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Review of Clarence Bass' book, "Great Expectations"
Review by Greg Sushinsky
The bold though partially hidden display of a lean, taut nude figure of a man, which carefully reveals, yet tastefully conceals via shadow, the physique of one of the greatest practitioners of physical culture in our modern day, is the first thing that strikes you about Clarence Bass’ new book, “Great Expectations". The cover art is a fine choice for the book, part suggestive of bodybuilding, part fitness, part art, and stands at a kind of a junction between all these, maybe fusing them for a moment in a way that is both startling and welcome at this point in the history of bodybuilding and fitness, invoking the spirit of true physical culture.
The striking character of the front cover is balanced out by the friendly, informal welcoming photo of Bass on the back, as the cover notes clearly announce what he and the book are about: It is a package that points beyond mere bodybuilding and even fitness, and points to a celebration, an updating and bringing into the 21st century a new physical culture. The front cover photo by Laszlo Bencze, though, and many other photos by him throughout the book, announce well that this is not just another bodybuilding or fitness book.
Clarence Bass is a well-known, significant name in the fitness field, best known in bodybuilding. He is at this writing just turned age 70, is a former lawyer, has been a successful high-school athlete, an Olympic lifting champion, a title-winning bodybuilder, who champions exercise, fitness, nutrition and health in a lifelong way which outshines all previous limiting categories of these topics. Known in his extreme definition which he still wears as his body, a badge from his ceaseless devotion over the years to his craft, a craft which is far beyond bodybuilding and fitness and for which there is truly no category, though physical culture would come closest. Bass is also a prolific writer, author of eight excellent books who wrote the Ripped Department column for Muscle & Fitness magazine for 16 years.
While some may be initially put off by the unusual photo of Bass on the cover, it is a cover that may one day become—should become—a classic in physical culture. Also, the subtitle, “Health, Fitness, Leanness, Without Suffering,” is pointed, direct, and perhaps ground breaking as well. Some of the material within the pages has been touched upon or at least hinted at by Bass in his other writings, but the value in this book is both the elaboration and the organic way in which it’s organized and written. Though the book is read best in order (a logical approach, no?), once read, you can go back to many of the sections which do double-duty and can stand also on their own.
The book begins with an overview highlighting Clarence Bass’ approach, which invokes a connected spirit of attitude and action married to positive anticipation of results; it is a theme of engagement that will wind through the whole work as he shows you how he does this and how you can too. He then launches into two chapters the likes of which you don’t usually find in fitness and certainly bodybuilding books. These two chapters cover Bass’ medical encounters with hip replacement and bladder surgery. What makes these chapters different is that candid medical experiences are seldom included in the super-human writings of most athletes, rarely in bodybuilding and fitness circles, and are rarer still drenched in the kind of naked honesty that Clarence provides. Chapter three, detailing his problems and subsequent treatment for his bladder problem, capture the fear, anxiety, aloneness and frustration that we all nearly universally come up against at some time in our lives when faced with medical problems. It is a tribute to Bass’ honesty that he includes this, and the way he does again vaults the book far beyond the mere fitness category.
The heart of the how-to then begins with Bass detailing the hows and whys of weight loss, metabolism, exercise and eating. One of the best things Bass does as an author is share stories and approaches of others, giving them the limelight, sharing what Clarence has learned from even ordinary practitioners of the art of leanness, exercise and health. He details practical ways to achieve and maintain fat loss that work for many, and that are sustainable without heroic effort.
The exercise Rx follows suit. Bass explains the whys and whats of exercise and how his own approach has evolved, and how yours can, too, into a reasonably intense but neither time-consuming regimen nor killing effort that will take care of both strength and cardiovascular training, the twin pillars of importance for best exercise results. Further chapters elaborate on the exercise approach in greater detail, with more background and some scientific citing.
The center of Bass’ ways involve a consistent whole food, low fat nutritional approach, which for him is a way of eating, not a diet. He is, in his words, anti-diet, instead counseling to develop a consistent, gradual approach to losing weight and body fat. He also goes into great detail showing how he applies his principles to his own eating and how this fits into his lifestyle as a part of it, not its sum or totality. The whole idea is to live a full life, to enjoy your eating and exercising, not to work excessively hard, and not to suffer (remember the sub-title?). Even his chapter on reaching a physical peak, chapter seven, where he shows you how he goes about his preparation for elite-level leanness and physique training, illustrate these ideas in action.
There is more than this, even. Clarence Bass, via photographer Laszlo Bencze, shares photos and writings of days of his personal life with his wife Carol, which shows how Clarence integrates these physical culture principles into his daily living and also gives us a glimpse into the wider personality that Clarence is other than the fitness persona part. Bass the image becomes a more fleshed-out, multi-dimensional man in this.
There are some criticisms to make of the book, the foremost one being that those who are non-exercisers with serious weight problems are likely to find Bass’ example a bit daunting, if not intimidating. Clarence does his best to invite them in, quell their fears, and to encourage them; there’s not much else he can do. Also, sometimes Bass relies a bit too much on citing the scientific underpinnings in his discussion. It can be helpful, yet to those unconvinced it will be meaningless, to those already convinced, unnecessary. One thought to keep in mind: Bass has a definite point of view that falls along the spectrum of silent (or otherwise) arguing in the fitness world: he is a staunch proponent of low-fat living, though without over-simplifying, he does briefly offer a discussion if not a nod of acknowledgement for those who prefer the nearly opposite, the low-carb approach.
Small criticisms aside, you will find wonderful things here: Bass’ personal adventure into leanness, the things he shows and teaches, the shared, encouraging joyful nature of his path, such things as the spotlight on Nils Wikstrom, a friend of Clarence’s whose own unique yet compatible views of fitness illustrate Clarence’s own tolerant approach, and the many friends Clarence cites that he’s made and who in turn encourage him in his own fitness endeavors. This is in some way the heart of the book: encouragement.
Clarence Bass is not only a passionate advocate for healthy exercise and nutrition, but is an ardent, expert practitioner of same and an articulate, highly intelligent spokesman for it. This comes shining through the book. It is in its sinews and corpuscles, in much the same way that Clarence has stamped these practices into the sinews and corpuscles of his own body and life. So, too, there is a “more than” here, which is that the book is more than merely an abstract treatise on leanness and exercise, it is also the encounter with a man who has rather than just observing, plunged deep into the adventure, and along the way communicated with relish the joy and struggles of this
journey to his fellow beings. We are the richer for his experiences.
Health Fitness Leanness
by Clarence Bass
Paperback, Shrink Wrapped
Published: December 2007
size: 6" X 9" X 1/2"
© Greg Sushinsky
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