Haunts of the Black Masseur

(Nonfiction; Penguin, 1992)

According to its publisher, Haunts of the Black Masseur falls into the genre of “sports literature,” and indeed, this strange, magnetic little book can be most simply described as a cultural history of swimming. But the reader quickly realizes that she must put aside her mental images of high school swim meets and crowded August beachfronts; the author’s interests lie elsewhere. For Charles Sprawson and his heroes, swimming is beyond sport: it is obsession and danger, it is purpose and mystery, it is pleasure and compulsion.

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