5.0 out of 5 stars
Poet of Steel, May 6 2004
Fact is, Draper is the best writer on bodybuilding in print. I don't mean he sprays all kinds of technical (sometimes useful) prose around like more research based writers (though he seems to be current in lifting theory); what he does do is write for the soul of the lifter. Weights for weights sake. The simple, tender but direct, conversations one needs to hear to grow as a person on the gym floor, inside and out, are in this book.
He's funny, yes, and remarkably charming. But at their core the essays in this book are poetic. They clang with the passion of someone who holds belief in a religion or knows an unknown disease cure; they are deeply personal. There are no references to a study done last year on the T levels of ten football players at some college, just to the experiences of one guy who has lifted for 40 years without stopping, East Coast to Muscle Beach to Mr. A and Mr. U to a gym on the California coast; Draper lifts because he has to, he says so all the time; you know what, me too. And I just started.
If you're looking for everything you need to know to begin lifting, you may not find it in this book (Draper writes in more technical depth elsewhere). But you will find a friendly voice every lifter deserves to hear. You will find the heart of lifting, where instead of obsessing over which prohormone stack or what starch has the lowest g.i., you simply stroll your butt to the gym, warm up and find the squat rack and start blasting (or bombing); the sweat stark reality of the squat rack. That's Draper.
If anything, his weekly email posts (found via his web site) show his writing maturing. Skillful word choice, eloquent but casual phrasing, the rhythm in the langauge, even its sound... (yeah, I confess now, I teach English for a living). Dave, at his best, belongs in Best American Essays. He has a gift. I have no doubt. The steel community is lucky to have such a mentor/writer; all lifters will benefit from his tone and content.
As I've hinted, the book isn't perfect; as others have noted, I'd like to see pictures of the exercises (though it seems this was published locally by Dave et. al. and production cost may have been an issue). If he had instructive photos, he could spend less time writing intricate descriptions of the lifts, and do what he really does best: write sermons on iron for those who love it already and need to love it more. And tell his own story.
In some ways perhaps the book is more than one book, or one book trying to know what kind of book it wants to be when it grows up. But have no doubt, it's worthwhile to watch the journey. Those five stars I gave are well-earned.
I recommend the book to anyone interested in bodybuilding. You just have to hear Draper write. If nothing else, it's bound to get you into the gym.