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The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison…

The Secret to Superhuman Strength (original 2021; edition 2021)

by Alison Bechdel (Author)

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1057201,842 (4.28)8
Title:The Secret to Superhuman Strength
Authors:Alison Bechdel (Author)
Info:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2021), 240 pages
Collections:Read but unowned, Your library

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The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel (2021)


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As always, incredibly engaging and an real treat. 'The Secret to Superhuman Strength' finds Bechdel examining her collection of sporting and exercise equipment and confronting her own mortality. The book covers her life from her teens through her 50s and takes us right up to the present day. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Jun 15, 2021 |
A rambling but mostly engaging memoir of Bechdel's lifelong fetish for exercise equipment and a slow coming to terms with her mortality. She goes decade by decade from the 1960s (her teens) through the 2010s (her fifties), touching on what athletic fad du jour had caught her attention and what was happening with her family and in her inner life. Intertwined is an outline of her developing philosophy by way of biographical sketches from the lives of a small group of 18th century Romantics, 19th century Transcendentalists, 20th century Beats, and references to Buddhism and some other Eastern traditions.

It's a nostalgic trip for someone like me who is about the same age and read the same Charles Atlas comic strip advertisements in the same comic books and watched the same exercise crazes become popular and fade away. For fans of Fun Home there are plenty of references to the events of that book. She also dishes a bit on her various romantic relationships.

Things get a little meta and dull in the final chapter as Bechdel wallows about, talking about how production of this book is dragging out and how she is flailing around for an ending, but it is still an enjoyable browse. ( )
1 vote villemezbrown | Jun 8, 2021 |
Alison Bechdel and I were born within about three weeks of one another. I have been a fan for so many years -- when I came out in the mid 1980s her comic strip "Dykes to Watch Out For" was a significant cultural mirror. I knew those characters. I knew those internal battles. I certainly knew those cultural referents. The Secret to Superhuman Strength may resonate for me especially because our lives have been so parallel. Don't get me wrong: our lives have been different in SO many ways! But her 20s were my 20s; her 40s were my 40s. This graphic memoir is sold as an exploration of the role of exercise in her life but it is so much more than that. It is a memoir about the search for inner peace, the desire for both autonomy and intimacy, and how, for her, exercise has been a central element of coming to terms with these fraught human strivings. I've also been a runner for my entire adult life (until last August's knee replacement) and Bechdel's descriptions of the numbing and exhilarating effects of vigorous cardio exercise spoke to me in a visceral and sweet way.

Her drawings are, as always, a joy. I love her inclusion of background images that center each story firmly in its place and time (picture George W. Bush on the television in the background while she and her girlfriend are arguing over whether Alison should take a vacation). I also love her inclusion of her pets over the years; there is almost always a cat -- and occasionally a dog -- in her drawings of home.

I also appreciate that Bechdel does her research. She is an intellectual and a historian. The detours about Wordsworth, Emerson, Coleridge, Margaret Fuller, and Kerouac were delightful if a bit hard sometimes to keep straight (no pun intended). Her notice of themes in their lives and how they are mirrored in her own were a compelling element in the universality of her introspection.

My sister had this book sitting on the bedside table when I arrived for my first visit in 21 months (damn pandemic). It's not quite as good as the five-star *Fun Home* but it's a wonderful read. I'll probably purchase a copy to place on my shelves next to *Fun Home*, *Are You My Mother?*, and *The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For*. ( )
1 vote EBT1002 | May 29, 2021 |
With The Secret to Superhuman Strength, Allison Bechdel has managed to write yet another successful graphic novel memoir — this one revolves around her lifelong passion for exercise. Using side stories of famous writers and figures like Joseph Campbell, Coleridge, Margaret Fuller, Emerson, Buddha, and Kerouac, Bechdel compares her quest for self-identity and understanding to theirs. As always, the writing is excellent, the content profound, and the drawings are her usual artistry. The Secret to Superhuman Strength is a wonderful and raw examination of Bechdel’s obsessive routines and attempts at finding herself through exercise, therapy, and relationships. ( )
  Hccpsk | May 28, 2021 |
I've been waiting for this book for probably 6+ years, since I first heard that Alison Bechdel was publishing a new book. I couldn't wait! I put it on hold at my local library as soon as I realized that it was finally, finally, finally out.

I mean, this book isn't bad. It's not about what the title would imply. It's just a loose memoir of the author's life, but not focused on her parents as her last two books were. I liked it, it had the flow of her other books but in kind of a different way. But... something about it just didn't really click. ( )
  lemontwist | May 26, 2021 |
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