Brooklyn indie house Akashic Books has gone back to press for the memoir Chasing Water: Elegy of An Olympian by U.S. Olympic swimmer Anthony Ervin, after the author (at age 35) became the oldest individual swimmer to win a gold medal. Ervin grabbed an individual gold medal in the 50 meter freestyle, and another in the 4x100 meter relay.
Akashic publisher Johnny Temple said the book had an initial printing of 5,000 copies and now, after Ervin's performance in Rio, the press has gone back for another 2,000 copies. Since his win, Ervin has been active on the press circuit, appearing on, among other outlets, the Today Show and CBS Sports.
Ervin’s press tour is being fueled by certain aspects of his story. He first won the Olympic 50 meter freestyle at the Sydney games in 2000, when he was 19, with a time of 21:80 seconds. Now, 16 years later, he's won the same race, but with a faster time of 21:40.
The son of a half-Jewish mother and an African American father, Ervin was a much celebrated young swimmer in 2000, who suddenly retired from competitive swimming after winning that first gold. The book details his years of personal struggles following his first Oympic triumph. After the Sydney Olympics he struggled with depression, attempted suicide and took drugs. Later he embraced Buddhist and Sufi mysticism, became a musician and made a return to competitive swimming.
Chasing Water (written with Constantine Markides) was published in April and is the first book released through Akashic’s Edge of Sports imprint, a line of books edited by The Nation sports columnist Dave Zirin that focuses sports in a social and political context.
“When we published the book in the spring there was still a possibility that [Ervin] might not even make the Olympic team,” Temple said. When Ervin defied expectations, Temple, watching the winning race on TV, was ecstatic. “I was screaming my f—king head off. It was absolutely one of the most exciting moments of my publishing career.”
Ervin, speaking via email from Brazil, told PW that winning a gold medal in these Olympic games has proven "totally surreal." He said he hopes his book will show readers that "nobody is one single thing at any time. Yes, I’m a swimmer, but that’s not even close to the entirety of who I am.”