Since this is only a short run, I can afford to go out a little faster.
Now let me start concentrating on what I think, so I can write that essay when I get home.
I've been wondering lately how many books, how many stories exist about running, and I don't believe there are a lot. On the contrary, I believe there are hundreds, nay thousands of books about running, non-fiction books, essays, etc. But I don't know how much fiction has been written about running, in which running played a major role in the story itself. "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" by Alan Sillitoe, (I should probably re-read that, perhaps even re-read that before I finish this essay, before I name-check it in the middle of this entry for it, but it's already been packed. I could go to the library and check it out, but that would make too much sense, and I'm too lazy.) There's Chariots of Fire by Vangelis. No, that's the soundtrack. Chariots of Fire was written by.... actually it wasn't a book. It was an original screenplay. And I'm sure there are other stories or novels out there written about running, but I can't think of any.
(Maybe I should deliberately write that there isn't much fiction written about running so that I can then get people to correct me in their comments, a deliberate ploy to get readership and comments directed here. Feign ignorance, or let others do my research for me. Or by admitting that that is my intent, will people feel aggravated and put-upon and not make any suggestions at all? Or perhaps I'm just writing about how I'm going to write this essay, and what I thought about while running today to keep with the meta-narrative subtext and theme?) (Or maybe I could just make a list of books that deal with running and do a little research and stop being lazy?) (Or is that last statement a way to get people to think that this self-conscious exercise about writing about writing about running is charming?) (Or is it?) (Ahhhh.... the obnoxious charm of post-modernist, self-conscious meta- writing. When pulled off correctly it's charming. When not, it's obnoxious.)
But seriously, I really can't think off the top of my head of many other stories or novels that deal with running. Perhaps I should read more or do some research. But would that be cheating?
I continually read about Murakami's memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running when reading other running blogs and about memoir in general. And I continually wonder if I should read it or not. And I think I should, but is that the Murakami book I want to start with?
I talked to a classmate and friend a few weeks back about wanting to read Somerset Maugham and I asked her what Maugham she recommended I should start with. (I asked this knowing that some authors' works are more inaccessible than others, and I wouldn't recommend Finnegan's Wake for someone who wants to read Joyce.) Her reaction was that if there was anything our MFA program had taught her was that we shouldn't put arbitrary limits on ourselves for what you want to read, because then you'll never get around to reading it. If you want to read something, read it, regardless of how other people have felt about it, or regardless of how "difficult" the work might be or how "unlike" their other works this might be. Just read it.
Perhaps I should take her advice and just read the Murakami memoir on running. And get to his other books later. If I want to read that one book now, I should.
How long do I plan on making this essay? I obviously haven't kept up with the once-per-day regiment I had intended. And if I do intend for this to be published in a semi-serious journal at some point, I should revise it drastically and have an arc and an endpoint in mind. Maybe I could set it up as a marathon, each entry could be a mile marker. However, that does not mean that each entry is what goes through your head as you are running a marathon. But it could be a nice structural gimmick in which readers would know when and where it stopped. Nice idea. (Let's hear it for the cool-down walk.)
When did that song leave my head during the run today?
I should go back and add hyperlinks to this tomorrow or later in the week. But I won't right now. It's pretty late. And I want to get this posted.
Start slow. Don't go too fast. You don't want to burn out your pace and be walking by the end. Start slow.
*** *** ***
Before I started running again in November, I encountered that problem frequently: after not running for months, sometimes years, I would start out trying to run at the same pace that I had run when I was running competitively, when I was 18 years old. But I'm not 18 years old anymore. And I would give myself nasty, tear-inducing shin splints, that felt a large serrated knife jabbed into my calf, turned sideways and pulled up and down.
*** *** ***
A sign of maturity and of personal acceptance is admitting that we aren't who we once were, accepting who we are now, and having the foresight to know what we want to become.
*** *** ***
All these things that I have done (Time truth and hearts)
If you can hold on
If you can hold on, hold on
*** *** ***
Let me try to make that maturity line sound good so I can include it in this essay when I get back.
*** *** ***
And how many anecdotes about running should I include? And should they be redeeming, uplifting, melancholy, or ironic, like the fact that Jim Fixx, the man who popularized running and writing about running, died of a heart attack after returning from his daily run? And how many books about running should I read to contribute to this essay to make it seem more scholarly, learned, and less like a jumble of fragmented thoughts?
For a long time I have wanted to write an essay regarding what goes on through one's head while they are running. The structure of the essay would mirror the patterns of one's thoughts while running: in other words, the essay would be as scattered, fragmented, and stream-of-conscious as the thoughts that pass through one's head during a normal day.
