September 10th, 2013 / 1:42 pm

Exercise Routines of Skinny White Male Writers

I graduated 200th in my class out of 400 students. This talent for ridding the middle also translated to sports. During gym, when Coach Monty split the class into the jocks and the fats, I was first lumped into the fats because I was tall and lanky, a weird looking kid who appeared a bit too pretty and totally indifferent to the movement of a ball. But I would dominate the fats so I’d be placed with the jocks, and thusly be dominated by the jocks, and then sent back to the fats where I glided in for uncontested layup after layup. Once, I got rim, and someone referred to me as “speed demon.”

This happened in most sports I played throughout high school, my bony frame (I have a minor chest deformity where the left side of my chest bone slightly, but literally, protrudes out) being switched from one group to the next, never exactly fitting in. I showed some talent for swimming, and on the recommendation from Coach Monty, joined the swim team in tenth grade. But I never made sectionals – coming up a second short no matter what stroke I was told to try, which was all. I always finished in the middle. I was the skinny kid. I wore a size 26 waist Speedo. Coach Monty’s running joke during practice, when I swam freestyle, was that I would “disappear” when I turned onto my side to breathe. I wanted to.

I’ve always been called skinny. Worse yet, for a boy growing up in the 1980’s, called girly. My mom encouraged me to grow my hair long so I asked an unwilling barber to cut my hair like Eddie Furlong in Terminator 2. I liked the color pink and everything gold and I still do. I once video tapped myself, left hand only with sparkling glove, full-split dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller on the family play room’s avocado-green rug. Recently, while flipping through my childhood photos, I realized I wore such small shorts.

Being skinny and girly followed me pretty much everywhere as a child. When my parents signed me up for Camp Ben Becker’s summer camp, I didn’t talk to anyone for the roughly two hour commute to what appeared to be a farm for breeding bullies. Immediately after getting off the bus a counselor announced “Girl” and someone shoulder-guided me away from the other boys. I fondly remember, the next day during soccer, being punched firmly in the stomach after missing a penalty shot and experiencing the wind being knocked out of me for the first time. I can still feel that punch, and can still see myself on my knees in the wet grass, all those blue Umbros walking away, my crumpled body death-heaving under the Camp Ben Becker’s sky. “Girl,” said one of the blue Umbros in the distance at a water fountain.

Lately I’ve been doing push-ups and pull-ups and thinking a lot about exercise in general. I want to get stronger. I realize I’d have to lift weights and eat a shit load of protein to gain muscle, but I’ll most likely always be skinny and not the most masculine guy. I’m okay with that. My skinny frame is from my father, it’s in my DNA. Recently my Mom told my father he needed to gain weight (during his physical last month he found out he lost eighteen pounds in the last year). My father told me on the phone, “I don’t know what she wants. I’ll never be like The Rock.”

So what do other skinny male writers do for exercise? I decided to use my connections in publishing to ask around. In the past several months I’ve had lunch with dozens of agents, editors, and publicists, and gathered the below information. I’ve found it incredibly inspiring, and I think readers will too. I bought a pull-up bar a few weeks ago. I can do three. I started only be able to do only three push-ups and now I can hit twenty-five. Here are the exercise routines of some big name skinny white guys:

Cormac McCarthy does nothing but deadlifts, seven days a week, morning, afternoon, and night. His diet consists mainly of burnt toast, Starbucks blonde roast, and anything spicy (brings his own hot sauce to Chipotle). Once arm-wrestled his brother-in-law during Thanksgiving dinner and separated his shoulder but kept going, eventually winning due to concern from his shocked brother-in-law and pleading family members to stop. Cormac likes his upper legs massaged by seven different women (each named a day of the week by himself) as the sun sets, which he calls, and whispers to the woman massaging, “the burning of our absurd abyss.” Cormac believes in core strength and power and never does any cardio – he is easily winded on trips to the grocery store but occasionally has been seen at Whole Foods doing squat thrusts while holding a watermelon in each hand.

Don DeLillo runs a 5K each morning followed by hot yoga in the evening. Has been kicked out of several NYC yoga studios (Pure Yoga, Om Yoga, and Bikram Yoga Herald Square) for positioning himself behind female students and muttering to an adjacent male counterpart “a room with a view, indeed, my sweet.” Several rumors state that Don runs the stairs at Rockefellers Plaza at midnight, in the nude, while chanting “the future belongs to crowds, I am the crowd.” He’s against any kind of weight lifting, instead pushing his body thinner and thinner, imagining himself as a dainty and beautiful feather, rising above our bullshit American culture and toxic sunsets.

J.M. Coetzee is known for his quiet demeanor and monkish lifestyle so his reclusive nature allows him to religiously participate in home workouts like Jillian Michael’s 30 day shred and P90X. At night he does Kegel exercises while googling himself repeatedly on the first ever Dell laptop. A vegetarian, Coetzee allows himself an annual trip to Shake Shack which he refers to as “destroying the system to rebuild the system” and prefers not to speak, instead just handing the cashier a crisp hundred dollar bill and muttering “what you wish, no change.” Also enjoys jogging, ridding wild boars, and LA Boxing.

William Vollman is just constantly fucking. Once told an Iowa MFA student during a Q&A that the last time he ate a vegetable was 1978. Believes that meat is holy and the more he can ingest, the better. From his home office, Vollman has a view of a local high school track and in the early mornings, while looking over the bare shoulder of the woman mounting him, mocks the day’s first joggers by calling them “half-lives.” His incredible lower body strength allows him to write hundreds of pages while standing up, a typewriter attached to his bare crotch by fishing wire spooled around his body. Never sleeps. Enjoys deep tissue massage but it never hurts enough for him. Once tossed a kettle-bell at Jonathan Safran Foer just because.

Paul Auster meditates each morning by starring at himself in a gold framed mirror while whispering “Paul Auster.” Frequents CrossFitNYC where he arrives covered in sweat, decked out in full neon orange Under Armour. When Paul does his ten pull-ups he makes it awkwardly sexual, humping toward the ceiling as his arms tremble, whisper-spitting to himself “Come on Paul Auster.” His diet is every vegetable. Once ran back-to-back marathons because he bet himself he couldn’t do it. Almost every motion Paul performs is tied to exercise and fitness, what he calls the “Paul Auster oracle of well being.” For example, a Brooklyn waitress blogged last year at a now defunct BlogSpot that when he took the bottle of ketchup from her that he “curled” his arm, inhaled-exhaled twice, then slowly brought it to the table. Also, each bite of food was connected to an arm-stretch, neck-twist, or spine-bend. Farts openly in public because it’s natural and we’re all beautiful animals.


  1. jeremy

      This is wonderful, thank you so much. Do one for Thomas Pynchon, Umberto Eco, and Miguel de Cervantes next.

  2. Trey

      how did that eddie furlong haircut turn out? that’s my dream haircut right now. I want to find a hairdresser who will know exactly what I mean when I ask for john connor from terminator 2.

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