The Incomplete Book of Running
A Feature Review of
Reviewed by Emma Sleeth Davis
When most people hear the name Eric Liddell, they think of the Scottish runner who refused to run on the Sabbath and won gold at the 1924 Olympics in Chariots of Fire. The movie, of course, is only half of the story.
In For the Glory, Duncan Hamilton takes an in-depth look at the life of Eric Liddell, from his missionary childhood in China, through his schooldays in Scotland, and at the height of his fame at the Olympics. But where Chariots of Fire closes to the triumphant strains of Vangelis, Hamilton uncovers the even more remarkable second half of Liddell’s life—as a missionary in China, devoted husband and father, and heroic internee during WWII.
A Brief Review of
WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING.
Paperback: Vintage, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]
Reviewed by Chris Smith.
When I first heard about Haruki Murakami’s memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, I was excited about the prospect of the acclaimed Japanese writer taking on one of my favorite subjects: running. And Murakami did not disappoint; even in its English translation, his writing here is clear and well-crafted. As is true of the best books on running, What I Talk About… eloquently conveys the internal struggle that the runner faces as he or she trains and then races. Murakami is at his best in describing the parallels between the disciplines of writing and running:
Right now I’m aiming at increasing the distance I run, so speed is less of an issue. As long as I can run a certain distance, that’s all I care about. Sometimes I run fast when I feel like it, but if I increase the pace I shorten the amount of time I run, the point being to let the exhilaration I feel at the end of each run carry over to the next day. This is the same sort of tack I find necessary when writing a novel. I stop every day right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next day’s work goes surprisingly smoothly. I think Ernest Hemingway did something like that. To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long-term projects. Once you set the pace, the rest will follow. The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed—and to get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can manage (4-5).
There was one small facet of the book, however, that I found a little unsettling: namely, that Murakami’s running, and his reflections thereon, come from a place of significant privilege. Over the course of this collection, Murakami circles the globe, running in exotic locations like Hawaii and the course of the original marathon in Greece, and also less exotic places like Boston and New York. I do not begrudge or dismiss the diligent labor that Murakami has done to become a world-renowned writer and a committed runner, but his world is not the same one that I live in. Maybe I would be a better runner – or at least more consistent – if I lived the relatively unfettered life that Murakami does, but I suppose I’ll never know because I don’t really want to live that in that world.
Ultra-brief Reviews – Tuesday 16 June 2009.
Once a Runner (Novel)
John L. Parker, Jr.
Hardcover: Scribner, 2009
Buy now: [ Amazon ]
Prince Pehlay’s Wonder-full Alef-Beit.
Spiral Bound Paperback: Pomegranate Productions, 2008.
Order and More info: [ HERE ]
By Chris Smith.
I was super-excited to see that Scribner has brought John L. Parker, Jr.’s novel Once A Runner back into print. This cult-classic novel of runners everywhere, had two previous printings (one in the 70’s and one in the late 80’s) and was in super-high demand (I sold a used copy on amazon last year for over $130!). The essence of the novel is captured in its proclamation: “Quenton Cassidy was a miler.” Soren Kierkegaard famously noted that “Purity of Heart is to will one thing.” For Quenton Cassidy, that one thing was the quest to break the four minute mile. Once a Runner, is the raw tale of one runner’s determination in the face of a host of challenges. This novel will be most appealing to runners, but the running life and running culture it describes has a lot to teach us about focus and determination.
In previous school years, I have enjoyed teaching biblical Greek to elementary students in our church. The possibility of teaching Hebrew, however, never crossed my mind. Never, that is, until I recently received a copy of Mimi Fine’s excellent workbook Prince Pehlay’s Wonder-full Alef-beit. Complete with CD recording of its two instructional songs, this book is a superb and engaging resource – written from a Judeo-Christian perspective – for introducing the Hebrew alphabet to children. Stepping letter-by-letter through the Hebrew alphabet, Fine uses puzzles and traditional matching/fill-in-the-blank-type challenges to introduce and reinforce the memory of the Hebrew letters. Prince Pehlay’s Wonder-full Alef-beit is a wonderful place to begin teaching the Hebrew alphabet to yourself, your children or others!