Thursday, May 07, 2009

Running in Literature iv: Mohawk

I had an idea for a series of posts called 'Running in literature'. Whenever I found a novel running was significant, or a non-running book that made some point about running, I would note it and make some comment. Unfortunately the weakness in this is the random nature of my reading and a lack of effort in searching out running references. As a result the series is sparse. Nevertheless things sometimes crop up especially if I can stretch the criteria a little to include small descriptions of someone running.

He is a large man, and while his movements are efficient in the narrow space behind the familiar lunch counter, he's lost and sluggish in open spaces. H runs the first fifty yards to the base of Hospital Hill, but when he starts up the grade he slows like a swamp bound dinosaur. .. Harry imagines that he is still running, but only his crazy arm jerks suggest rapid motion. Otherwise he looks like a fat comedian doing an impression of an Olympic walker, all hips an elbows. He thinks of all those childhood dreams where he was pursued by something nameless and fearsome, his legs heavy and rooted like tree trunks.

From Mohawk by Richard Russo.

I like the small observation at the beginning that Harry could move efficiently, and was perfectly adapted, in his day to day work but was lost in open spaces. I like the insight that we become moulded by our every day activities and specialisation, which makes us efficient also confines our abilities in other circumstances. I also like the observation that running is about being in open spaces as this is at the heart of its attraction for me. I love open spaces, hearing the birds, feeling the wind seeing the green of the trees and dark of the water, and most of all being surrounded by the variety of life. It is this reimder of life that makes me feel most alive.

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