In the midst of the standard, dreary midlife crisis -- complete with wine-tasting courses, yoga classes, and a failed attempt at a first novel -- forty-year-old Barry Strauss falls unexpectedly and passionately in love with rowing, a sport in which a twenty-seven-year-old is a has-been.
Strauss, a professor of classics and history, writes about the unanticipated delights of an affair that, like so many others, begins as a casual dalliance and develops into a full-blown obsession. Drawn to the sport in part because of his affinity for Greek antiquity, he develops a love for old boathouses, a longing for rivers at dawn, a thirst to test himself, and, ultimately, a renewed sense of self-reliance -- as someone who had experienced sports humiliation as far back as Little League suddenly finds himself bursting into athleticism at an unlikely age.
From the awe-inspiring feats of the war-bound Greek triremes with their crews of 172 men rowing on three levels to the solitary pride of finishing a first race in which he gets stuck in the weeds and has to be fished out, Barry Strauss shows us why "there is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half as much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
"Sometimes a book takes you by surprise…Rowing Against the Current is written with such a wonderfully physical sense of this ancient sport. This is a story about remaking oneself in middle age; as such it overwhelmed me, as it will a large raft of readers. Bravo to Barry Strauss."
Jay Parini, author of Benjamin’s Crossing
"Strauss describes it all with grace, humor, and eloquence in Rowing Against the Current, a blessedly nonacademic extended essay that celebrates the lore and romance of rowing while also delivering an implicit pep talk."
Art Carey, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"The author's enthusiasm is infectious ... Strauss has tapped into something special out there in his scull. He does fine service to his sport in this memoir."
"Barry Strauss’s “Rowing Against the Current” is a wonderfully open account of learning a brand-new sport as an adult. He is honest and inspiring in his emotions about the pursuit."
Bob Condor, Chicago Tribune
“Energized by bubbling creative juices, he sat down and wrote a book that is part how-to guide, part memoir and part paean to his unbidden paramour: a small boat. Cupid struck Strauss not with an arrow, it seems, but an oar.”
Laura T. Ryan, Syracuse Post-Standard
"Strauss’s dogged pursuit of an ancient craft shows us how exhilarating — and occasionally terrifying — rowing, past and present, can be."
Victor Davis Hanson