Running in Literature by Roger Robinson, hardcover, 304 pages, Breakaway Books (2003), ISBN: 1891369415
"Running in Literature: A Guide for Scholars, Readers, Runners, Joggers and Dreamers" is the first history of running as a literary subject, and in the hands of Roger Robinson, it is informative, original, and wonderfully entertaining. Running is an important element in some of the world's great books, from the "Iliad" and "Odyssey" of Homer to the novels of Thomas Hardy and James Joyce. Famous poems about running and runners extend from Pindar and Ovid, Walt Whitman, Rudyard Kipling, and A. E. Housman, to contemporary American writers. Their story is told with the knowledge and insights of a world-class literary critic and world-class runner. Here (at last) is the real story of the origins of the marathon; here is the mythic heroine Atalanta, running with her golden apples through the history of literature; here are running episodes in the Bible, and the great epic poems of Spenser, Milton, and Pope; here are "smock race poems", an 18th-century mix of learned mock-heroic and lingerie soft porn; here are running devils, dwarfs, saints, cannibal priests and convicts. For the first time, the great running texts of Ancient Greece and Rome are translated by a runner for runners, in contemporary versions that convey their vividness, humanity, and humor. The book reveals how the modern sport of cross-country was inspired by a novel, and shows running scenes in modern authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, Bernard Malamud, Elmore Leonard, W. H. Auden, and Tom Stoppard. Here are pioneering surveys of crime mystery stories with a running background, of the many specialist running novels of the last thirty years, of nonfiction running books, and the massive juvenile literature. Along the way we run unexpectedly into such great literary characters as Hamlet, Richard III, Elizabeth Bennet from "Pride and Prejudice", Hiawatha, Alice, a Wilkie Collins wife-murderer, H.G. Wells' invisible man, and the one-legged pirate Long John Silver. This erudite and original book creates a new field in sports literature. Amusing and extremely readable, it is an important work of scholarship, an outstanding piece of creative writing, and an essential book about running.