My Life in Boats, Fast and Slow


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Andrew Larkin graduated from the 25th grade with a degree in medicine, and then spent another 25 years working. He was freed, not far from The Shire, in Northampton, Massachusetts. He is in recovery from workaholism, and enjoying life. To his astonishment he has found that his life today has recapitulated his life in boarding school in many ways. He does not watch television or listen to the radio. He exercises regularly rowing and walking. He spends his time reading. He enjoys naps. His interest in chemistry has morphed into home-economics; he enjoys baking and cooking. His friends say his home looks like a college dorm. He is happily married. She lives in a house across town, which he visits frequently. He mows her lawn with a scythe.

Thomas Weil, Curator of National Rowing Museum:

My Life in Boats, Fast and Slow, by Andy Larkin, is an appealing memoir, an indispensable rowing history and a lyrical paean to river boating. As memoir, it flows from the boyhood of a doctor’s son through the cultural turmoil of the late 1960’s into the calmer waters of late middle age, evoking memories of times and places which will be familiar to many of its readers. As good writing, it resonates particularly in Larkin’s descriptions of his solo sculling journeys in recent years on New England waters. As history, it provides a heretofore unseen perspective of life at the top of the sport’s pyramid – Larkin was a multiple Sprints champion and an Olympian – from the early years of Harry Parker’s reign at the helm of Harvard rowing. This first-person narrative offers a unique view of how some of the issues that roiled the 1968 Olympics – and remain unresolved a half-century later – were used to malign one of our country’s greatest collegiate teams.

Peter Mallory, Author, The Sport of Rowing Leander Club, the First 200 Years

Oh my! Andy Larkin has such a fertile mind, such curiosity, such a keen eye for observation, and takes such delight in details. Many of the rowing stories he tells have been familiar to me, but as I read My Life in Boats, I realized that I knew them but I had not experienced them. Now I have. 

Andy is an idealist, a man of conscience, a man of perspective.

He is also a philosopher. “I was struck how much rowing was like life. You were not sure where you were going, but you could tell where you had been, but that view faded with time.” 

One must go back to George Pocock to find a member of our extended rowing family who has described the metaphysical wonders of rowing with such depth of feeling and sensitivity as Andy Larkin. 

Kathy Keeler, Stroke Olympic Gold Medal Eight, 1984, widow of Harry Parker

I enjoyed reading My Life in Boats, Fast and Slow. I have been around the sport of rowing and the people that Andy Larkin wrote about for years but to read what was going on in his mind during these events adds to the history. You really get the sense of all the dimensions that went into making the 1968 Olympic Boat and then the distractions both mental and physical that many of the oarsmen were dealing with as the Games themselves happened. They performed admirably despite all that. (I had never seen the piece that Harry Parker wrote post 1968 Olympics which was such a vivid explanation of how hard and focused the crew had been during that whole year.)

But the part of the book that I really enjoyed was Andy’s adventures down the Connecticut River in an Alden. You really get to see that river in a new light. Those of us who have rowed in various locations along the Connecticut don’t often slow down enough to enjoy the true beauty of the place. Andy’s adventures go from bucolic to harrowing, but his perseverance in these journeys were wonderful to read about.

Dave Zirin, co-author The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment that Changed the World, Sports Editor The Nation Magazine.

This book not only offers us the full story of the 1968 Olympics, but it is a meditation on a sport that I, for one, know way too little. I was educated and enthralled.


Weight .88 lbs
Dimensions 9 × 6 × 1 in
Levellers Press