Review: Swim: Why We Love the Water
Swim: Why We Love the Water
by Lynn Sherr
published by PublicAffairs
original publication: 2012
size: 2933KB (232 pages)
categories: nonfiction; sports; swimming
lending: not enabled
simultaneous device licenses: six
part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library: no
real page numbers: no
Whispersync for Voice: yes ($9.95 at time of writing, audiobook read by the author)
“Swimming is my salvation. Ask me in the middle of winter, or at the end of a grueling day, or after a long stretch at the computer, where I’d most like to be, and the answer is always the same: in the water, gliding weightless, slicing a silent trail through whatever patch of blue I can find.”
I completely understand what author Lynn Sherr is saying above.
I was a competitive swimmer for ten years…starting when I was four years old. I was a guaranteed blue ribbon for my team, because, as I remember, I was the only one in the 4-6 year old group who could swim butterfly the length of the pool.
Unfortunately, when I was fourteen, I developed a really bad reaction to chlorine. I can’t even sit by a pool, which meant I couldn’t watch my kid learn to swim.
While we do sometimes get to a place I can swim, I still miss it, decades later.
Talk to most people who have reached a certain competence and comfort in the water, and I think you’ll find that same love of it.
The water feels incredibly freeing, and isolating. When you are swimming, the whole world can disappear…even your own thoughts. Stroke and kick, breath and flip…even in a pool it can seem like you are in your own timeless infinity.
Swim: Why We Love the Water does a good job of communicating this, quoting people famous (Michael Phelps, Esther Williams) and not.
There are two interwoven narratives: one is Lynn Sherr swimming the Hellespont (also called the Dardanelles, it’s a strait between Asia and Europe, which Leander legendarily swam repeatedly to be with Hero); the other is the history of swimming.
The latter was entertaining and intriguing. It’s always amazing to me how recently some things developed, and the sociology of what now seems natural. A negative view from the church on swimming meant that for a long time in the West, it was primarily a military skill. Modesty for women meant outfits which effectively kept them from swimming, and led to many deaths. Myths are explored: many people believe African-Americans are naturally poor swimmers, when, prior to segregated public pools, swimming was a skill in which they commonly exceeded those of European descent. I found the interplay of all those factors fascinating…and well-documented with historic photographs and illustrations.
Unfortunately, there just wasn’t the same drama in Sherr’s own swim. It wasn’t poorly told, but I just didn’t find it that involving.
Overall, I’d recommend it for someone who is already a swimmer (and you probably all know at least one of those). If you can’t bring your own experience to it, though, I’m not convinced there is enough here to hold your interest.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.