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ALISON BECHDEL


ALISON BECHDEL THE


SECRET OF SUPERHUMAN STRENGTH


TEXT TOM TIVNAN G


iven the timing of its publica- tion, you would be forgiven for thinking Alison Bechdel’s latest graphic novel, The Secret of Superhuman Strength, might have been borne out of lock- down. Aſter all, the book charts


her decades-long fitness journey, and the pandemic has been a boom time for work- outs, when many of us are doing online HIIT classes, being shouted at by annoyingly perky Peloton instructors, or planking with Joe Wicks on YouTube. (That’s to get in shape for the evening’s binge drinking; maybe I am only speaking of personal experience.) But the book has been in train for some time, and besides, a quick-hit surface-level book is not really in the comics superstar and queer icon’s wheelhouse. “It was supposed to be a light and fun book that I would do prety quickly,” Bechdel insists over Zoom from her studio deep in the Vermont woods. “My previous projects had been long, searching family memoirs, which leſt me a litle burnt out. But apparently, long and searching is the only kind of book I’m able to write. So what started out as something about how I’ve been obsessed by exercise over the years ended up being about my lifelong journey to kind of get my mind and body on the same page. “But I feel like the culture at large has been going through that process, kind of in tandem with the span of my own life, this more Eastern idea of how the mind and body are connected. That’s really been taking hold in the West over the past 60 years in a way that it hadn’t before.” The Secret... is every bit as deep, search- ing and multi-layered as Bechdel’s previous efforts, 2006’s Fun Home (focusing on her father’s closeted homo- or bisexualit and his ultimate probable suicide; in this reporter’s humble opinion, the best memoir of the 21st century) and 2012’s Are You My Mother? (which dealt with Bechdel’s exceedingly complex relationship with her mum). But the new book is fun, too. One of the joys is


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