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SWOLE

THE MAKING OF MEN AND THE MEANING OF MUSCLE

A memoir, history, and critical essay in one, sure to captivate anyone who’s ever pumped—or dreamed of pumping—iron.

A self-described “meathead” writes compellingly about the world of bodybuilding.

“I am trying to get Big, and doing it very much on purpose. No, I am not sure why. Yes, you can feel my arm.” So writes Brodeur, who, at a glance, might seem an unlikely candidate for bodybuilding: He is, after all, the classical music critic for the Washington Post. But there’s more to bodybuilding than meets the eye. It’s the locus of a gay subculture, a highly visible means of self-expression, and a way of both adopting and subverting he-man ideals—and besides, “I also really love how my ass looks.” Brodeur takes readers on a wide-ranging tour of lifting and the cultural factors that propel “the long physical and psychological road of consciously building one’s body.” One is the world of childhood, in which many boys played with musclemen dolls and unconsciously absorbed their physical ideals; another was the openness of the bodybuilding culture to those who were once the “klutzes who sucked very conspicuously at team sports and grew up to opt for the weight room over the battlefield or the ball field.” Brodeur is consistently funny, but he is also a cleareyed student of the culture with a trove of trivia to fall back on: Who knew that Lou Ferrigno’s Incredible Hulk body double was a Black bodybuilder (no matter, since the filmmakers decided “green is green”) or that some current bodybuilding ideals can be traced to Dutch Renaissance art? Allowing that there are all sorts of prejudices against it, Brodeur, in the end, delivers a host of good reasons for picking up the weights and putting those muscles to work.

A memoir, history, and critical essay in one, sure to captivate anyone who’s ever pumped—or dreamed of pumping—iron.

Pub Date: May 28, 2024

ISBN: 9780807059364

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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