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Swimming Studies [Hardcover]

Leanne Shapton
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
RRP: 20.00
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Book Description

26 July 2012

Swimming Studies is a wonderful, unique book from the writer and artist Leanne Shapton, author of Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry, with her artwork.

As a teenager, Leanne Shapton trained for the Olympic swimming trials; now an artist, she is still drawn inexorably to swimming, in pools and on beaches across the world. What do you with an all-absorbing activity once it's past its relevance, and yet you can't quite give it up? Is it possible to find a new purpose for its rigours and focus?

Swimming Studies is an original, meditative work that explores what it is like to move from a world of competition and discipline to one of recreation and introspection. Giving a fascinating glimpse into the private realms of swimming, and drawing, Shapton tells an intimate story of suburban adolescence, family ties, and the solitary underwater moments that now ground her artistic habits.

'Whenever I come across something of Leanne Shapton's, I feel like I have found a hidden treasure' Amy Sedaris

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Swimming Studies + Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris: Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry + The Native Trees of Canada
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Particular Books (26 July 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1846144949
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846144943
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 14 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 237,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Leanne Shapton is an illustrator, writer and publisher who was born in Toronto and now lives in New York. She is the art director of the New York Times op-ed page and co-founder of J&L Books, a nonprofit publishing company specializing in new photography, art and fiction. She is the author of Was She Pretty? and Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris.

Product Description


Exquisite ... brilliant, eccentric and moving - an immersion in life ... her talent is for seeing how things and lives are fused ... this enigmatic book is written out of what cannot be fathomed (Kate Kellaway Observer)

An individual medley of a book: memoir; sports journal; sensual love-letter to water. It is a serious and finely textured account ... told with the originality and playfulness of an artist ... Shapton deserves a podium place (Janice Turner Times)

Whenever I come across something of Leanne Shapton's, I feel like I have found a hidden treasure (Amy Sedaris)

Swimming Studies sets out, through a fusion of words and pictures, to capture a bittersweet part of the writer's past as completely as a scent trapped in a bottle. The book is beautiful as both a story and an object. It's about being very, very good at something, when you want to be great. I was moved by it in ways both expected and unexpected (John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of 'Pulphead')

If there is a more beautifully observed examination of the weightlessness, silence, rigor, and delight of what it means to swim, I've never read it. Leanne Shapton is one of the most broadly creative and gifted people at work today; a true artist, both visual and verbal. There seems to be nothing she cannot write or paint about: adolescence, Canada, yearning, dawn - even cake, for heaven's sake! - with a precision both surgical and poetic. The joys of Swimming Studies are in being in the care of someone of a prodigious and protean mind. My talent crush is official and deep (David Rakoff, author of 'Half Empty')

I'm so happy this book exists. Swimming Studies expresses what it's like to be haunted by the person one used to be, and the search for how that person exists in the present. Leanne Shapton writes with such curiosity, ruefulness, intelligence, and grace. Here we see how the discipline of being an athlete can condition one's ways of making art, and how the patience necessary to make art teaches other types of patience. Like the patience required to be a spouse and to love a person always. This book is a rare treat for anyone who cares about any of these things (Sheila Heti, author of 'How Should a Person Be?')

About the Author

Leanne Shapton is an artist, illustrator, and writer who was born in Toronto and lives in New York. She has contributed to The New York Times, Harper's Magazine, The New Yorker, Jane, Seventeen, Saturday Night, and Maclean's, among other publications. She is one of the founders of J&L Books, a non-profit publishing company specializing in new art and writing. She is the author of Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a mixed bag 3 Nov 2012
By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I loved Shapton's book; 'Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry.' It was one of my books of the year a few years ago. When the opportunity came to review this I jumped at it.

The previous book was clever and touching. It mixed art, photography and narrative in a way that I had never really come across before, and it was a mesmerising read. This book, Swimming Studies, worked less well for me. It charts Shapton's feelings about swimming, both competitively, which she has done since she was a child, and as a leisure activity. It is basically a series of essays about her experiences, interspersed with black and white paintings, colour paintings and photographs of swimming pools, bodies in the water, and various swimming costumes.

Some of the essays really worked. I thought the musings on sharks was effective and interesting, the descriptions of swim meets frankly bored the pants off of me. I really wasn't that interested in photos of her swimming costume collection, but I did find the studies of various pools quite intriguing.

