Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton

74%

13 Critic Reviews

...this enigmatic book is written out of what cannot be fathomed – the life never lived, her own unknown depths. It is mourning disguised as inquiry in which swimming, writing and painting join forces.
-Guardian

Synopsis

Winner of the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award, Autobiography

Swimming Studies is a brilliantly original, meditative memoir that explores the worlds of competitive and recreational swimming. From her training for the Olympic trials as a teenager to enjoying pools and beaches around the world as an adult, Leanne Shapton offers a fascinating glimpse into the private, often solitary, realm of swimming. Her spare and elegant writing reveals an intimate narrative of suburban adolescence, spent underwater in a discipline that continues to inspire Shapton’s work as an artist and author. Her illustrations throughout the book offer an intuitive perspective on the landscapes and imagery of the sport. Shapton’s emphasis is on the smaller moments of athletic pursuit rather than its triumphs. For the accomplished athlete, aspiring amateur, or habitual practicer, this remarkable work of written and visual sketches propels the reader through a beautifully personal and universally appealing exercise in reflection.
 

About Leanne Shapton

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LEANNE SHAPTON is an illustrator and author of several books, including Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris. She is also the cofounder of J&L Books, a nonprofit publisher of art and photography books.
 
Published July 5, 2012 by Blue Rider Press. 328 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Sports & Outdoors, History, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Swimming Studies
All: 13 | Positive: 10 | Negative: 3

Kirkus

Below average
on May 07 2012

At one point, Shapton recalls a documentary about Olympian Michael Phelps and draws the parallel that art, like great athleticism, is as “serene in aspect” as it is “incomprehensible.” While the author may attempt to mirror this ideal, the result is less than satisfying and more than a little irritating.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Jul 16 2012

Ms. Shapton is so smart and so likable that you will pass her book along to the swimmers in your life.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Kate Kellaway on Jul 21 2012

...this enigmatic book is written out of what cannot be fathomed – the life never lived, her own unknown depths. It is mourning disguised as inquiry in which swimming, writing and painting join forces.

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Globe and Mail

Below average
Reviewed by Zoe Whittall on Jul 13 2012

...Swimming Studies is the kind of book that would...languish in a slush pile, loved fiercely by a lone literary editor and then vetoed by the marketing department...

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National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Stacey May Fowles on Jul 20 2012

...it is abundantly clear that Swimming Studies an intimate and beautiful meditation on human fallibility and the embarrassing, often unstated anxiety of success.

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LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by Carolyn Kellogg on Jul 29 2012

Shapton's experiments do not always pay off — there may be more repetitive painting series than are necessary to make her point about practice...

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The Telegraph

Good
Reviewed by Claudia Yusef on Jul 31 2012

The writer collects trivial snippets of thought in the same obsessive spirit with which she swims laps and draws sketches. There is something surprisingly moving about this collection...

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The Millions

Good
Reviewed by Buzz Poole on Jul 05 2012

...Swimming Studies is not about Leanne Shapton the artist, it is about Leanne Shapton the person, and while swimming, visual arts, and other people are all vital components in her existence, she has learned how to define them, rather than let them define her: swimming not as a way of life but life as a way of swimming.

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Oprah.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Leigh Newman on Jul 09 2012

These extra visual elements dazzle, but the specifics of this world and her insightful take in her own far-from-ordinary life are what makes any reader wonder if Shapton's gold medal might have already been won—in writing.

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Story Circle Book Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Susan Schoch on Aug 20 2012

Both learning and remembering as I read, I was moved by Shapton's writing. That little girl who was blue-lipped on the pool deck was me. She stayed in the water too long, was chilled and pruney, but she had kept up with her older sister.

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Time Out Chicago

Excellent
Reviewed by Alice Whitwham on Jul 18 2012

The brilliance of Swimming Studies lies in its delicate exploration of how the identities we’ve carved out for ourselves in the present are both haunted and shaped by the people we used to be.

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The Chronicle Herald

Above average
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Jul 22 2012

With Swimming Studies she’s composed a volume that is less a proper memoir than a collection of flickering sketches. It leaps from her training for the Olympic trials and becomes a treatise on swimming and pools in general. It’s a sport that lingers in her mind and in her muscles.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Stacey May Fowles on Jul 20 2012

While the initial premise runs the danger of being dismissed, it is abundantly clear that Swimming Studies an intimate and beautiful meditation on human fallibility and the embarrassing, often unstated anxiety of success.

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Reader Rating for Swimming Studies
76%

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