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Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder Paperback – March 31, 2015
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When blue-blooded, storklike Samuel Wilson Fussell arrived in New York City fresh from the University of Oxford, the ethereal young graduate seemed like the last person on Earth who would be interested in bodybuilding. But he was intimidated by the dangers of the city—and decided to do something about it. At twenty-six, Fussell walked into the YMCA gym. Four solid years of intensive training, protein powders, and steroid injections later, he had gained eighty pounds of pure muscle and was competing for bodybuilding titles.
And yet, with forearms like bowling pins and calves like watermelons, Fussell felt weaker than ever before. His punishing regimen of workouts, drugs, and diet had reduced him to near-infant-like helplessness and immobility, leaving him hungry, nauseated, and prone to outbursts of “ ’roid rage.” But he had come to succeed, and there was no backing down now.
Alternately funny and fascinating, Muscle is the true story of one man’s obsession with the pursuit of perfection. With insight, wit, and refreshing candor, Fussell ushers readers into the wild world of juicers and gym rats who sacrifice their lives, minds, bodies, and souls to their dreams of glory in Southern California’s so-called iron mecca.
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“A powerful, funny, and disturbing book, a classic piece of Americana.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Lively and enjoyable . . . A modern cautionary tale on answered prayers . . . A very good book.” —The Washington Post
“Easily the best memoir ever written about weight training, steroids and all.” —Men’s Journal
About the Author
- Publisher : Open Road Media; Reprint edition (March 31, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 272 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1504002059
- ISBN-13 : 978-1504002059
- Item Weight : 10.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.25 x 0.68 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #571,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Top reviews from other countries
Sam Fussell is an academic, an Oxford graduate no less, who takes up bodybuilding to cover up his fears and anxieties, to create a shell, an armour, with which to protect him from the everyday life he so fears.
It's funny, tragic and inspiring, and quite graphic. All emotions are here - despair, elation, pride and self-loathing. The dedication of himself and his friends to their cause and journey - for it is a journey for them. And in case you're not sure - this is a true story,
Even if you're not into bodybuilding, I have no hesitation in recommending this book.