Thursday, December 24, 2015

One Breath by Adam Skolnick

Why I Read It: Grabbed from the Amazon Vine.

Summary: A freediver dies in competition, opening a world of questions about his sport.

My Thoughts: Once before I was forced into a reaction about a book's protagonist, and found that I flat out didn't like the guy. So here we go again.

The thing is that I find that it's all for the same reasons. Nick Mevoli may have been a hell of a guy, and according to many, many people quoted in the book about his life, he was. But I'll tell you what it was about him - only through the interpretation of his personality presented in this book - that completely turned me off.

Nick was a risk taker; no big deal there. The world is full of them. In fact, in today's world, many professional athletes have to lay aside risk of severe injury to play their sports (football players, boxers, etc.). That's not what turned me off to Nick.

Instead, it was his immaturity when things didn't go his way. We all feel frustration, and for someone driven as hard as Nick was, perhaps that frustration was harder to control when he came up short - I hardly think the word "fail" is appropriate, considering the incredible things he did - in his sport. But the descriptions of his tantrums in the water when that happened just push me to the point of dislike, from the safety and confines of the paper world of a book.

And so, the reading of this book is a second reflection on myself, and my reaction to its contents. The story of Everett Ruess, the young southwest wanderer who got himself killed despite the pleas of those around him to be safe was the first to get me angry at the hardheadedness of youth; and now Nick, who would not listen to his friends, is dead, pushing himself too far. So in the end, it's my anger at promising life snuffed out that drives my review of a book.

I wish Nick had lived to achieve the things he could have. Instead, he gave us a bright flash, and sent shockwaves through his sport of what can happen to its athletes. It's a sad fact, but true; Nick died for the future safety of others. Freediving is a sport in dire need of research into the limits of the human body's capabilities, and of codified safety procedures.

All puns aside, the book is an immersion into the world of freediving, its longer-than-you-think history, and its troubling present and future. Who knows, if you're more tolerant than me, you might even find Nick a martyr or a hero. I just wish he had heeded the advice of his friends and stuck around to tell his own story, rather than have it published posthumously at far too young an age.

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