Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Books and stuff and Haruki Murakami

When I left school – way way back in the early 80s, there was a period of time when I simply did not read. I had abandoned reading for pleasure, probably as a result of delving deeply into all kinds of stuff which I had been directed to as part of my studies. I had dutifully worked through the usual English syllabus of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Hardy, EM Forster, Beckett, Joyce and the rest of the usual suspects. After that, it all came to a grinding halt for a few years.

My reading after school was almost entirely made up of editions of Downbeat and Guitar Player magazines, which I read, re-read and read again. I never did master the guitar, but I could talk the talk, and fool anyone into thinking I knew what I was talking about when it came to guitars! I’ve forgotten most of it now, so don’t test me.

Then, on one specific day – and I can’t remember what the catalyst was to encourage such a focused response – I made a conscious decision that it was time to read again, so I went to a book store and made some purchases:

• To Kill a Mocking Bird – Harper Lee
• Lake Wobegon Days – Garrison Keillor
• On the Road – Jack Kerouac
• The Catcher in the Rye – J D Salinger
• Neuromancer – William Gibson

These books started a journey that has never stopped, and I suppose if I really sat down and took the time to analyze it, the day when I bought those five books would have been the kick off point for a daisy chain of a reading pattern that would find me searching out a book that had some kind of connection (which was sometimes deliberate, and sometimes subconscious) to the one I had just read. I would settle on an author any read several of their titles, or I would by a biography of the author that would open up another world for me – I rattled around the works of the Beats for a year or two, and racked up a whole collection of William Gibson cyberpunk novels. Eventually, the whole thing blossomed into a reasonably wide portfolio of reading stuff.

The reason I’ve remembered all this, is one of those authors I focused on for a while was Haruki Murakami. I love his surreal, contemporary Chandler-esque tales, written in a clipped, sparse way that leaves enough space for your imagination to fill in the gaps.

Murakami featured in a really interesting piece in the Saturday edition of The Guardian, where we talks mostly about the other passion in his life, apart from his writing – running. Murakami, I now realize, is a dedicated long distance runner, with many marathons under his belt, and talks about the similar discipline he applies to his writing and his running.

For more stuff on Haruki Murakami and running, there’s a Runners World interview here.

I’m kinda hoping the inspiration I initially got from reading a few books, might work for me in getting me off my backside, and doing a little better than the periodic mile and a half stagger across the field and around the local park. There’s something appealing about running that is somehow at odds with my normal preference for sitting around and drinking coffee!

Hat tip to Naxos Audio Books for the image

Currently reading NT Wright’s Surprised by Hope

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