Friday, September 11, 2009

What I read about when I read about running

I just finished reading Haruki Murakami's memoir "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running." I finished the book in 3 days. For those of you that know me well, this is a pretty big deal. I was not disappointed.
About a year ago I told Michael Moore (not THAT Michael Moore, a personally influential faculty member at Pafa) that I was interested in creating a book of short stories based off of my bizarre, visually striking dreams (see dream exerpts here), and he suggested that I look at Murakami's work. His books are fantastic, and are a perfect complement to the visual and verbal work that I am doing now. He seamlessly moves from realistic representation to fantasy, and is never predictable or melodramatic. It is all so human. I have read "The Elephant Vanishes" and "After the Quake," and I have many many more books on deck. I was trying to complete my collection while shopping on amazon the other day, and chose "Dance Dance Dance" and "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running," not realizing that it is a memoir, and not a book of short stories.
The exciting part is, I can really relate to his sentiments, and I can apply a lot of his discoveries to my own writing and artistic practices. He talks about running to achieve a meditative state, that the repetitive action creates a blank space in which the mind can find clarity. I respect his discipline and drive. He runs daily for about an hour and participates in one marathon per year. (I only run twice a week if I go to the gym. More if I am angry about something) He also describes his experience with running an ultramarathon (62 miles, sweet jesus). He spends little time talking about the process of writing, but he communicates very clearly the way that this physical practice has has influenced his strength and stamina as a writer.
In one chapter he talks about his bicycle which is inscribed with "18 til I die" the name of a Bryan Adams song. He explains that it is a joke because, "Being 18 til you die means you die when you're 18."
The whole book is written in this simple and honest and human way, explaining what the process of creating is like for Murakami. It is entirely relatable and I finished the book feeling struck by something profound. This 58-year-old man I don't know is supporting me in my actions as an artist. I have NEVER made this kind of an imaginary connection with an author before. He, by way of this book, is allowing me to do whatever I want to do. I feel more now than ever that I can show my work, I can write this book, I can choose to perform a live-action piece, I can become an athlete, and I don't have to choose any one of these things. It was the perfect time for this text in my life. I had been feeling, quite recently, that it has come time for me to focus on one thing and really try to excel at it. But it has become quite clear now that if I would like to excel on my terms, I will have to do all of these things. I am not only a writer, or a painter or a sculptor or a teacher. I am tiny pieces of all of these things in different percentages. I need all of these facets to be the person I am. It's funny how you can realize the same thing multiple times in one lifetime, and it's not for lack of memory. How many times must we be reminded of who we are? Or is it an infrequent occurance in an effort to keep that feeling sacred and special?
I am inspired.

Highly reccommended reading for anyone who writes or makes art. i definitely went for a jog afterward.