Exhibit 18.18

A Running Catalogue of My Thoughts While, um, Running

I should buy running shoes…(four months later)…I should wear my running shoes…I know, I’ll wear them while reading Murakami’s book on running…I can’t believe I used to read without proper arch support…(three months later)…running: I’m going to do it Tuesday…god, it’s Tuesday…Wednesday…oh no, I put on my running outfit…so many rhinestones…should have bought headband…headband with rhinestones…maybe I should put off running until I can go to the headband store…no, it’s Thursday, I should just do it…okay…how does running work?…I’ll start with stretching…should stretch outside…hi, kids…I’m just here stretching…maybe instead of running I should help you draw on the sidewalks…yeah, that’s cool, I didn’t really want to anyway…you kids are lame…that’s not even how you spell that dirty word…okay, thirty-five minutes of stretching should be sufficient for ten minute run…all right…I’m running…this isn’t so bad…oh god this is horrible…I hope there’s traffic at the intersection so I can’t stop and maybe do some more stretching…I’m starting to think I did not stretch enough…or maybe I shouldn’t have gone running after drinking all that coffee…there’s no traffic…I must have been running for at least half a mile…or however long I got during the one minute and thirty seconds my iPod is telling me I’ve been listening to this track…why do I only have French lesson podcasts on my running iPod anyway…merde!…I can’t believe I used to learn French without proper arch support…I need to do something to pass the time or this is going to be excruciating…I know, I’ll come up with imaginary car names…the Hyundai Swoon, the Mercury Nyx, the Honda Yall (for a cross-over SUV/van aimed at extreme 20-somethings who surf and camp and whatnot)…must remember car names so I can mail to respective car companies when I get back…if I get back…how much time did that take? thirty seconds…that’s not enough time…tu peux m’aider?…it would be fantastic if someone mugged me right now…I think I’d hug them while handing over my running shoes…even if they didn’t want the running shoes…I’d say, no, no it’s okay, you should take them…thank god I’m almost home…how long was I gone…hmm, not long enough for my screensaver to come on…and my coffee is still warm…and the burrito I put in the microwave is still microwaving…come on burrito…I know how to pass the time…I’ll come up with imaginary car names the Toyota Reprise, the Ford Pulse, the Chevy Kleos…(eight months later)…my legs still hurt…

Comment / Posted in Cars, Murakamis, Running

Exhibit 18.7

South of the Border, West of the Sun

Before I talk about the book–and I don’t know if I’ll have much to say–let me get this out of the way regarding yesterday’s post: yes, everyone knows what nugs are except me. How I’ve been able to watch 90% of the Method Man/Redman vehicle How High in approximately 108 different background viewings during college yet still not glean this information is beyond me. In penance, I’ll be listening to Phish all day.

Actually, no, no I won’t.

But know that I care. I don’t care enough to listen to Phish, but that only proves there might be a chance for me yet.

South of the Border, West of the Sun came out in 1992 but wasn’t given an English translation until 2000 when it followed The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Murakami’s most ambitious (and best) novel. I’d avoided South… since the plot description and the quotes on the back of my paperback make it clear the book is Murakami at his most mundane. A boy falls in love with a girl at the age of 12 and, years later when he’s already married and comfortable, meets her again and has to choose between love and Love. No ethereal hotels. No sitting at the bottom of a well. No darkness coming in from the seams like in his best work. Even to a person who thinks the worst Murakami is better than just about anything, it sounded a little boring.

I finally broke down when I realized Murakami wrote South… around the same time as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It made me curious how he could have written his best and his worst novel at the same time. The answer: he didn’t.

Despite its faults, South… isn’t his worst novel, just his most somber. It reminded me quite a bit of “Tony Takitani,” a short story of his that was actually made into an (appropriately somber) film a few years ago. As in the story, Murakami’s narrator here reaches a comfortable middle age without knowing anything about himself or what he’s capable of. It’s a common enough conceit in Murakami’s work but while it generally sends the narrator so far inside of himself that he ends up outside of reality (or something like that–I don’t know), in both “Tony…” and South… what happens is tragic but banal, life altering but familiar enough you’d find a similar story on every city block.

I’m a biased reader, but somehow it works, I think. It doesn’t ever reach any great heights, but South… does just enough to make upper-class ennui seem a compelling, at times vital, subject. The redeeming quality seems to be that Murakami’s love triangle is sharper than most and, in the end, not really a triangle at all. The narrator loves his childhood friend more than his wife, that’s without question, and so the choice shifts from the all too familiar “Should I throw my career, family, comfort away for another woman?” to something about survival. Only after the other woman disappears does he realize what she’s known all along: their love isn’t about having a life together, it’s about dying together.

So for all of the simplicity of the book’s plot description, there is something new here, a glimpse of love frozen during those early moments where it seems like the best thing in the world would be to die in each other’s arms.

I don’t know what’s with me and the Youtube videos recently, but this one seems relevant.

Stay tuned as I continue to reinvent literary criticism with my Morrissey-based revelations.

1 Comment / Posted in Books, Fiction, Murakamis

Exhibit 15.5

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Murakami’s memoir about, well, running isn’t a book that leaves the reader with much beyond a desire to lace up some Mizunos and hit the trail. There’s a lot of talk about how to train for a marathon and some insights into runners and running, but the glimpses into Murakami’s writing are minimal, mostly confined to an essay that was published last year. Not that it isn’t an interesting book–it is–but it’s hardly the exploration of Murakami’s life and writing that his readers, including this one, would like to see from him someday.

There are a few things to be gleaned from it about the man himself, though there are still more questions produced than answers. Murakami writes that he is not very competitive while simultaneously showing again and again how much he struggles to best his own performances and the performances of others. Similarly, Murakami claims to be somewhat unsociable while agonizing over how to be funny and likable at a reading he is to give at M.I.T. These aren’t contradictions, exactly, but they do, I think, say as much about Murakami’s drive as his triathlons and ultra-marathons. The man is clearly a hard worker–maybe the hardest worker–and doesn’t seem to make distinctions in his approaches to writing a novel, running a marathon, or making friends.

Still, the best sections of the book are about nothing other than running, and it’s hard to read without wanting to take up the sport yourself. Murakami clearly believes that running has given him discipline and endurance, but it’s just as clear that he has always had more than enough of those two qualities. Ultimately, whether a runner or a novelist, one can only end the book by wondering if he or she has those qualities too.

Heather has a better take, a runner’s take, here.

Comment / Posted in Books, Memoirs, Murakamis

Exhibit 7.25

This is the Haruki Murakami towel Heather made me for my birthday a few years ago. That line is the first sentence of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

For my birthday this year, she made me a Salman Rushdie one with the first sentence of Midnight’s Children.

As you can tell, those are both amazing. If you come over, I’ll let you dry your hands with them. It won’t mean as much if you haven’t read the books though.

2 Comments / Posted in Murakamis, Rushdies, Towels