Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder - Book Review

Venturing into the world of bodybuilding with Samuel Wilson Fussell takes the reader on a surreal trip filled with primal screams, shots of human growth hormone in the ass, and lumbering lifters. Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder, Fussell’s memoir, follows the progression of an erudite young man into an Arnold-wannabe.  From the nearly paralyzing fear brought on by living in the violence that was New York City in the early 1980’s to Southern California, where he competed, Fussell delves into what could be legitimately called his confused years.  As with any activity that becomes a compulsion, Fussell overreaches in search of his personal nirvana.
Fussell’s early training in literature shows through in his memoir. Rather than the heavy prose of an iron-head lifter, you get solid description and characterizations of the wacky—and sometimes wacked-out—personalities that populated the lifting and bodybuilding scene. Those that look to this as a training manual will be disappointed as it clearly was not intended to be a “how-to” manual; instead, you get a close look into the mindset of a totally dedicated group of bodybuilders. Fussell writes so seamlessly that we, the readers, get drawn into his world without hesitation, accepting a bewildering world that would have, at first glance, appeared insane.
The power of the book, apart from the skillful writing, is the blatant honesty. That honesty is the source of the humor that permeates the book, and, ultimately, the compassion that builds for the author.