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The Lonesome Bodybuilder: Stories

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3.65  ·  Rating details ·  736 ratings  ·  146 reviews
A housewife takes up bodybuilding and sees radical changes to her physique--which her workaholic husband fails to notice. A boy waits at a bus stop, mocking businessmen struggling to keep their umbrellas open in a typhoon--until an old man shows him that they hold the secret to flying. A woman working in a clothing boutique waits endlessly on a customer who won't come out ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published November 6th 2018 by Soft Skull Press (first published November 1st 2018)
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3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  736 ratings  ·  146 reviews


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Sam Quixote
A lonely housewife takes up bodybuilding. A shop assistant tries to find the perfect outfit for a customer she never sees who’s locked in the fitting room. Broken umbrellas make people fly in typhoons, small musical instruments fall out of straw husbands and women duel with their male partners in the night - this is Yukiko Motoya’s short story collection, Picnic in the Storm!

I quite liked The Lonesome Bodybuilder though the ending was a bit of a flop. Overall though I liked aspects of the stori
...more
Kazen
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
These surreal yet grounded stories are exactly my kind of thing.

Many start in the mundane - a happy or unhappy marriage, a scene at work. One strange but believable thing happens, then something a bit more odd, until Motoya leads you down a path to the absolutely absurd. It's ridiculous, but you can't imagine the story spinning out any other way.

Themes include knowing yourself, how we are changed by contact with other people, and the place of women in Japanese society. Even more so than in the W
...more
Robin Bonne
4.19 Stars. I decided to rate each individual story in this collection. The author used magical realism to create modern fairytales around the complex feelings of womenhood. The translator did a lovely job with this one, and it included modern slang terms which a less talented translator might have gotten slightly wrong.


The Lonesome Bodybuilder5/5 -Excellent story about a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage. She decides to become a bodybuilder.
Fitting Room 5/5 - A mysterious customer is in the
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Uriel Perez
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
There's weird and then there's "Oh my goodness, what the heck did I just read?" weird. The stories collected in Yukiko Motoya's "The Lonesome Bodybuilder" belong to the latter group.

These stories are incisive explorations of domestic life fraught with tension and "out-of-left-field" bizarre field trips into the dark woods of the mind.

Immersive, captivating, I can't get enough of Yukiko Motoya!
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
These unique stories filled with magical realism take a tongue-in-cheek look at the relationships between men and women. The stories can seem weird at first, but once you get used to the author’s sly humor this is a great read.
Resh (The Book Satchel)
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
A mixed bag of stories. The common themes include marriage, gender dynamics, loneliness and intimacy. Most stories have a magical realism twist as well - people turn into flowers, people fly away in umbrellas. While some stories are bizarre, some are excellent because of the way they deal with human psychology (An Exotic marriage). There are 11 stories in the collection;Some of the stories stood out more than the others. Here are my favs:

Favourites: (5 stars)
-The Lonesome body builder : A favour
...more
Audra (ouija.doodle.reads)
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: whack, short-stories
For fans of the modern stylings of Haruki Murakami, Etgar Keret, Carmen Maria Machado, Karen Russell, and Kelly Link, comes another uniquely brilliant voice in short fiction, and one we are lucky to have.

Most of the stories here center around themes of gender and power dynamics, as well as the problems, loneliness, and loss of true feelings and intimacy that can go along with being in relationships.

Motoya has a strangely specific ability to find a very realistic situation, like a married couple
...more
Lauren
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was utterly riveted by Motoya’s short stories.

I am not much of a short story reader and am very picky about those I do read. But I have found I really enjoy Asian fiction, so I was curious to read The Lonesome Bodybuilder.

Motoya’s stories are weird, but not a disturbing or uncomfortable weird. More like an engrossing blend of the human mundane and surreal minutia which fluctuates and grows as the story progresses.

There is nothing lost in translation. The writing is succinct and sharp; no fl
...more
Katie
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-reviews
Weird and wonderful, The Lonesome Bodybuilder is a delightfully odd collection of short stories. Using magical realism and the absurd, Yukiko Montoya explores gender roles, social convention, and marital power dynamics in small, powerful bursts.

