This Akashic Books release offers a compelling, and sometimes graphic view of an amazing person and successful swimmer named Anthony Ervin.
Ervin is a World Championship gold medalist and three-time Olympic medalist as a swimmer. Ervin won a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games at the age of 19, and then retired soon after auctioning off his gold medal for charity to aid survivors of the 2004 tsunami. Ervin then started swim training again in 2011 and made the 2012 Summer Games as well as this year’s 2016 team.
The six-foot three, 35-year-old Ervin currently weighs in at 177 pounds and is the first African-American descent, along with Jewish heritage, who also grew up with Tourette’s syndrome.
Ervin writes this biography with Constantine Markides, a swim trainer who was also a high school state champion swimmer. This formidable duo also combines with Dave Zirin, a political sportswriter who also created the Edge of Sports imprint.
This 300-page paperback book includes a memorable color cover, black-and-white visuals, an epilogue, three appendices, and a quick preface that sets the tone well, in addition to four parts that include 17 chapters. Ervin draws on his English degree here with poignant communication, honest chronicles and insightful references/visuals, especially his tattoo passions.
The high-to-low content and life-changing events warrant mature readers. This book contains extremely graphic adult content, violence, or expletive language/uncensored sexually explicit material. The writing is strong and the unpredictable narratives will definitely not bore readers.
This book includes two important chapters on Ervin’s experiences at the 2012 Summer Olympics that lead into his childhood days in chapter three as this complicated story with powerful self-reflection and recollection. The numerous quotes and odes at chapter beginnings and throughout the main text reflect Ervin’s experiences well but can be a bit overwhelming and distracting for readers.
This story covers worldwide locations throughout as the story ends soon after the 2012 Summer Olympics. “Now that my race is over, I feel light again, even if it’s tinged with disappointment (he finished in fifth place). It’s liberating to be in the stands, relieved of all expectations,” says Ervin as readers can clearly understand his experiences and the important context/surrounding conditions.
The font style changes for switches between first person (I, we) and third person (he, they) perspectives, and graphic section markers help readers distinguish among the text. Chapter five refers to Appendix A for an amazing graphic story as chapter eight references Appendix B and C, which are battlefield dairies from the 1800s. More detailed supplements about Ervin’s training would have provided some helpful context and references for readers not familiar with this demanding sport.
This is definitely a recommended read for anyone with a deep passion for life searching for refinement. Challenged and personal beliefs formed by life experiences can also lead into something deeper. Everyone can relate to the quest for more understanding as they seek and pursue their meaning/purpose in life.
This pursuit often leads to the familiar and often clichéd “what goes up must come down” tale where people outside these situations wonder what caused such a drastic change in a person who seemingly had all the success that society values … it happens often within the sports narrative (e.g. Michael Phelps, Tom Landry, etc.).
The authors even meld fonts together at chapter nine, ending where Ervin experiences a vital crossroad in his pursuit, which reminded me of Jonathan Safran Foer’s poignant 9/11 drama Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
An elegy is defined as a sad or mournful musical composition. This subtitle reminded me how Ervin had to let parts of himself die to refine and improve the self-destructive and resulting harmful elements of his life. Hopefully his main sad times are behind him, but there are always other prominent people to help on his and our own journey.
This book is also available on Amazon and Nook. Hopefully a mini-series gets adapted from this honest, relatable narrative. It’s not to be confused with Chasing Water: A Guide for Moving from Scarcity to Sustainability.
Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes Are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports by Cyd Zeigler is also included on Zirin’s Edge of Sports imprint with more future works planned.