I have also for a while now wanted to write a long experimental essay that would take place over the course of time, in which individuals would be free to jump in at any point, an essay that would take into account the concept of time and participation, in which the ending was not written as people are reading it, as it is published. A serial experimental essay. I realized the running essay would be the perfect venue for this type of structure and real-time experiment.
Given the recent passing of David Markson, and how his distinctive latter-day style was equally fragmented, seemingly arbitrary, and random
as the firing of synapses in our brains, it seems fitting that I start this now. This essay will be an ode to Markson and will include many of the thoughts that flow through my own head while running. It will be self-reflexive, random, arbitrary; it will include longer sections of research concerning the physiological changes that happens while we run, what chemicals our body releases and how it affects our muscles and our moods; it will contain many grammatical errors as I will be publishing it in real-time. (I will go back and edit each entry, and possibly rearrange the order of each section.) It will also make no sense to anyone who happens to read just one sentence every so often, which, I suppose, is also part of the intent.
Overall, the intent of the essay is to show how running and writing are inter-related, to explore their reciprocal, symbiotic relationship: how the activities themselves resemble the stream-of-consciousness style, and how the two can best be described and experienced only during the actual doing of the activity. Both are performed, for the most part, in solitude. (Even with the inclusion of runner's groups or a running partner, or the invention of writers groups, running and writing are ultimately a solitary activities.) A writer is happiest when he is writing, not when the product is finished. A runner is happiest when he is running, not when he sees his time and distance after the run.
Also, in an effort at maintaining another continuous project, I will attempt to include at least one new section per day, even if that section is one random sentence. This introduction does not count as a section of the essay.
I hope you all enjoy this project. As always, any feedback is well-appreciated.
David Markson passed away over the weekend. The official obituaries say that he passed away on June 6, but the articles also state that his children found him on June 4th. The exact date of when he actually passed is unknown, which seems strangely appropriate. The narrator of this fragmented novel states at one point: "Perhaps I am no more than 47 or 48," the narrator explains. "I am certain that I once attempted to keep a makeshift accounting, possibly of the months, but surely at least of the seasons. But I do not even remember any longer when it was that I understood I had already since lost track."
David Foster Wallace wrote that Markson was direly underappreciated and wrote that Wittgenstein's Mistress
was "quite possibly the high point of experimental literature in this country." I would go one step further and claim that Markson was perhaps the high point of experimental literature. Period. (For the record, I have not read Wittgenstein's Mistress
, but I have read This Is Not a Novel
and Reader's Block
, and I can't imagine that Mistress eclipses those by a terribly large margin. It is the novel where he began what became his late career fragmentary, experimental style.) In 2007 he was honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters
. That same year New York Magazine
called him "the best writer you never heard of."
A year and a half ago I was attending a writer's conference in Chicago. One of the workshops on the agenda was a tribute to David Markson, which I had checked off on my giant conference booklet as one of the lectures I wanted to attend. I decided at the last minute not to attend as there were other more career-appropriate lectures for me at that point: how to go about applying for a grant, or how to write a query letter, or how to go about getting flash fiction pieces published. At that point I also had not completed This is Not a Novel and had not yet read Reader's Block. Had I known that the man who reinvented what was possible with a novel would pass away less than two years later I most certainly would have said, "Career be damned! This is David Markson." I have very few regrets in my life, but I can add my skipping of that lecture to that short list.
My remembrance of Markson's life as a writer and his work cannot match one of the tributes I read to him earlier today. As such, I will let journalist Sarah Weinman's much more eloquent words
speak for me:"Others will chime in with more reasoned and coherent essays on what Markson meant for American literature, and I'll link to those as I do to other missives below once they come in. But I got to know the writer's work, and later on, a little bit, the man, through his earliest output, a couple of entertaining and erudite crime novels featuring a scamp of a private detective named Harry Fannin. I'd read THIS IS NOT A NOVEL and had been excited and blown away, and just weeks later I was assigned to write my very first piece for the Los Angeles Times - a double review of those two Fannin novels, EPITAPH FOR A TRAMP and EPITAPH FOR A DEAD BEAT..."After that review he got in touch with me - oddly enough by email, through a friend, since he did not own a computer - and we corresponded a little, by postcard and letter. I'd see him at the Strand Bookstore sometimes, one of his regular haunts, shooting the shit with the cavalcade of managers working the review copy desk in the basement..."I saw Markson last at the public memorial for David Foster Wallace. I hadn't seen him around for several months and asked after him and his health. But the answer, at least to me, was obvious. He was more frail. He didn't have to articulate his sadness over Wallace's suicide, that a much-younger man with prodigious talent had died too soon, and that it was a far different feeling from watching friends your own age pass on. A thought passed through my head that Markson might not be around much longer and I should get back in touch, lest the inevitable catch me off-guard. Like many good intentions, it wasn't acted upon."