It has been a few days since I acquired Haruki Murakami‘s – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I have been craving a richer taste of it ever since an extract was published in the New Yorker.

I hadn’t flipped it open until last night because I am still in the middle of Michael Cox’s very engaging novel – The Meaning of Night: A Confession, Jodi Picoult’s – Nineteen Minutes and Kiran Desai’s – The Inheritance of Loss. But I couldn’t resist the pull of Murakami’s memoir and caved, adding to the collection of books I am reading simultaneously; one in the bus, one in the bathroom, one in the gym while I exercise on the elliptical machine and one when I’m just sitting around in the living room (don’t ask me why I do this…I’ve never been known for my razor sharp focus and dedication to the singular).

For days now I’ve been trying to grasp at stray thoughts that tease and titillate. They beg to be captured and tethered but when they appear I am either in the last stages of wakefulness… just before I drift into sleep, or showering, or walking to work.

The thought that keeps coming back during my thirty minute walk to work is more like a picture, a moving tableau accompanied by a sense of the city as a gigantic living and breathing beast with veins and arteries, of people being inhaled and exhaled out of it each day. I see hundreds of people flowing out of Penn Station or the PABT and in my mind’s eye I see a time lapsed scene where people wrinkle and age and slowly shed their skins until they’re nothing but bones and then the bones scatter to the winds and a cycle is complete. (I haven’t done an adequate job of describing this thought and might refine it and see if I can touch it with some eloquence in future edits).

This morning I was thinking about us moving through life and of vinyasa (motion that rides the breath) and of flowing through life. Lividity signals death; blood pools when it stops flowing. I imagine for an instant that I am nothing but mass and energy moving rapidly through the universe until the time that I wear away the mass through the friction generated by the motion…pure energy now. I picture an Olympic runner on camera, how his facial skin appears to be flowing away from the skull, stretched…it sometimes appears as though in his fight to the finish he’s leaving everything behind, even his skin.

But this is how life must be, this is how it is. The illusion we feed ourselves is the one about laying down roots. I was in one place for twenty one years and have been in another for twenty, I’ve been in the same house now for six years, I may be here another ten, but in the grand scheme of things, in the reality of eternal motion, twenty or ten years are about as meaningless as six. Especially when as one grows older a year appears to materialize and dissipate within the blink of an eye.

So Murakami’s book about running fascinates me. He runs religiously, he runs to stay fit but that is a very minor reason for his running. His books of fiction have enthralled me, I’ve wanted to say something about them but I haven’t found the words to do it. For instance in his book – The Wind-up Bird Chronicles his protagonist, Toru Okada, who is advised by a wiser, older person to take the stairs and climb to the highest heights when it’s time to do that and to descend to the deepest wells when that’s what the occasion demands. Isn’t this how life is? Sometimes you scale great heights and at other times you sink to the depths, always riding the same breath, always moving, always like driftwood…flailing and resisting never helps much.

In his book – After Dark – the characters are in constant motion throughout the night, in a city that doesn’t sleep, never sleeps, and where reason gives way to blurry surreality. It throbs and moves through the night just as people within it move, change, grow a little bit older as an omniscient narrator in the form of a ‘viewpoint’ tracks their motion. The viewpoint reminds me of a device engaged in time lapse photography just as my mind’s eye is when watching people being inhaled and exhaled into the city.

His memoir reflects the motion that foreshadows all his writing and reading his work certainly lends a new perspective to how I view my own life.

1 Comment

  1. Intriguing! It is amazing when writing does that to us…when we can turn every leaf of a book and go through the words like we're going through life itself…Must pick this one up after Reading Lolita…has been read, reviewed and shredded thin by the Sly Fives!

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