The edition: English translation by Philip Gabriel, Vintage Books paperback, 178 pages
About the book: to use the author’s own words, “a kind of memoir centered on the act of running”.
My experience with the book & my thoughts: beware: don’t read this book if you’re not interested in running. It came highly recommended by husband, who is a runner himself, and I can see how a memoir about running&writing would appeal to amateurs runners who struggle to fit their hobby in their too-crammed schedules. To me, the main merit of this book is its straightforward use of language, making it a light and quick read; and it’s always good to hear a novelist talk about his experience as a writer (which is also threaded into the book here, although it’s only a minimal part of it).
For the rest, it felt like Murakami wrote this collection of thoughts on running for himself (he even states so somewhere), and then it was published because, well, Murakami is a successful writer and any book by him would ensure good sales. In other words, it fell a bit flat for me.
In the author’s own words: most of what Murakami writes about writing is self-evident, but it’s still good to read (and applies to translators as well!):
In every interview I’m asked what’s the most important quality a novelist has to have. It’s pretty obvious: talent. No matter how much enthusiasm and effort you put into writing, if you totally lack literary talent you can forget about being a novelist. […]
If I’m asked what the next most important quality is for a novelist, that’s easy too: focus — the ability to concentrate all your limited talents on whatever’s critical at the moment. Without that you can’t accomplish anything of value, while, if you can focus effectively, you’ll be able to compensate for an erratic talent or even a shortage of it. […]
After focus, the next most important thing for a novelist is, hands down, endurance. If you concentrate on writing three or four hours a day and feel tired after a week of this, you are not going to be able to write a long work. What’s needed for a writer of fiction — at least one who hoes to write a novel — is the energy to focus every day for half a year, or a year, two years.
Read this if: if you are a(n amateur) runner, this is an interesting and easy read.
Counts as: Dewey Decimal challenge #1