As a girl, William Giraldi would pump himself full of steroids, touched the gym … and secretly read Keats. His new memoir peruses the absurdities of modern masculinity and foresees a better world-wide in which his sons dont get caught in its poisonou grip
As a teenage bodybuilder, William Giraldi would obscure a battered old Keats paperback between the pages of Muscle& Fitness magazine to speak during his evening cardio, a move he calls” a reversal of the classic Playboy mag inside school textbooks “. His new memoir, The Hero’s Body, is littered with anecdotes like this: fables of the insecurities and silliness of manlines, which document the spans mortals go to in order to find a feeling of self-worth in their manhood. Literature, prowes, music- almost anything that would be of no use on a battlefield- were deplored as effeminate by Giraldi’s family and gym sidekicks, pushing him to pursue these interests in secret.
” That’s the perfect sketch of the kind of bifurcated life I was guiding at the time ,” Giraldi says, likening his furtive Keats reading to that of a gay being in the wardrobe.” You’ve got this part of yourself that’s center to yourself, that’s at the hub of you. You can’t carry it, you can’t exert it, you can’t saunter the room you want to walk in the world because of how you’ll be perceived .”
The first half of The Hero’s Body investigates Giraldi’s foray into the world of weightlifting and muscular showmanship- initially activated by the weakness he find following a bout of meningitis at 15- while the latter portion delves into his father’s violent death in a motorcycle coincidence a decade subsequently. Both, he says, were the outcomes of” a primitive species of tribalism in which soldiers were coerced- or volunteered- to testify themselves in the most hazardous directions “.
Throughout history, males have participated in initiation rites as they penetrate adulthood. To Giraldi, this moves someway towards explaining why his bodybuilding began in his mid-teens, and hitherto “his fathers” was vastly older, in his 40 s, when he got into biking.” It shows that it never really going on around here, that there’s an initiation rite but then once you’re initiated you’re never let off the hook. You’re never free from it. It’s a poisoned mode of being a gentleman, because you can never acquire .”