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03Feb

My Father’s Diet by Adrian Nathan West review – sadness on steroids

This slim comic debut about an estranged family and a bodybuilding father is a striking study of failure

“Oh, nice!” says a father to his son when he learns a package has arrived for him. The son asks what it is. “Well, ha, ha, you’re probably going to think your old man’s lost his damned mind. It’s called Finaplix. Trenbolone acetate. It’s a cattle steroid. They give it to heifers to beef them up before slaughter.”

The father doesn’t have an appointment at an abattoir but with a photographer, who will capture him smothered in baby oil “half-snarling and half-beaming” in black bikini briefs as he poses for the final stage of the Body You Choose competition. At the age of 55, he has become a bodybuilder. If the son thinks he has lost his mind, he keeps it to himself.

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