So Many Olympic Exertions
Blending elements of memoir and sports writing, Anelise Chen’s debut novel is an experimental work that perhaps most resembles what the ancient Greeks called hyponemata, or “notes to the self,” in the form of observations, reminders and self-exhortations.
Taken together, these notes constitute a personal handbook on “how to live”––or perhaps more urgently “why to live,” a question the narrator, graduate student Athena Chen, desperately needs answering. When Chen hears news that her brilliant friend from college has committed suicide, she is thrown into a fugue of fear and doubt. Through anecdotes and close readings of moments in the sometimes harrowing world of sports, the novel questions the validity of our current narratives of success.