Wednesday, July 01, 2009

More Books I've read in 2009

Mr. America: How Muscular Millionaire Bernarr Macfadden Transformed the Nation Through Sex, Salad, and the Ultimate Starvation Diet.

Don't feel bad, I had never heard of Bernarr Macfadden before either, but every American who lived in the first half of the 20th Century knew who he was. He was the more muscular of those turn of the century health reformers like Kellogg, Post and Graham, although like them he was obsessed with his bowels -- he even used to eat sand, figuring if it was good enough to clean glass bottles, it ought to be good enough to clean his innards. In addition to basically inventing American body building and strength training directly -- through his long-running magazine Physical Culture, his Healthatorium -- and indirectly (he inspired among others, Charles Atlas, Joe Weider and Jack LaLanne) he also can law claim or take the blame for creating tabloid journalism (his New York Evening Graphic, where Walter Winchell got his start is widely considered the worst newspaper ever) and inspiring reality television -- although it was reality magazines at first; Macfadden published True Story and True Confessions among dozens of other magazines. He was a millionaire, a mover and a shaker, friend of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, but he died broke and -- as you know -- is today largely forgotten. His obscurity is undeserved however. I don't read a lot of biographies but this one was fascinating. The author ever guinea-pigged himself out with some of Macfadden's more bizare health and fitness regimens with mixed (but often hilarious) results.

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