Monday, 21 March 2011

the lucinda river

John Cheever's 1964 short story "The Swimmer" follows the boyish Neddy Merrill as he swims across the county through a chain of swanky swimming pools. The story seems to create a vivid realism, only to shatter this realism as we realize that Neddy's "swim"is a kind of Odyssean journey that leaves him "miserable, cold, tired, and bewildered." Here is my favourite passage, which shows Neddy's cocky belief in what is later revealed to be a fragile reality:

"His life was not confining and the delight he took in this observation could not be explained by its suggestion of escape. He seemed to see, with a cartographer's eye, that string of swimming pools, that quasi-subterranean stream that curved across the county. He had made a discovery, a contribution to modern geography; he would name the stream Lucinda after his wife. He was not a practical joker nor was he a fool but he was determinedly original and had a vague and modest idea of himself as a legendary figure. The day was beautiful and it seemed to him that a long swim might enlarge and celebrate its beauty."

These images from American photographer Slim Aarons seem to match up nicely with the pools Neddy encounters in his watery travels through the Lucinda River:

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