Review of Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton

Leanne Shapton owns many bathing suits. This is a large, sociological difference between us. I own one bathing suit. When it falls apart, I throw it out and buy another. A whole section of photographs of bathing suits and their accompanying stories fills out the middle of Shapton's Swimming Studies. Then little vignettes: where purchased, why, worn when, why. It felt like floating, as much as reading about buying bathing suits can feel like floating, in a warm pool. One can hear the lap of waves on the tiles at the edge of the pool. Schlap schwap schlap schwap gelap.

The book is all mini-essays, mini-memoirs. There isn't really a story or a plot. Just the idea of being in water by choice. To swim (feet off the ground) versus to bathe (feet on). The sound of water, as said, comes through the writing. But for a book with so many pools, I'd expect the smell of chlorine to come through too. It didn't. Maybe Shapton became inured to it after all her hours of swimming practice. I expected it though, the smell, tangy and chemical.

No purpose to the book, but there's no purpose to swimming, racing or not. But we do it. We write, we read, we swim or bathe. The book is like a distillation of the idea of a swim. Like a thread you can show to an alien species to say Here. We do this because of these reasons.

I like swimming. I like swimming more than reading about swimming, but reading about swimming can be okay too.

I had this book on my want-to-read list for a long time. I found it recently on Netgalley. It was published in 2012. Maybe the publisher forgot it was still up there. Maybe it's a reissue. But I found it there, so I downloaded it, then got annoyed that the pictures weren't there, so I took out a copy from the library. A sort of round-about way of getting to read this book.

Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton went on sale July 5, 2012.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.