Tag Archives: Writing

Review: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
By Haruki Murakami
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307389831, August 2009, 192pp.)

The Short of It:

An interesting peek into the mind of Haruki Murakami.

The Rest Of It:

The first thing that I simply must say about this book, is that you do not need to be a runner to be able to relate to it. Trust me, my body is far from becoming a running machine. In fact, I am pretty sure my body would collapse into a useless heap upon the mere suggestion of it, but even I took something away from this book.

Murakami, author to such books as the very popular 1Q84, Kafka on the Shore, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,  and several more decided to write a book about his experiences as a runner. Not so much as a guide on how to become a runner, but more as a personal record of what he thinks about as he does it and how it affects his body and in turn, his writing.

This was fascinating reading. His methodical approach to running is very much how he tackles his writing. He is very regimented in both his running and writing. Running each and every day, regardless of weather and writing for four hours every morning makes you wonder how he can maintain such a hectic pace, but the two are tied together. The running clears his mind and therefore allows him to focus on his writing.

The book includes the obstacles he came up against while training for both the Boston and New York marathons. As usual, Murakami injects his quiet sense of humor here and there and the stories are both interesting and enlightening. I truly enjoyed this book. The easy, conversational tone was comforting and well…wonderful. What did I take away from it? That the writing process does not have to be a complicated. It can be accomplished if you adhere to a routine and make it a part of your life.

As I said earlier, no running required to enjoy this one, but anyone who is trying to attain a goal (no matter what it is) will be inspired by this book. I am seriously thinking about giving it to The Hub (the non-reader) for Christmas. He trained for this year’s marathon and was not able to do it because his routine was affected by a heel injury. However, he’s starting to train for next year’s race and I think this would be good for him to listen to on audio. He is the “non-reader” after all.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: True Notebooks – A Writer’s Year at Juvenile Hall

As a member of the Freshman Common Reading panel, which I previously discussed in this post, I agreed to read and review Mark Salzman’s True Notebooks: A Writer’s Year at Juvenile Hall.

I have to be honest, True Notebooks is not a book I would have picked up on my own. As far as childhoods go, mine was pretty rough. There were lots of opportunities for me to give-in to my surroundings, to let the environment dictate the type of life that I would live down the line, but for whatever reason, I chose not to go that route. I made a choice.

For this reason, I was not excited about True Notebooks. Reading a bunch of essays written by juvenile delinquents that are being tried for murder? Not my cup of tea but I dug in and read a chapter or two and before too long I was hooked.

Mark Salzman was writing a book on nuns and was completely stuck. His friend suggested that he visit L.A.’s Central Juvenile Hall because there was a nun there by the name of Sister Janet Harris that ran a writing program for the inmates. Perhaps he could talk to her about her experiences as a nun, and the writing would begin to flow more easily. Mark could also sit in on one of the writing classes he teaches, just to experience the program. Reluctantly, Mark makes the visit. What he finds there, so moves him, that he decides to teach his own writing class and quickly becomes an active part of the Inside Out Writers program, offering classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays to the male inmates of the K/L unit.

True Notebooks is a collection of Salzman’s thoughts as he struggles to gain their acceptance. Each chapter includes samples of the writing which is unaltered except for the spelling and punctuation suggestions made by Salzman. For this reason, there is profanity and crude dialogue but as the reader gets to know each boy through his writings, the language used, loses its punch. I learned not to pay too much attention to it.

As the students learn about themselves through their writing, Salzman also grows as a human being. Since many of the inmates in the K/L unit are being tried for murder, they are often transferred to County once they are old enough, or transferred to prison once sentenced. Since their outcomes are often bleak, Salzman had many opportunities to wonder about these questions: What are the values of a positive experience if it is only temporary? How do you weigh the advantages against the disadvantages of affection, or as aspiration? His answer, “A little good has got to be better than no good at all.”

Here’s a brief passage of one of the student entries:

“Deep down inside, this angry person awakens. Another day facing perpetual incarceration behind no mercy walls, as we are inmates.

Deep down inside this angry person there is an image of a rejoiceful person who’s facing perpetual incarceration behind no mercy walls. Just like your fellow inmates, as you think about the happiness in the past you’ll like to shout out for mercy upon your life. But living in darkness for so long, you are taught not to express certain emotions. The voice no one hears is the voice that yells out for freedom in the mind of a forbidden child.”

After reading this book, I do feel as if I am more understanding to youths that have been dealt a tough hand. They had choices, but without role models they often made the wrong choice. Even though I did not have strong parental role models growing up, I did have the kindness of strangers that touched me and taught me how to be a good person. Many of these boys did not have that.

I’m so glad I decided to read this book and I will be recommending it to the panel come our meeting in January. If you’d like more info on Inside Out Writers click here.