Book Reviews

Soul of a Lifter. Book Review by Bill Sodomsky

There are a few book display stands on the main floor of the X Fitness building, adjacent the counter space, a couple comfortable chairs, TV monitors, clothing racks and well-used fitness equipment. The heavy iron and fitness studio areas are located below and above the main traffic area, where the serious business of training is not disturbed by foot traffic and lingering. Book displays and gyms that cohabitate, for the most part, are oxymoronic, but not in the world of Gino Arcaro, the author of “Soul of a Lifter” and a variety of other publications. In Arcaro’s mind, intellect and brawn are inseparable.

I am a pathological reader in addition to being a compulsive lifter. Each day for about a week I would pick up “Soul of a Lifter” and read a section. The material was fascinating and it resonated with the “WHY” I had spent the past 42 years on a continuous basis in various gyms across the country.

Arcaro’s writing style is not for the faint-hearted. You must be strapped into tolerate the positive and negative G-forces that go with the ride. The term “lifter” has a double meaning according to the author; a combination of serious weight lifter and sincere up-lifter. The soul within all of us can achieve its maximum potential if it incorporates the fearless pursuit of iron will by lifting iron and helping those who need and want to be uplifted. The weight room for Arcaro, is the foundry of the soul where hearts, minds and bodies are forged. It’s where we encounter ourselves head on, no excuses, no bullshit, no vanity and no ground given.

The plight of the immigrant in the post war era is laid bare by Arcaro. Antonio, the flour lifter, Gino’s father, is representative of real suffering, real sacrifice, personal integrity and enormous strength. Children of immigrants are caught in a tug of war where elders of old cultures seek to discipline and influence, against the backdrop of modern society. Arcaro reconciles the immigrant mindset and disposition in contrast to the world outside this vantage point, by separating out what is inherently noble and good in both cultures, an amalgam of the best of both worlds. The Antonio’s, who represent the immigrants and the Jack’s and the Valvano’s that represent the moderns of a small industrial town, are Gino’s heroes. They are the toughest of the toughest, the unsung heroes, and their pride and courage leave an indelible stamp on Arcaro’s psyche.

To read “Soul of a Lifter” one must be nimble. Arcaro riffs like a jazz master, one theme leads to the next, then a stream of consciousness laced with internal dialogue wrought with unabashed obscenities, inserts of Facebook posts, carefully crafted and documented events that read like history, scholarly references from Biblical passages, educators, philosophers and other’s that left their mark on Arcaro’s character. Heraclitus, who Arcaro mentions and quotes, famously stated, ”Character is Fate.” Coaching non-elites, front-line policing, entrepreneurial pursuits, education, teaching and weightlifting are not disconnected vocations in the author’s mind, they fuse together to forge the Soul of a Lifter.

For those of us who have spent more than an inordinate amount of time in the “Iron Vault,” Arcaro’s treatise on lifting shines light on the “WHY” we do it. All of us, consciously or subconsciously, determine the fate and direction of our lives. Yes… outside forces are somewhat determinative, but far from definitive. The pursuit of meaningful purpose and a legacy worth remembrance can be achieved by the nexus of iron and will. Gino Arcaro motivates us to be TRUE LIFTERS!

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