The Secret To Superhuman Strength
Author(s): Alison Bechdel
The Best Graphic Book of 2021 by Publishers Weekly | A New York Times Best Graphic Novel of 2021 | A New York Times Notable Book | An Autostraddle Best Queer Book of the Year | A Boston Globe Best Book of the Year | A St. Louis Post Dispatch Best Book of the Year | NPR, 12 Books NPR Staffers Loved | Shelf Awareness Best Books of 2021
From the author of Fun Home, a profoundly affecting graphic memoir of Bechdel's lifelong love affair with exercise, set against a hilarious chronicle of fitness fads in our times
Comics and cultural superstar Alison Bechdel delivers a deeply layered story of her fascination, from childhood to adulthood, with every fitness craze to come down the pike: from Jack LaLanne in the 60s ("Outlandish jumpsuit! Cantaloupe-sized guns!") to the existential oddness of present-day spin class. Readers will see their athletic or semi-active pasts flash before their eyes through an ever-evolving panoply of running shoes, bicycles, skis, and sundry other gear. But the more Bechdel tries to improve herself, the more her self appears to be the thing in her way. She turns for enlightenment to Eastern philosophers and literary figures, including Beat writer Jack Kerouac, whose search for self-transcendence in the great outdoors appears in moving conversation with the author’s own. This gifted artist and not-getting-any-younger exerciser comes to a soulful conclusion. The secret to superhuman strength lies not in six-pack abs, but in something much less clearly defined: facing her own non-transcendent but all-important interdependence with others.
A heartrendingly comic chronicle for our times.
“Color? It’s the first sign that something new is afoot in a book full of familiar flourishes [including] the figure of Bechdel herself, drawn as a bit of a cross between Tintin and Waldo, vibrating with anxiety, doing her best to flee herself on bike or skis or simply afoot….It’s [an] accumulating ease we feel in this book—a supple, loose-limbed grace; an absence of fear that translates into simplicity, discipline and modesty.”
“Astonishing . . . utterly absorbing”
“[Bechdel] set out to write a light book about her lifelong commitment to exercise, including stints as a cyclist, climber, skier and yogi. As usual, her story and art are about so much more—the realities of aging, the quest for transcendence and the drumbeat of mortality.”
“[Bechdel’s] work is known for its unique style of combining incisive insight, humor, emotional resonance, queer ethos, and visually stunning illustration. She brings all of that to her new graphic memoir, The Secret to Superhuman Strength.”
Harvey Award, National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, Lambda Literary Award