Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero


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Haunts of the Black Masseur

Rather unfairly, I thought, the Turkish skipper gave her a little medal and certificate, while her father had to be content with his own personal sense of achievement. While the experience of total immersion should be, like baptism, a rite of joyful equality, it must be admitted that to be young and blonde and beautiful is just as much of a social advantage in the water as it is everywhere else. Having graduated in the Bosphorus, like Byron, Mr. Sprawson went on to tackle the Tagus estuary at Lisbon, a much more demanding swim as it turned out, and one endangered by giant tankers as well as unpredictable tides.

Normally he is not fussy, as I am not myself, about the quality of the water he swims in; although all bathers would of course prefer a green pure foaming element to a stagnant one. But the pollution in the Lisbon estuary was too much for him, and together with the tides and the tankers it forced him to abandon the swim. No less than the hero on dry land, the hero in the water can be as distinguished by glorious failure as by success.

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Women can be heroes in the water as much as men; but I like…. This is exclusive content for subscribers only.

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Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription. If you are already a subscriber, please be sure you are logged in to your nybooks. Facebook Twitter RSS. To take advantage of all LARB has to offer, please create an account or log in before joining There is less than a week left to support our matching grant fund drive! Your tax-deductible donation made to LARB by pm, December 31, will be doubled thanks to an anonymous donor. Flecks of orange salmon flesh and veins of forest green leaves were drowned out by the acres of blue spanning between sky and sea.


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It came, I think, from the water. My toes, dangling over the edge of our rowing boat, disappeared and reappeared, volunteers in a vanishing act each time a dark swell lapped at them. The experience of swimming naked through that inked mystery was so singular that later I felt compelled to hold on to it, writing it into the pages of my notebook.

Haunts of the Black Masseur - Excerpt (2004)

My arms glowed through the surface in front of me, tinged slightly yellow-green by the darkness. The lake carried and consumed me; opening your eyes underwater, you thought, with calm acceptance, that perhaps it had taken your sight too.

I wrote about how when swimming back to the shore, my limbs lost their milky-citrus hue as we climbed out and left drops of dark blue on the pebbles behind us. In recent years, the younger descendants of Macfarlane et al.


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  7. In the work of authors such as Lara Feigel, Elif Batuman, and Philip Hoare, literature and cultural history are at the forefront, the middlemen through which the books edge into wider reflections. But what I know now is that they are in fact indebted to and eclipsed by a work written in , which stands as the grandfather of this particular strand of literary nonfiction. He wrote one or two articles for The London Review of Books and The Spectator , and then, due to ill health, disappeared from the public eye. For now, it is a welcome reminder of a text many successful contemporary authors are deeply indebted to.

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    Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero

    Like those mentioned above, for Sprawson swimming is a kaleidoscope for viewing literature and humanity. Yet the little-seen first person is not an absence, reading instead like an invisible presence. I content myself with the Speculative part of swimming, I care not for the Practick [ sic ].

    Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero
    Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero
    Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero
    Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero
    Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero

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