Charles Sprawson, Amy Liptrot, Philip Hoare: The best books on swimming
I think I was eight or nine when I almost drowned. In an outdoor swimming pool in Northern Ireland next to the Atlantic.
Even now, I’m not a great swimmer. Back then I couldn’t swim at all. My foot slipped on something on the bottom of the pool and threw me forward and down under the water. I reappeared only to keep slipping.
The fourth time I panicked, but somehow managed to find my booth and come out dripping with tears and seawater. I’ve been suspicious of water ever since.
But what you fear is also seductive. To read if nothing else. The pull of opposites if you want.
Haunts of the Black Masseur, Charles Sprawson’s cult book from 1992, deals with the idea of “The Swimmer as a Hero”, as the subtitle suggests.
It’s a tale of swim in which Byron swims the movie Sunset Boulevard by Hellespont and Billy Wilder, and shows what swimming means to cultures from ancient Rome to postwar Japan, while covering everything from sex to fascism.
The Outrun, Amy Liptrot, Canongate, £ 9.99
Liptrot wrote the introduction to the latest edition of Sprawson’s book. Her own debut, The Outrun (2016), as well as a report on her own problems with addiction and the pushing and pulling of her home on Orkney are also an ode to the call of the waves.
Continue reading: Amy Liptrot on The Outrun
“By swimming in the sea, I exceed normal limits,” she writes. “I am no longer on land, but part of the body of water that makes up all of the world’s oceans, moving, ebbing and flowing below and around me. Naked on the beach, I’m a selkie who slipped off his skin. ”
RiISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR, Philip Hoare, Fourth Stand, £ 9.99
More wild swimming.
“You have to take your risk with this ocean that roars, rises high, is absolutely elemental and untied, more like a mountain range than water. I wait for my moment and try to judge when to get in, whether to get in at all. ”
Continue reading: “An immersion, a homecoming …”
Hoare’s 2017 report on life in and by the sea is full of drowned sailors and submerged emotions.
The result is the kind of book you gasp from and then dive back into the murky depths.