It was a mixed bag altogether. There are moments when the quirkiness of her work and the subject matter collide with interesting results. There are others where it totally doesn't. It wasn't a difficult read. It is actually quite a short work, but it didn't engage me throughout and I found myself slightly disappointed on more than one occasion as I read through the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for any competitive swimmer 30 Aug 2012
For anyone who has ever trained at any standard of competitive swimming any where in the world, this book is a must-read. For anyone who hasn't adhered to a sports training regime, it's still a great read. From the chlorine fumes to the aching muscles, from the routine of early morning starts in a pool to the craving for all things sweet post-training, this book captures it all. Leanne Shapton was a teenager in Canada who trained for the Olympic trials and, even if you only ever competed at a lot lower level, her love/hate relationship with swimming is easy to relate to - and understandable, too, considering she was immersed in water for the best part of her week. "I wasn't the best; I was relatively fast. I trained, ate, travelled, and showered with the best in the country, but wasn't the best; I was pretty good." She never did quite make the Canadian team and eventually she quit her sport. Leanne became an artist, author and designer and relates her training schedule days and attitude to swimming to her dedication to her art now, even being drawn to creating images of water. Her obsession endearingly included setting her microwave to 1:11:00 - the time in which she wanted to swim 100m breaststroke in 1987. In 2012, she still dreams of "practice, of races, coaches and blurry competitors" - ahhh, don't we all?...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Vine offered me this book, and as a parent of a heavy duty swimmer I felt that I had to read it, even if only to see if others went through the same rigour of early morning risings and endless weekends sitting through galas.

Yes, Shapton really did work as hard as she says, it rings entirely true, and like the rest of the world bar a few exceptionally talented and driven individuals, she did not quite make it to the very top level. It is so disheartening to have committed so much of your life to a cause and then not quite succeeded, especially when getting as tantalisingly close as Shapton did.

Some of it is very funny, quite a lot is poignant or enigmatic. It tends to be verbal snapshots from different occasions loosely sequenced between flashback and recent, very easy to dip in and out of without becoming either wiser or losing the plot. Most non-swimmers will probably soon be lost and give up on it. But I quite liked it, until the art and costume photos intruded, and I still don't see why they were included.

On balance I'm glad I read it, but I think most non-swimmers will soon become bored by it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting story and an original telling. 31 Aug 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The dedication required by sportspeople to reach the top of their sport is well-documented, and swimming is a sport that demands more than most. Leanne Shapton got as far as the Canadian Olympic Trials -twice- and here she documents the long, long journey and the sacrifices that took her there, with reflections on what swimming means to her now.

Rather than a straight narrative, the book jumps around in a series of essays, including Leanne's early days in swimming, the sacrifices of her parents (particularly her mother), her relationships and marriage, and her feelings on being a recreational swimmer, flirting with the idea of competition.

Anyone who isn't interested in competitive sport will find this book less rewarding, anyone who does swim at anything approaching a serious level will find much to identify with. There are lengthy descriptions of swimming meets, pen portraits of fellow competitors, and a series of semi-abstract portraits of fellow swimmers.

All the illustrations in the book have a link with the title; all are swimming studies of some description, though I did wonder if the costumes on a mannequin were really essential. I was also slightly puzzled by their appearance - anyone who swims regularly knows that swimsuits quickly deteriorate, rotted by chlorine, but all these costumes looked pristine.

Leanne Shapton is a gifted, highly reflective writer and this often saves the day, as she is able to bring interest to what could be boring repetitious descriptions of hours in the pool , and engage us with what could otherwise be the somewhat colourless characters peopling her book. An original idea and executed well.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars There is something compelling about the subject matter
Leanne Shapton details her formative years as a would-be Olympic swimming hopeful in Canada. She writes poetically with short, rhythmic sentences. Read more
Published 1 month ago by P. Barclay
4.0 out of 5 stars Quirky, but I enjoyed it
I have to say that I've really enjoyed this book. It is a touch self-indulgent but all the more engaging because of the very personal nature of the episodes described. Read more
Published 1 month ago by sam
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice study
I got this book for my boyfriend who has much in common with the author. An ex Olympic hopeful who didn't quite make it all the way but who is still drawn and forever linked to the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Cat
3.0 out of 5 stars Swimming studies
Nice enough as it goes. A fascinating insight into the world of swimming but unfortunately not really my cup of tea
Published 3 months ago by Kirsty at the Overflowing Library
3.0 out of 5 stars Water is elemental, it's what we're made of, what we can't live within...
Leanne Shapton starts her book with a description of water and explains how for her 'Ttrying to define what swimming means to me is like looking at a shell sitting in a few feet of... Read more
Published 4 months ago by purpleheart
5.0 out of 5 stars swimming studies
I'm not too sure who this book is aimed at.

It has an arty feel but isn't an arty subject. (whereas the shorter book has a more arty concept Was She Pretty? Read more
Published 5 months ago by the lambanana
4.0 out of 5 stars Personal stories doubling as advice.
This is a fascinating book that encompasses not just the nurturing of interest and talent but what happens when its not the primary focus any more. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Jack Chakotay
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent memoir about competitive swimming
Customer Video Review
Length: 1:21 Mins
Published 7 months ago by BS on parade
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, thoroughly enjoyable to read
This was an excellent read - a good autobiographical account of life during and following intense training. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Scott A. Mckenzie
4.0 out of 5 stars Part of a new school of writing
Shapton's memoir-cum-meditation on swimming-cum art catalogue straddles the lines of genres as more and more books seem to beHow Literature Saved My Life doing these days. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ian Shine
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