Being a graduate of East York Collegiate Institute (1987), I feel like I ought to have known Marianne Apostolides or at least the protagonist of her novel Swim (Book Thug, 2009).
Kat is the main character's name and swim is what she does, 39 laps to be exact, her age. While she swims, she contemplates a question: Whether to leave her husband. Meanwhile, her teenage daughter sits poolside and starts a conversation with an attractive young man.
This action takes place in Greece, where Kat has taken her daughter following the death of her father (the girl's grandfather). Back to the home country, is the purpose of the journey. Back also, perhaps, to a place of fundamental truth and stability.
Because instability is all around Kat. Her swimming is the central metaphor for this; she is in constant process, constant motion. But the details she reveals of her life are also highly uncertain. Her marriage is not strong. She has an affair. She is studying literary theory.
Of that triumvirate, literary theory may be the most destabilizing of them all!
Kat swims and plans by the end of 39 laps to make a decision about the fate of her marriage. While she swims, she thinks about her life and quotes Julia Kristeva and Jacques Lacan.
At this point, I interrupt this post to say where the hell was the internet when I was an undergraduate?! Where was Google?! Look at what you can find out now with only a simple one, two, click.... And people are wasting their time downloading fucking ringtones?
I learned today that 40 per cent of Canadians have bought a book online. That makes book buying the most pervasive online activity. Which should be good news for books like Swim, because good luck finding any book published by the glorious little Book Thug on the shelves of Chapters-Indigo. At the big John and Richmond store, I couldn't even find a copy of Barry Hannah's Airships.
But I digress.
Swim is only 93 pages long. One is tempted to call it a poetic novel, but it's more of a theory novel. My mother, for that reason, wouldn't like it. I thought it was charming, though it reminded me of being an undergraduate (the last time I read any significant amount of theory). I would like Apostolides to write something without quoting others. To ingest the theory and spit out something that is completely her own.
I recognize that that request may be unfair.
The author has given us something unique with her debut novel. I'm glad to have read it.