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Peter Mallory's Blog


By pmallory - Posted on 01 December 2014

29 November 2014

ON ROWING
BY STEVE FAIRBAIRN
EDITED BY PETER Mallory

In the United States, Black Friday, the traditional beginning of the Christmas shopping season, has come and gone, and the introductory 50%-off sale price for the complete works of the incomparable Steve Fairbairn is about to expire. Don’t delay. Visit Amazon.com. Remember, it is my personal gift to you. I have donated all the proceeds.

While you’re there, I have another holiday suggestion, another of my donations:

The “New and Improved” Kindle 3rd Edition of

AN OUT-OF-BOAT EXPERIENCE
BY PETER MALLORY

"This is a lively, eccentric, joyous, warm-hearted romp through the fascinating life story of an outstanding oarsman and coach."

So says Daniel James Brown, the author of The Boys in the Boat.

I bask in Dan's approval.

"Something very different has joined the pantheon of rowing literature: Peter Mallory's An Out-of-Boat Experience. Pete has distilled a lifetime's worth of rowing experience - as competitor, coach, observer and muse - into a very readable, very interesting treatise on this obsession that continues to capture our hearts and minds. An Out-of-Boat Experience can rightfully take its place on the rarefied shelf of good rowing books.”

So says Brad Alan Lewis, Olympic Gold Medalist and author of a host of great rowing books, not least Assault on Lake Casitas.

I wrote the 1st Edition of Out-of-Boat more than fourteen years ago, the 2nd Edition shortly thereafter.

I then spent most of the ensuing decade researching and writing The Sport of Rowing in four volumes.

So why have I returned to my first rowing book after all these years? Several reasons.

Even after all that time, I was still getting regular feedback from readers, in person and via email, that Out-of-Boat had changed their rowing lives, even changed their entire lives. Fine praise, indeed! Wouldn’t mind at all keeping messages like that coming!

I would also hear from rowing parents that they finally understood their children, thanks to me and my book. Doesn’t get much better than that!

I would hear from non-rowers that they picked up my book out of boredom or by accident or curiosity or whatever . . . and found they couldn’t put it down. Surprised the heck out of them!

I would hear from readers of all stripes that they found some of my stories laugh-out-loud-in-public, coffee-up-your-nose funny! Sounds like some sort of warning label might be appropriate, but nevertheless the sentiment is always much appreciated.

And since a lot has happened in my life in the last decade, since I have learned a lot about rowing history, a lot about some of the specific people who appear in the book, since initially I had made a few mistakes, got some facts wrong, drew some wrong conclusions, and since I have grown up a bit, thank goodness, since I am a much better writer now, thank more goodness, I found that I had a lot more to say and better ways to say it.

Incidentally, every single sentence in the book has been rewritten, and tons of new stories have been added, so even if you have already read one of the earlier editions back in the day, I have made absolutely sure to give you every reason to read the new version as well. It’s basically a brand new book.

And the images! Three time, four times, five times the number of images! Perhaps that will be the change you will notice first . . . and will stay with you the longest.

As Ron Irwin, author of Flat Water Tuesday, has written,

"Peter Mallory's memoir is unlike any other rowing book ever written.”

Back when the first two editions of Out-of-Boat came out, a few people posed the simple question: why didn’t I just go ahead and write a regular rowing manual, for Heaven’s sake, just like everybody else has done for as long as people have rowed for sport? Why all the drama? Why all the self-serving reminiscences? Why, indeed?

Well, if you have to ask the question . . .

Ron Irwin continues:

"An Out-of-Boat Experience is an homage to Kurt Vonnegut in its time-tripping structure, with innumerable references to the Odyssey and a sense of humor that owes much to P.G. Wodehouse and the Three Stooges."

I can just hear the naysayers, “Kurt who? Even if Odysseus may have rowed, Kurt Vonnegut sure never did! And the Three Stooges? They never rowed! . . . The Three Stooges? Seriously? Rowing is sacred to me! How can Peter find low humor in rowing?

"And who is P.G. Wodehouse?”

My response? “Poo-tee-weet.”

Okay, so Out-of-Boat is unique, but why should you read it?

If you have never read Slaughterhouse Five, never been a “victim of soicumstance,” if Daniel James Brown’s and Brad Alan Lewis’s and Ron Irwin’s recommendations are not enough, try this:

Nearly a decade ago, I received the following email, and I am paraphrasing:

“Last winter I was in my favorite bookstore, Richard Way Bookseller in Henley, and Diana Cook gave me a copy of your book, said she thought that I might get something out of it.

"After I had finished the book, I was out with my crew, and they were struggling. I used your “discus” analogy, and they immediately went 10 seconds faster. A few days ago, we won the Princess Elizabeth Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta. I thought you’d like to know.”

That email was from Alex Henshilwood, coach of Eton College, and it marked the beginning of a fine friendship. (You’ll have to read the book to find out about the discus analogy.)

Is that a good enough reason for you to read the “New and Improved” Kindle 3rd Edition of An Out-of-Boat Experience?

I’ve got more.

The last time I saw Harry Parker, 51 years the Harvard University Coach, just weeks before his passing in 2013, he said to the group gathered before him, “Peter may have overstated a few things, but he got lot of it really right.”

Harry certainly didn’t remember at the time, but ironically, nine years earlier he had also said to me: “You have to make an allowance for the fact that Steve was fighting a religion, and you have to overstate things to get your point across. He had a lot of it really right, but he overstated some of it.”

Of course the “Steve” to which Harry was referring was Steve Fairbairn.

And that is the other reason I have returned to Out-of-Boat at this particular moment in my life. Fairbairn gleefully battled an entrenched Orthodox rowing majority, indeed a “religion” as Harry described it, and he reveled in his notoriety. I have lived the last year with Steve as a close companion as I edited his complete works, and a day didn’t go by without me thinking of my own disagreements with the entrenched Orthodox rowing majority of our modern age.

Was I inspired by Steve Fairbairn as I sat down to write the 1st Edition of An Out-of-Boat Experience? No. I wasn’t. I barely knew Steve’s name fourteen years ago. Was I inspired by Steve as I sat down to write the 3rd Edition? You bet I was!

Don’t get me wrong. A century from now, people will still be reading Fairbairn On Rowing. By then, An Out-of-Boat Experience will have run its course, served its purpose, and some new provocateur will have risen to take on the new entrenched Orthodox rowing majority. As long as humans walk this Earth there will be entrenched Orthodoxy majorities. It’s human nature, after all.

I will be more than satisfied to simply be remembered as Steve Fairbairn’s editor and for my other book.

"Peter Mallory's majestic The Sport of Rowing is hands down the definitive history of the sport. The product of exquisite scholarship, it is chock full of colorful anecdotes and fascinating facts. I have no doubt that 100 years from now serious students of the sport will still be reading it with relish."

Another quote from Daniel James Brown, author of The Boys in the Boat, another book which will still be read a hundred years from now.

Thanks, Dan.

So don’t wait a century! An Out-of-Boat Experience in its "new and improved" 3rd Edition is available right now on Amazon.com just in time for the holidays. A perfect gift for you and yours.

But I warn you. Back in 2000, I got the following email: “I bought your book for my husband for Christmas. He’s a life-long rower. He started reading, and he didn’t stop until he had finished it. I lost him for two solid days. He said it was the best Christmas present ever! Thank you for making him so happy.”