Arguments with the Lake by Tanis Rideout
Wolsak and Wynn Publishers Ltd., 2013
Reviewed by Betsy Littrell
Arguments with the Lake by Tanis Rideout explores an imaginary relationship between two competitive and rival swimmers who ended up with very different life outcomes in the 1950s. Rideout’s book has a common theme of water and water is used both physically and metaphorically throughout.
How long before the water gets into every part of you?
Fingers and toes swollen in evolutionary memory, to hold your place—
wet through and through, even that spot below
the tongue, across the gums that holds a hangover. (23)
This stanza explores both the literal and figurative meaning of the water theme. The swimmer feels the physical effects of being in the water for hours, but water is also symbolic of the emotional weight of the competition and pressure and how it inhabits ever fiber of the swimmer’s being.
I couldn’t keep anything afloat inside of me, especially not
those translucent frills fluttering in my womb. Tried to lie
still as August water, or ice on the lake, while they described
their brief underwater lives. (45)
The swimmer in this stanza relates her miscarriage to her own unrealized career. She was never able to cross Lake Ontario, as she was not able to carry her own biological children. Rideout continues to use water metaphors to explore the emotion behind this traumatic event.