a kind of toxin that lies deep down in all humanity rises to the surface. All writers have to come face-to-face with this toxin and, aware of the danger involved, discover a way to deal with it, because otherwise no creative activity in the real sense can take place. (Please excuse the strange analogy: with a fugu fish, the tastiest part is the portion near the poison – this might be something similar to what I’m getting at.)

What is your favorite Murakami book or story?

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.