Friday, June 13, 2008

Running a book

Haruki Murakami (the author who gave this blog its name) has a new book due out in August, but this one isn't about mysterious girls offering manual relief to shy jazz musicians while spaghetti falls from the sky and a cat watches. Instead, it's an extended meditation on his chosen profession (writing, often about the previously mentioned spaghetti, handjobs, etc) and the relationship it has with his preferred pastime (distance running, specifically marathons).

In this extract, he describes his preparation for the 2005 New York Marathon, and his experience of the race itself:

An understated, rainy-day-sneakers sort of conclusion. An anticlimax, if you will. Turn it into a screenplay, and the Hollywood producer would just glance at the last page and toss it back.

Which gives some sort of validation to my dislike of fiction that offers too neat a closure, and also explains why I love Murakami so much. Life isn't bound by a Robert McKee-ordained three-act structure; it's not designed to fit bloody narrative arcs. So why should fiction - if it has any relation to life - have to follow those rules? Murakami doesn't. Long may he, um, run.

PS: Ariel Leve on a similar theme in the Sunday Times.

7 comments:

Oli said...

Hmmmm... while I don't adhere to the inciting incident half way down page 17 malarkey, I do like my stories to have an ending. Ambiguous conclusions are fine, as long as they're there. To turn the argument around, fiction isn't real life - it'd be dull, confusing and frustrating if it was.

dh said...

It's interesting to me that readers have come to accept, even like, open-ended stories. It says something about the times we live in. Not sure what. Interesting too that Murakami likes Marathon running which does have a clearly defined beginning, middle and end.

pleite said...

You've made me like him more than the only book of his I've ever read did. I might now stretch to a second.

Rimshot said...

Not sure how on point this is, but I was JUST having an argument about "The Natural" Book vs. Film. For me, the Hollywood ending of Roy Hobbs hitting the game winning homerun and finding the son he didn't know he had and living happily ever... ruined the film for me. In the novel, he takes the bribe, they lose the game and he dumps the girl because she's a grandmother. Much closer to the way things tend to work out IRL IMHO.

So, I guess I tend to agree with your preference for things not being wrapped up in a pretty bow at the end. Deus ex machina anyone?

rosamundtearooms said...

Good try, but life isn't bound by a tidy three-act structure - that's exactly why fiction was invented.

Wyndham

Tim Footman said...

I think Rimshot's got the right idea: an ending's fine, a structure's fine, but not a structure that appears to have come out of a big box stamped *STRUCTURES, SLIGHTLY SOILED*.

And you should so it, Pleite: but not Sputnik Sweetheart, that's pants.

llewtrah said...

That reminds me, Kafka on the Shore is getting close to the top of my reading pile. I bought it from a charity stall at a cat show - all the books on the stall had a vague cat theme e.g. The Master and Margarita. This vague tie in with cats and cat shows amused Billy no end.