Monday, April 14, 2008
Off the Deep End by W. Hodding Carter
Lately memoirs take on this form: find something outrageous and nearly impossible (but not totally impossible) to do. Do it. Write about how hard it was to do it. I have read memoirs of families who gave up buying everything except basic necessities for one year, gave up using electricity for a year, gave up buying anything made in China for a year, read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, walked across the country, and cooked all the recipes from Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking over the course of one year.
Hodding Carter has the latest entry into the memoir-turns-daring-do saga, he is going to train for and compete in swimming at the 2008 summer Olympics at age 45. The advanced copy I read does not include the final chapter which will relate his encounter at the Olympic swimming trials. I can’t really say if the final chapter would have made a difference in how I feel about his story.
For much of the book I really did not like Mr. Carter. He struck me as a 43 year old frat boy who was having a hard time accepting middle age. The fact that he kept admitting his frat boy tendencies did nothing to endear me to him. The technical aspects of swimming were not interesting for me—they may be for seasoned swimmers—and a lot of the book seemed bogged down by details of stroke and times and races. It was hard to get through. There were a few interesting adventures most notably his swimming from island to island in the Caribbean in a sort of swimming trek adventure and also his relay swim around Manhattan Island. Even during these adventures he seemed like a puffed up school boy. The kind I mostly try to avoid.
Just the same, being about 45 myself, I hope he is able to make the Olympics. I will watch for him, and I will pick up the book when it is out to see if I can find out his fate at the trials. I will also send this book to an old friend who is an avid swimmer. Perhaps she will understand some of the swimming-speak and relate to him a bit more. ( )