Monthly Archives: September 2021

On running and writing

Cover of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m a writer and runner much like Haruki Murakami. As I recently read and enjoyed Kafka on the Shore, I thought this book would be right up my alley. It’s essentially an edited journal of his thoughts as he participates in various marathons and triathlons. He’s most vivid at describing how running can be painful, although he notes that it’s also good for you in many ways, and says it has played an integral part in his life.

I found this a pleasant read, but there’s probably little here for a non-runner. I was expecting more insight into Murakami’s writing and how running affects his process, but it stayed fairly distant. In the end, while there were some interesting thoughts about running and aging, I didn’t feel there was much to it.

Time, life, and art

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

To the Lighthouse is such a radical book, it’s hard to capture how it left me feeling in a brief review. In the first section, Virginia Woolf glides through the thoughts of various characters, painting a portrait of those gathered at the Ramsey’s seaside vacation home. These include an aging poet, a painter struggling with her art, a young couple in love, and the Ramseys themselves with their eight children. The novel focuses in large part on the relations between people and how we all try to understand each other. But it also touches on the brutal effects of time, the meaning of life, and the role of art. Much of the last is reflected in the very way the novel is written and put together, and I found this aspect of it fascinating.

Altogether, this is a masterpiece of modern writing. I did something I’ve never done before: I read it once and then immediately went back to the beginning to read it through again, both because I didn’t quite absorb everything I’d read and because I didn’t want to leave this world quite yet. This novel needs to be read slowly, with full concentration, to be fully appreciated.

In the end, though, I didn’t quite love it. It’s so intellectually rigorous, I found its method somewhat cold and detached even as it detailed the inner thoughts of its characters. It prods you to think deeply about the issues it raises but at the same time calls much attention to its method by its very nature. As a reading experience, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I admired it, marveling at the technique as I tried to decode its rich layers of meaning. But this is a great book, no doubt, and well worth putting the time and effort into.