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Off the Deep End by W. Hodding Carter
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Off the Deep End

by W. Hodding Carter

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I really wanted to like the book. My sister was an Olympic caliber swimmer and I've always enjoyed the sport myself. However the author is just a bit too involved with himself to make this an enjoyable read. I found myself thinking more about the family that he's ignoring than I did about his personal quest. ( )
  winecat | Jul 18, 2010 |
I was sad to find that while funny, I did not enjoy Carter's writing all that much. Much of the story was spent switching wildly back and forth between hoping beyond all hope, and just as quickly turning around and deciding to give up on his quest. While the ups and downs of the story were to be expected it made for a long read. I really wanted to enjoy Off the Deep End, but I just could not get into it. ( )
  tyroeternal | Jan 10, 2009 |
I laughed throughout this entire book. Carter bravely and honestly recounts his humbling experiences training for the Olympics at age 45. This is a great book about failure and dreaming big. I think this book will stick with me for awhile.

on a side note, he's from Greenville, MS in the delta where we lived for 5 years (one town over). We saw him speak at the YMCA in 2005 when he was beginning to train for the Olympics. (I'm pretty sure I remember him mentioning it at the time, but I think he made it sound like a joke). ( )
  lalalibrarian | Sep 6, 2008 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this ARC back in April as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. The description of the book sounding interesting: middle-aged man decides to train for the Olympic Swim team, in part as a way "through a midlife crisis". When the book arrived, there was a note that one chapter was missing and would be send later. The book was published 2 weeks ago, but I haven't received the pages yet. Since the Olympic swim trials were this week, I decided to read this without the remaining pages. I'm not sure what has been left out -- given the publication date, it doesn't seem likely to have been an epilogue stating whether Carter made the Olympic team -- but I'm not sure that the book would seem any more complete had the absent chapter been included.

This book is very uneven: there doesn't seem to be a coherent arrangement to the chapters and the timeline is unclear. Some of the chapters were published previously. Those that haven't been appear less polished. I realize that this is an ARC, but it seems to me that more substantial editing would need to happen. I'm not involved in publishing, but I always thought that ARCs were 'almost ready' for publication and that any substantive editing would have already occurred. Perhaps I'm wrong with this book.

Carter adopts a self-deprecating sense of humor in this book, but the book doesn't seem to have an overall consistent tone. The result of the humor, then, reads more like arrogance than self-deprecation. I think that Carter wants the reader to see that he did have a certain amount of arrogance to think that he even had a chance to make the Olympic team, but I was left wondering if that really was his point. The approach of the book is also unclear: parts of it are memoir, parts training guide, parts sports travelogue when he writes about swimming from on Virgin Island to the next, or participating in an 8 hour swim around Manhattan. The audience isn't clear. Is he writing to swimmers? If so, then he shouldn't have included some of the explications about the sport (pool size, standards, etc.). But, if he wasn't intending to target swim enthusiasts, why did he go into such detail (and assumption) about certain swim personalities, not just on an Olympic level that a casual observer of the sport might know, but on the region Masters level.

Overall, I found the book disappointing. It could have been so much more. Carter did not qualify for the Olympic Swim Trials. Despite the flaws of the book, I wish that he had. Along with Dana Torres, it would have been quite the story for 2 40-something swimmers to leave younger contenders in their wake. ( )
1 vote cammie | Jul 7, 2008 |
Journalist Carter takes a fairly humorous and self-deprecating look at himself as a forty-something trying to qualify for the Olympics after a twenty year hiatus from any competitive swimming. He details his long and frequently embarrassing struggle, beginning in 2004, to get back to (and hopefully surpass) his former conditioning and glory days of college swimming and those details might only be of interest to those with a love of all things swimming, but his sarcastic tone and Dave Barry-esque asides will appeal to a wider audience. Hodding attends swim camp, takes a job as assistant aquatics director at the local Y (an experience almost as humbling as trying to qualify) and takes some hits to his marriage and finances along the way. By the end of the book he has improved his time and is within one-tenth of a second of his best time ever, but that’s still a quantum leap from becoming an Olympian. The final chapter, where Carter reflects on the swimming enjoyment and success of his young children puts a feel-good finish to the tale. ( )
  stonelaura | Jul 2, 2008 |
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A lifelong swimming enthusiast who had always dreamed of Olympic glory describes how, despite his failure to qualify for the Olympic trials from 1976 through 2004, he took up his quest at the age of forty-two by preparing for the Masters Championships, undergoing a long, difficult, and effective training regimen in pursuit of his dream.… (more)

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