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Haunts of the Black Masseur - The Swimmer as Hero Paperback – 17 Jun 1993
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"Part social and cultural history, and part personal credo, Haunts of the Black Masseur is an exhilarating plunge into some of the deepest pools inside our heads" (J G Ballard Daily Telegraph)
"This splendid and wholly original book is as zestful as a plunge in champagne" (Iris Murdoch New York Times Book Review)
"A wholly original idea...a brilliant translation of a singular passion" (Alan Ross Times Literary Supplement)
"A devoted and luminously romantic history of swimming" (Guardian)
"One wants to put it down - and jump straight into the pool" (Independent)
A cult swimming classic, laden with references to literature, art and Olympic history.See all Product description
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One slightly annoying flaw, however, is the author's habit of citing notable swimmers by their surnames only - even at first reference - and often without even the briefest explanation of who they are. Several times I found myself asking, 'Who he?' Surely an editor should have picked up on this? It sometimes felt like he was talking about a coterie of old schoolfriends to whom I hadn't been introduced.
There were some interesting sections, notably a brief look at Captain Webb's story, Edgar Allan Poe and Lord Byron's relationships with the art, and the culture of swimming in Japan and how it impacted on the competitive world. Added to these were all-too-brief accounts of the author's attempts at a few open air swims made in the spirit of past participants. But overall I found it a little overlong and heavy going - perhaps unfairly, given my pre-conceptions. Probably a must-read for open water enthusiasts.
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