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This is a book for aquaphiles. You know who you are: The kind of person who abandons family and friends at every beach excursion and voyages out alone into the open waters, freestyling for endless minutes and miles. All my life, I have had a love affair with water: Rivers, lakes, oceans, chlorinated indoor pools. As a former NCAA swimmer, I have searched wide and far for books about swimming. There are only a few, and this is the best. And if you’re like me, and you have relatives who often ask, “Where’s Mike?” only to see a small speck in the horizon splashing around in far-distant waters, you’ll enjoy this read.— From Mike's Picks
In a masterful work of cultural history, Charles Sprawson, himself an obsessional swimmer and fluent diver, explores the meaning that different cultures have attached to water. Sprawson compares the meaning various societies have assigned to swimming—from classical Greece and imperial Rome to nineteenth-century England and Germany and the U.S. and Japan in the last fifty years. Sprawson gives us fascinating glimpses of the great swimmer heroes: Byron leaping dramatically into the surf at Shelley’s beach funeral; Edgar Allen Poe’s lone and mysterious river-swims; Rupert Brooke swimming naked with Virginia Woolf; Hart Crane swallow-diving to his death in the Bay of Mexico; Johnny Weismuller as athlete and entertainer. Informed by the literature of Swinburne, Goethe, Scott Fitzgerald, and Yukio Mishima; the films of Reifenstahl and Vigo; the Hollywood “swimming musicals” of the 1930s; and delving in and out of Olympic history, Haunts of the Black Masseur is a celebration of swimming that explores aspects of culture in a heretofore unimagined way.