Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday glums

A useful and slightly frenetic day of minor errands. Ready to stop living out of a bag, though! The play was execrably bad (the best performance was by the pod-type espresso machine), so much so that it could be safely said that even the first course of dinner was better than the play: we went to Blue Ribbon, I had half-a-dozen PEI oysters and a very delicious entree special of seared sea scallops with cauliflower puree (pure butter!) and arugula-and-watercress salad. Delicious...

In the meantime I have also read these two sublimely good novels by Jenifer Levin. I have never in my life read such good writing about swimming, but they are wonderful novels regardless of the swim component; perhaps I liked Water Dancer better of the two, as the world of marathon swimming is endlessly fascinating to me, but here is a paragraph (a description of the 100-meter breaststroke) from The Sea of Light that I would like to have shared with Wendy:
Spectator shouts roar to the high ceiling, an indistinguishable echo. In the bright-lit pool, bodies glide. This is the slowest stroke, the oldest stroke. It may appear to the observer to be a manifestation of perfect ease and grace, but from the inside when you do it all out, as perfectly and as fast as you can, when you do it to win then you look monstrous surging out of the water, a creature from some dark lagoon with foreign bug-goggle eyes. It wrenches every fiber of every muscle and it burns you all up with effort so that when you touch the wall to finish you have forgotten how to breathe, have forgotten everything but the naked agonized rasp in your empty lungs and heart. The 100 demands such complete control, so much raw strength. Yet the entire event will be finished in a little more than a minute. If you think about it, it seems unfair.


  1. I love this; I've never read much swimming lit but when I was still swimming competitively, I was a natural breaststroker and we're a certain breed. But it was always difficult to convince people that just because you get to "breathe" every stroke doesn't mean it's not as difficult as any of the other strokes. After all, it's the only stroke in which the legs and arms are moving against the water. It's also probably the least forgiving stroke b/c it's all about perfect technique. How high do you come out of the water? Do you actively dip your head down or not? Maximizing the underwater pullout. I could go on but that excerpt is lovely.

    One other thing: I often have people who never swam competitively tell me that they're natural breaststrokers because it's the easiest; these conversations usually are comparing to butterfly. In all likelihood they're not but it's a fun irony: for the lay person, breaststroke's the easiest; for most competitive swimmers, breaststroke's the worst.

  2. I am convinced that breaststroke is the most difficult stroke. The timing is so delicate - I now feel after a few years of swimming that my other three strokes are pretty solid, and I truly love fly - once you get the rhythm, it is such a beautiful and powerful stroke, and even a novice can at least approximate that - but decent breaststroke continues to elude me!