I needed a break from the watery intensity of Woolf, so jumped into a different book and immersed myself in Swimming Studies. A day later I feel refreshed by the pools so beautifully described by Leanne Shapton, and am ready to return to Woolf's rivers, waves, and seas.
This is an elegant, lightly lyrical, carefully written account of LS's years of training and competitive swimming interwoven with memories and digressions and descriptions of recent visits to pools (she compiles an enviable list of pools-I-have-swum-in). Leanne Shapton is an artist as well as a writer, and manages successfully to break many bookish conventions here by including a range of different visual and written elements, such as the central section containing a catalogue of her collection of swimming costumes. Although this and the highly stylised, almost abstract watercolours of pools, smells, and swimmers may appear at first glance a little precious, they are part of her style, and are what makes the book so original and personal. I admit I like this sort of creative rule-bending approach to the printed book; I also loved her earlier book which played with imaginative ways of telling stories.
Swimming Studies is now on my list of favourite wet books, along with Waterlog by Roger Deakin, The Haunts of the Black Masseur by Charles Sprawson, and a book that is too often overlooked: Swimming the Channel; A Memoir of Love and Loss by Sally Friedman.