Friday, July 22, 2011

"The Swimmer" by John Cheever

Source: The New Yorker Fiction Podcast (mp3)
Length: 43 minutes
Reader: Anne Enright

The story: One lazy summer day, Ned Merril decides to swim across the county by way of swimming pools. His bizarre Odyssey starts out fine with the first few swimming pools, but as he goes along, he dives into less appealing pools. Odd reminders of the past (or present?) pop up and his final few laps are a struggle to return to his home.

As Enright and Treisman point out, this story has a similar feel to the better episodes of The Twilight Zone. Everything starts out normal, so when the plot takes a turn to the strange, our minds try to work for an explanation. I think this desperate effort to explain is why the story has become so widely-discussed in English literature classes. Ned's journey is a microcosm of a life, with many of the most important events happening while our heads are underwater and no way to understand our situation when we come up for air.

The reader: From the first sentence of the story, Anne Enright's sense of humor comes through. As the story goes on, her writer's understanding of the flow and intricacies of the piece bring the depth of the story to light through her narration. Her discussions with New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman before and after her reading are entertaining and enlightening. The podcast is nicely produced and recorded well.

(photo by mr. rollers via flickr. Creative Commons Attribution, No derivatives  Noncommercial license.)


mel u said...

I really enjoyed this strange and marvelous story a lot-thanks for posting on the audio book

Erez said...

Excellent story! I usually don't like short stories in audio format, but after recently being exposed to Cheever through "The Wapshot Chronicles" (not free but highly recommended), I decided to try this one and was nםt disappointed. Also the commentary was very nice. Thanks!