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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 31, 2008

The New Yorker pulled one over on me. The recent Summer Fiction Issue contained a piece (not online) by novelist Haruki Murakami which I skimmed right over, thinking it was a piece of short fiction. Turns out it’s an excerpt from Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a book detailing how he became a novelist and an avid runner.

In other words, you can’t please everybody.

Even when I ran the club, I understood this. A lot of the customers came to the club. If one of out ten enjoyed the place and decided to come again, that was enough. If one out of ten was a repeat customer, then the business would survive. To put it another way, it didn’t matter if nine out of ten people didn’t like the club. Realizing this lifted a weight off my shoulders. Still, I had to make sure that the one person who did like the place really liked it. In order to do that, I had to make my philosophy absolutely clear, and patiently maintain that philosophy no matter what. This is what I learned from running a business.

After “A Wild Sheep Chase,” I continued to write with the same attitude that I’d developed as a business owner. And with each work my readership — the one-in-ten repeaters — increased.

In addition to writing his dozen novels, Murakami has also run 26 marathons. The Economist calls the book both puzzling and intriguing and stops just short of recommending it, while the A.V. Club really liked it. The Observer has another excerpt from the book about the author’s ultramarathon attempt.