SPLASH is a unique collection of essays, poetry and excerpts of notable non-fiction aquatic biographies.
Editor Laurel Blossom, a poet and life-long swimmer, brought together a total of 46 diverse writings in this entertaining, educational and passionately produced volume.
The shortest piece by poet and poetry editor, John Ciardi, speaks to the complexity and imagination of the array of offerings in SPLASH. Titled, “On Being Much Better than Most and Yet Not Quite Good Enough:”
“There was a great swimmer named Jack
Who swam ten miles out-and nine back.
Another poem, “400-Meter Freestyle” by Maxine Kumin is 16 lines/laps of interesting prose ending with “TIME: 4:25:9” appropriate enough, since it was first published in 1959.
Essays and short stories are written by such luminous authors as Ray Bradbury, John Cheever, John Updike and Jack London. Bradbury's “The Women” read as a bit of a mystery to me, being cleared up, as I read in the acknowledgements that it was originally published in Famous Fantastic Mysteries in 1949. The perplexing and somewhat dark, “The Swimmer” by John Cheever, originally in The New Yorker (July 15, 1964) was made into the same-titled movie starring Burt Lancaster in 1968. Compelling reading & viewing.
John Updike's “Lifeguard” originally in The New Yorker (June 15, 1961) reveals a very complex character. “The Kanaka Surf” (August 17, 1916) by Jack London is a delightfully layered story of a couple's reuniting with not only with the wonderful waters of Hawaii, but also of their love for one another.
Excerpts from books written by swimmers include selections from Dawn Fraser (100 meter Freestyle Olympic Gold Medalist 1956, '60 & '64), Don Schollander (1964 4x Gold Medal Swimmer) and Annette Kellerman (the Original Million Dollar Mermaid). Master showman, Billy Rose, (the creator of the 1937 Aquacade in Cleveland 1939-40 Aquacade in NYC and the 1940 Aquacade in SF), involved Eleanor Holm, Johnny Weissmuller, Buster Crabbe, Esther Williams and many other divers, dancers and synchronized swimmers during the course of these shows.
Dawn Fraser with Harry Gordon pen, “The Night of the Big, Big Minute” (Below the Surface: Confessions of an Olympic Champion, 1965). Dawn Fraser has been to — and won — three Olympic finals in the 100 Meter Freestyle…her insight into the big, big minute warrants serious historical cred. Enjoy this first-rate account. From “Deep Water” (1971) by Tokyo Olympic Champion Don Schollander with Duke Savage, a fine two paragraphs taking the reader from pain, to agony, to the top of the podium.
“How to Swim” by Annette Kellerman (1918) is a classic biography and swim lesson by the first lady of promoting aquatics sports and activities. In the page included, Annette shares of her love for the water.
Polly Rose Gottlieb wrote the biography “Nine Lives of Billy Rose” (1968) about her brother. Rose was a very complex, creative and successful businessman/entertainer, who indeed had nine separate careers including five marriages. The chapter included tells the story of the 'transition' from wife number one, the famed actress Fanny Brice, to the young aquatic starlet and Olympic Gold Medalist, Eleanor Holm.
Open water, marathon swimming is represented by two fine entries: Dick Powell's Channel Swimming Report of Ted Erikson's two way crossing of the English Channel (1965) and “Mind over Water” by Diana Nyad, published in Esquire (October 1975).
Lastly, this book begins with a preface by the much praised journalist, writer, editor and actor George Plimpton (1927-2003). In his classic narrative manner, names such as Schollander, Spitz and Nabor, tell insightful and sometimes anecdotal stories, including those of Plimpton himself.