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Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder Paperback – August 1, 1992
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From Publishers Weekly
Fussell, who took up bodybuilding after attending Oxford, tells his story and examines the diets, drugs and dedication that drive the bodybuilding world. Enjoyable reading.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
YA-- Teenage boys who a generation ago would have answered Charles Atlas ads will be attracted to this book about Fussell's own immersion program in bodybuilding. He is an Oxford honors graduate in English language and literature and writes engagingly about what drew him into the subculture of gym life. He includes the reaction of his bewildered parents and describes the assortment of gym habitues who befriended him. This is no George Plimpton inside glimpse--the author lived the bodybuilding life full-time for four years, and he shares with his readers that life of mind-numbing exercises, fistfuls of vitamins, and steroid injections. This is destined to be a cult book that will survive because of its humor, its truth, and its fine writing. --Judy McAloon, Richard Byrd Library, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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I've never been a bodybuilder, and my own fitness levels have waxed and waned over the years, but I did go through a period where I got hooked on going to the gym and strove to lift heavier and heavier weights. My motivation, like most others, was the knowledge that I should be fitter than I was, but I did see the powerlifters and bodybuilders who strove for something beyond mere fitness, for reasons known only to them.
Fussell says that he turned to bodybuilding out of feelings of fear and vulnerability while walking the streets of New York. For reasons he explores in the book, but not quite getting to the real reason - SPOILER ALERT - he gave it up after he competed in his first bodybuilding events.
I don't want to get all Chicken Soup for the Soul or anything, but after an initial read, it seems to me that he did what he did not because of what he felt he lacked on the outside, but for a sense of manliness, for lack of a better of word, that he didn't feel on the inside. He embraced the "bodybuilder identity" and all of its outward hypermasculinity, but eventually realized its hollowness, and when the reality of competition didn't live up to his expectations, he dropped it completely. That's growth, I suppose, but the author's bio page now makes a point of him being a subsistence hunter in Montana, which seems to be another way of seeking to actualize and announce one's manhood. Why the need to call out "the author is now a subsistence hunter", rather than simply saying "the author lives in Montana", unless one is trying to make an impression?
At any rate, it is a good read, and an interesting read, but not the classic I was hoping for. Its reputation is a bit overstated.
The friends he makes in his adventure are shown as two-dimensional, but some seem to have cared about him, adding to the story. You feel sorry for them, but at the same time they seem happier than a lot of people - at least they're doing something they enjoy part of the time.
It's a fast read, after a few chapters, the pace and feel are set. By that point you'll know if you're going to like it.
I would not say this is the best written book, nor is it overly pensive; but I could not put it down. And it gives some good insight into the single mindedness of the sport. Best of all was the perspective on the show and show prep.
There is also a plain, harsh coverage of the narcissism, training philosophy, and steroid use of modern bodybuilders. It is both illuminating and terrifying. Samuel does a good job covering how the worst bodybuilders in California are better than many of the best everywhere else at the same time that he reveals how emotionally stunted those aspiring to "go pro" tend to be.
Again, you don't expect to enjoy Muscle. It just grows on you.