Look for poems from Danielle Hubbard in our Summer 2018 Poetry Issue
I’ve read many fantastic books over the past twelve months, but the gold medal has to go to Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Japanese author Murakami is better known for his bizarre and surrealist fiction. Kafka on the Shore, for instance, includes an old man who can speak with cats, Johnny Walker and Colonel Saunders as physical characters, and at least one scene where leeches rain from the sky. Don’t get me wrong — Kafka on the Shore is brilliant, and amazingly accessible for all I’ve just said. But it’s also weird.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is amazing in its un-weirdness. It’s a straightforward and yet intellectually satisfying memoir about long-distance running. Murakami’s run over a dozen marathons, as well as a 100-kilometre ultramarathon. He runs every day and candidly identifies himself a “middle of the pack” runner. In What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Murakami articulates the connection between running and creative writing. Does he “plan his novels” while running? No. He just runs. Does he consider himself a “literary genius?” No. Like running a marathon, Murakami’s key to novel-writing is to simply slog away until it’s done.
Of all the books I’ve read in all my life, none made me go: “Yes, that’s exactly how I think of things!” as much as What I Talk About When I Talk About Running did. Sure, Murakami’s a bestselling novelist while I’m a librarian who scribbles on the side. Sure, he lives in Japan, and I live in rural Manitoba. And sure, he’s now in his seventies and includes aging as a major theme in his memoir — but hey, one day I’ll be there too. The point is, Murakami and I both write and both run marathons, and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running captured the essence of why I do both those things.
Danielle Hubbard is working as the Programming and Outreach Librarian for the Brandon Public Library and writing for the Westman Journal. Her heart resides in the mountains of BC, the best place for long distance running.