The Art of the Swimming Pool

James Delbourgo at Literary Review:

By suspending the normal rules of earth-bound weight and motion, swimming pools bend certain rules of mental operation too, presenting possibilities for divine transformation and fatal transgression. Their creative potential often takes perverse and sometimes cruel forms. A Barbara Laing photograph from 1991 features a mule falling through the air towards a tank of water during ‘The World’s Only High-Diving Mules Show’ at the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque. Penned into a grandstand and shading their brows, fairgoers watch expectantly. One marvels at the bizarre freak-show machinations that brought this animal to its improbable plunge.

All swimming pools, however, deal in the unnatural. Southern California is the modern heartland of this glorious folly. Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), in which the diversion of water away from Owens valley to Los Angeles is likened to an incestuous act of rape, still resonates. 

more here.