Praise for The Hero's Body:
"In The Hero's Body, William Giraldi offers a smart, mournful meditation on what it means to be a man at this point in human history when heroic size and strength suddenly count for less, leaving men who pride themselves on such vestigial masculine qualities untethered to both the culture and themselves. Must reading, and not just for men."
“Part Virgil, part Vesalius, William Giraldi tenders, in The Hero’s Body, a bookish man’s contemplation of the epic and catholic incarnations of the manly arts—the heart-wracked, large muscle, high speed, action-figured, sacrificial mysteries of body and of blood. For men who want to know how they came to be the ones they are, and for the women who abide them: a serious, sinewy, humanizing read.”
Thomas Lynch, author of The Undertaking, finalist for the National Book Award
“Magnificent and superbly told...The Hero's Body is a living, throbbing, visceral model of what a memoir should be. You simply never want Giraldi's voice to go away.”
“The Hero's Body provides profound insight into the world of men, their obsessions, their compulsions, their extreme vulnerabilities. This is a beautiful book about bodies that go beyond beauty and into the macabre. Giraldi writes prose that singes as it sings, that never falters in its riveting narrative about strength and speed and grief. I love this book and feel wiser for having read it.”
Lauren Slater, author of Prozac Diary and Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir
“At just under 300 pages, The Hero's Body is an epic, the heavyweight champion of this indiscreet genre. Reckless calisthenics, untimely death, saddening masculinity: these might not seem the ingredients for the Great American Memoir. Until you realize: of course they are. This is America, the Land of Violence and Sadness, and this is the perfect book.”
Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
“Giraldi provides a respectful homage to his father, who died ‘attempting to be worthy of an ancient code,’ but he also pays tribute to the working-class male and the unspoken codes of machismo. A hearty, bittersweet familial chronicle of masculinity drawing on the underappreciated bond between fathers and sons.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"In this gripping meditation on men and death . . . Giraldi’s lucid, vibrant prose illuminates the generally unvoiced codes that determine so much male behavior. In the book’s flawless first half, he vividly evokes life in a central New Jersey township during the Reagan-Bush era . . . His narrative provides remarkable insight into the often-stereotyped world of bodybuilding."
"Giraldi has written a powerful memoir that examines the masculine in great detail. . . . Most admirable is Giraldi's love of literature . . . Throughout this work he continuously astonishes with his highly intelligent verse, apt quotations from literary giants, and creative wording of concepts that are often difficult to convey. This highly recommended book is for anyone who wishes to better understand the male ego, the desire for sheer masculinity, and the need for speed."
"In his compelling memoir, novelist Giraldi uses beautifully nuanced prose to describe growing up in a working-class, hypermasculine New Jersey family."
“Giraldi writes with subtlety about the unsubtle world of clanging metal, exploring with frank tenderness the ways men form friendships and how those friendships can grow into love. The Hero’s Body is suffused with platonic masculine love, the love of weight lifting buddies and motorcycles and the men who ride them, in particular the author’s doomed father. . . . Giraldi has written a powerful and sympathetic accounting of the lengths men will go to discover themselves through the workings of their fragile and complicated bodies, and the ways they discover hidden strength.”
The New York Times Book Review
“William Giraldi’s memoir . . . offers a brilliant anthropological excursion into a world few of us will ever penetrate . . . To an urban reader used to bookstores and cocktail parties, Giraldi’s Manville, N.J., is as exotic as the Kalahari. . . . Perceptive and eloquent.”
The Washington Post
“The Hero’s Body offers a wise and thoughtful personal narrative as well as an illuminating portrait of a seductive, if hazardous, American subculture. . . . Grief is a golem that we all have to contend with at some point in our lives, and some of the most arresting passages in this taut but tender memoir involve the author’s reflections on the loss of his father. . . . In this gathering of memories, a gifted writer has certainly found the right words.”
The Wall Street Journal
"Giraldi writes about his life in a way that shows us the depths of masculinity. He makes us see that if masculinity is a mask, it is bonded to the male face. This is one of the best memoirs I’ve read in years."
“The best memoirs give you a new perspective, make you see a slice of life you had either dismissed or ignored. William Giraldi's does just that as he lyrically explains bodybuilding and . . . recounts his father's death. The book is a philosophical journey into the question of masculinity. . . . A very fine memoir . . . which poetically explains male angst, weightlifting, and a very literate son’s deep love for a very fine father.”
“There isn’t a sentence in The Hero’s Body that lacks vigor or limps onto the page. His prose is sonorously throttled like a twin-barrel exhaust, and as Giraldi feeds 'the mandatory obsessiveness of grieving,' his attention to language becomes more acute.”
Los Angeles Review of Books
"The language of The Hero’s Body captures the adrenaline-drenched world of training and lifting without fetishizing that sphere. What keeps Giraldi grounded is his recognition of the fragility of our bodies, particularly when they are pushed to their limits. . . . The Hero’s Body is easily the most literary book ever written about bodybuilding. . . . At its soul, it is a New Jersey book about a New Jersey father."
"The Hero's Body is a terse, gripping memoir set in working-class New Jersey. Giraldi’s hyper-masculine childhood is a foil for his revelations on the true fragility of male identity."
"Absorbing . . . Giraldi urges us to put aside our preconceptions and appreciate bodybuilding as an aesthetic pursuit, and the bodybuilder as a kind of walking poetry."
The Times Literary Supplement
"Is this the best book I’ve ever read on the subject of masculinity? Maybe it is, I thought, the first time I read it. And then I thought, Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full is about masculinity. So is Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon, David Vann’s Goat Mountain and Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. But this book is different. It is really about masculinity. The maleness here feels very raw."
“Giraldi's robust and elegant writing delves in a vigorously poetic fashion into the heroic efforts men make to sculpt their bodies—either through bodybuilding or riding motorcycles—and discovers that the truly heroic is being fully and convincingly yourself.”
“Obsession and extremity, masculinity, and the heroism of Giraldi’s title are the major themes. Christ haunts the pages. So does family, and the strange confederations families inspire, plus the ways they can fall apart and be destroyed . . . The Hero’s Body contains beauty, solace, humor, a whole reference library.”
"A poignant, brutally candid account of growing up scrawny and bookish in a family of unapologetic, unforgiving masculinity, and of the obsessions [Giraldi] developed in coming to terms with that ethos as well as with a tragic loss."
"Deeply fascinating . . . A gifted novelist, Giraldi dwells in the world of the dark and complex, and he brings that perspective to this memoir."
The National Book Review
“Giraldi’s own style is graceful and poetic, influenced no doubt by poets like Larkin, Yeats and Auden, whose words enrich this memoir. . . . [A] profoundly moving memoir.”