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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Swimming by Nicola Keegan

I know this book has been around for a year or two, but I'm just now getting around to reading it.  I'm glad I did, because it took me to a new world, into the rarefied air of an Olympic gold medalist.  I like a book that takes me someplace new.  Here is a quote from Publisher's Weekly:

Keegan takes on death, religion, relationships and coming-of-age in her gorgeously stylized and irreverent debut about a rising Olympic swimming star. Not even a year after Philomena "Pip" Ash is born in 1960s Middle America, her parents put their rambunctious infant in a pool and watch the remarkable sight of a nine-month-old gliding through the water. With some help from Olympic Supercoach Ernest K. Mankovitz, Pip becomes a mercenary swimming machine who wins an unprecedented collection of gold medals in three Olympic games. Though Pip's connection with water is preternaturally intense, she can't relate to people, a dilemma heightened by early encounters with death and her innate awareness of loathsome pain and insecurities. After going through a premature career climax and the subsequent plummet, Pip is forced to deal with emotions she's spent her life ignoring; her sarcastic (and f-bomb laden) musings provide many amusing turns, while Keegan's linguistic playfulness moves the story at a fast clip, even if it sometimes muddles what's going on—particularly toward the end. This is worth reading for the prose alone.
Some of the language seemed a bit clipped and narcissistic at times, until the story moved along and I realized that Pip did try to do what she could.  She had issues of her own to deal with and after all, the young ARE narcissistic.  I imagine that is really the case with extreme athletes also, and compared to most, maybe Pip is just trying to do her best in life, as we all are.  Something different and entertaining, for me anyway.

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