Monday, February 15, 2016

Running and Writing and the Various Hard Choices We Make

In the past week, I finished reading Hard Times, but I also read my first book by Haruki Murakami.  It may be the first book by a living Japanese author I've ever read.  Can that be?

My reading of international authors is a weak spot.  I tend to keep my reading to authors from the U.S., Britain, and the occasional Canadian.  I feel some guilt about that.

I'm woefully weak when it comes to reading Japanese authors.  But I've decided to remedy that, in part because of this blog post that extols the writing of Haruki Murakami, especially IQ84.  I thought I might read that book, but oh my goodness, it's long.  So I checked some shorter volumes out of the library.

I read What I Talk about when I Talk about Running which was mildly interesting in terms of discussing the running.  But as a woman who started running in my teenage years, he didn't really tell me much about running that I don't already know.

Far more interesting:  the insights about writing and how writing a novel is akin to long distance running.  Again, not much I hadn't already considered, but interesting to see it from his view.

I was especially interested in how he structures his time.  He and his wife go to bed early.  He's more interested in writing than in socializing:  "I placed the highest priority on the sort of life that lets me focus on writing, not associating with all the people around me.  I felt that the indispensable relationship I should build in my life was not with a specific person, but with an unspecified number of readers."

Last week, I also heard about some poets from the middle east who are making even harder choices.  Most of us don't face death when we write, but I heard of one poet who was executed.  I heard of a Saudi Arabian poet who was sentenced to death but had his sentence commuted to 8 years--and 800 lashes, which of course he won't survive if they are all administered at once.

I thought of all my poems--there's not a one for which I'd be willing to endure 800 lashes.  My spouse says that maybe I should start writing more important poems.  But that was not the point I was making.  I was talking about the psychology that punishment by the state has on us all.

Happily, I do not live in Saudi Arabia.  But I do worry about restrictions on freedom of speech, in these times when everyone seems so terrified of such a wide variety of threats.

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