At first glance, Alison Bechdel’s new graphic novel may appear to be a whimsical tour of recent exercise fads, but The Secret to Superhuman Strength is actually a richly observed and philosophical memoir about self-realization, full of Bechdel’s masterful storytelling and, yes, whimsy. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Grappling with the desire for spiritual transcendence in the most intensely personal terms, Bechdel achieves a tricky — even enlightening — balance." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"In Bechdel's inimitable storytelling and comics style, as in her much-loved and -lauded Fun Home (2006) and Are You My Mother? (2012), this is sprawling and dense in the best way." Booklist (Starred Review)
"The author's probing intelligence and self-deprecating humor continue to shimmer through her emotionally expressive drawings....More thought-provoking work from an important creator." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Alison Bechdel's cult following for her early comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For expanded wildly for her family memoirs, the best-selling graphic memoir Fun Home, adapted into a Tony Award-winning musical, and Are You My Mother? Bechdel has been named a MacArthur Fellow and Cartoonist Laureate of Vermont, among many other honors. Her new memoir, The Secret to Superman Strength, is forthcoming in 2021.