On its face, My Oldtime Strongman Training is exactly what it promises to be. But the sum of this book is greater than its parts.
When presented with the possibility of trying something new, it’s in my nature to read at least one book about it. This is certainly a nod to books—I recommend them as a mechanism for understanding the world!—but also a personal idiosyncrasy, a way for me to immerse myself in a new idea from a safe and relaxed state, which lays some foundation for engaging with the idea in the real world.
And so it was that I found myself picking up Robert “Eisenhans” Spindler’s My Oldtime Strongman Training: How to Build Old School Strength and Muscle, Master Classic Feats of Strength, and Perform Them.
To be clear: In the four years since I’ve updated this site, I have not become a professional or amateur strongwoman (though Amateur Strong Woman is a memoir title with potential). But I did recently seek out a new personal trainer, who floated the idea of peppering strongman-like exercises into our routines for fun. That sent me down a Wikipedia rabbit hole, which in turn sent me to the bookstore. And while there are many books about strength training and weightlifting, Spindler (whose YouTube page you can find here) makes a living as a performing “original strongman” (think: historical festivals, one-man shows, circuses…) Who could pass up that perspective?
Continue reading “My oldtime strongman inspiration”
Returning from vacation tends to engender three questions: How was it? Where did you go? What did you do? For me—freshly returned this week from a five-day sojourn to Vermont—the answer to No. 3 is almost always “I read all of the books.”
My vacay book binges aren’t just the byproduct of fast reading. They’re a result of devoting entire glorious days to the task—turning off the TV, hiding my phone, putting on my comfy pants, and settling into a cushy armchair, preferably one facing some sort of relaxing outdoor vista. In Vermont, it was the pillow-padded wicker deck chair of a cabin on Lake Champlain (at right). Here’s what I got done:
Continue reading “All the sweet books I read on vacation”
If you ever need a gut-check on the scope of your own fatalism, crack the spine on Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem.
The first in a trilogy, TTBP was published in China in 2008, and translated into English for the first time in 2014. It kicks off in the 1960s, during China’s Cultural Revolution, a period in which academics and scientists were punished (killed, even) for their alleged infractions against Communism. But this is just the tip of the three-body iceberg. What surfaces is a geopolitical novel carrying itself as a sci-fi novel (see: World War Z) that explores what might happen on Earth if and when an advanced alien civilization were to make contact. But like, with lots of physics. Lots of physics.
Continue reading “I have a crush on this book”
When a book’s cover touts it as “the best book about men and women written in the last century,” you nominate it for your book club.
Or at least that’s what I was thinking when I put forward Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick for my own. It’s what I was thinking until about 50 pages in, when I realized I’d made a huge mistake.
I really wanted to like this book. A semi-fictional retelling of Kraus’ IRL obsessions with professor Dick Hebdige, the memoir/novel follows Kraus as she and her husband Sylvère meet an artist named Dick and, after an objectively uneventful dinner, become obsessed with him. They begin writing letters to Dick, which Kraus ultimately presents to him as an art project of sorts. While the Dick obsession eventually takes its toll on Kraus and Sylvère’s marriage, and Kraus and Dick do eventually sleep together, the majority of ILD is devoted to these awkward encounters and ambiguous exchanges, and to Kraus’ increasingly cringe-worthy attempts to get Dick’s attention.Kraus’ book was recently adapted into an Amazon show, starring Kathryn Hahn (of Transparent) as Kraus and Kevin Bacon as Dick. The show, while equally cringe-y, is at times laugh-out-loud funny; in its slightly altered plot, Kraus is a hopelessly awkward artist who finds herself stuck in Marfa, Texas, with Sylvère, who has a fellowship at the local college (in the book they go on a road trip).
Continue reading “I did not love I Love Dick”
When you imagine a polar bear these days, two images spring to mind. One is the contended and playful bear of Coca-Cola commercials, a bear that dances with penguins and wears a scarf and enjoys an endless supply of glass-bottled soda. The other image is from the real world (or at least the TV series Planet Earth) and it is much sadder. This bear straddles a too-small ice floe that’s bobbing across vast swaths of melted ocean. This bear loses more of his natural habitat every day.
If polar bears could talk, I like to think they’d feel mildly insulted by this binary, and eager to expound upon the diverse array of experiences that truly embody being bear. I think Yoko Tawada likes to thinks that, too, because the ursine characters in her Memoirs of a Polar Bear can expound. They can also perform, live among humans, and write articulate analyses on everything from geopolitics to literature. They author books and speak at conferences and flirt shamelessly with arrogant sea lions.
Continue reading “Polar bears would write books about climate change”