Motoya’s eleven stories all begin with the ordinary, if not mundane, and slowly splinter into the fantastic. A young housewife transforms her body while weightlifting at the gym, yet her husband remains oblivious. A saleswoman gives superb customer servic
...more
Lauren
Delightfully weird short stories! My favorites in the collection were the title story "The Lonesome Bodybuilder" and the sprawling "An Exotic Marriage".
Rebecca Marie
Sep 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Across eleven stories (narrated by women more often than not), the strange is used to displace very real questions about gender, power, and relationships. This is a book wherein a husband and wife begin resembling one another to the point that neither looks human; mountain peonies bloom out of underpants; strange men glide off buildings with the help of umbrellas rendered useless in typhoon rains. I loved this collection, how sure each story was of what it wanted to be. Equal parts Aesop and Kaf ...more
Chris
Sep 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: japanese-fiction
I received my copy of The Lonesome Bodybuilder from the publisher on Edelweiss+.

I have mixed feelings about this set of stories. At first, I thought I generally didn't like it. But, after thinking about each of the stories more, they're growing on me. I've had this reaction before with Oe, Ryu Murakami, and Ogawa, so I'm not going to complain.

I feel like each of the stories grabbed my attention or interest in different ways. Some of them, like The Lonesome Bodybuilder, Typhoon, Paprika Jiro, and
...more
Madeline
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
The stories in Motoya's collection revolve around love, intimate relationships and individuality. Motoya explores the niches of modern society, bringing out the magical in the everyday, in a slightly more up-front and surprising manner than the famed Haruki Murakami. Each story delves deep into the main character's mind, examining their reactions to those around them and the world they inhabit. To express these complex thoughts, Motoya often relies on magical realism, creating bizarre, unexpecte ...more
Natalie (CuriousReader)
I was introduced to Yukiko Motoya through her short story “The Dogs” published in Granta magazine a few years back and have been eagerly anticipating more of her work making it over to the English book market. Motoya’s first book to be published in English, The Lonesome Bodybuilder, is a Pandora’s box of weird and magical stories. This collection as a whole starts of with stories of real tenderness but with a twist, they go in unexpected directions and it’s pure delight to experience them.

Full
...more
Sara Klem
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm a fan. It has all the outlandishness of a Moshfegh story collection with a Japanese bent and a dose of magical realism. I think what tied these stories together for me was that many of them are about how women make themselves smaller or compromise their wants in various forms of relationships, though other than that, the stories are too bizarre to be "alike." There were two stories, Paprika Jiro and The Straw Husband, for which the meaning was totally lost on me, but the rhetorical creativit ...more
Zac Smith
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it
there are two main strengths:

one is a confident flippancy, wherein the stories are sort of satirical misdirections concerning absurd concepts in popular culture -- there's a surreal take on 'action movie scenes' played out in a fruit market and one with a Kill Bill/Anime-esque 'infinite henchmen vs. blue-haired girl' and both wrap up with unexpected absurdism.

two is a (of course) Murakami/Banana-esque mysteriousness that grips you for some page-turning resolution that (of course) never really c
...more
Lindy
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think there's an assumption that in becoming an adult, people have made peace with their essential selves, the essential selves of those around them, and the social roles they consciously and subconsciously fulfill. But this isn't true-- we still fear that we cannot ever fully know the strangers that lurk beneath our and our loved ones' public faces and we often don't know how to ask for what we want out of the world. I loved this collection's thematic and emotional maturity and Yukiko Motoya' ...more
Tessy Consentino
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really bizarre, inventive short stories! Just how I like them.
Kurt Kemmerer
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’m not going to pretend to have understood every story in this wonderfully surreal collection, but I loved every minute I spent with this book. Oh, and the story “An Exotic Marriage” is absolutely brilliant. It has to be among a pantheon of the world’s greatest short works, because I might like hyperbole, but it’s that good, anyway.
Lex Poot
Dec 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Wildly uneven set of short stories. While there are 8 brilliant ones 3 did not meet my expectations despite the positive review of Oe himself though that may have been for a shorter collection that was published in Japan.
Tonstant Weader
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Lonesome Bodybuilder: Stories is a collection of eleven short stories by Yukiko Motoya that center around the idea of identity, of being oneself and how hard selfhood can be to define and maintain, particularly in relationships with others. The title story, “The Lonesome Bodybuilder” is perhaps one of the most conventional, a woman whose self-confidence has been eroded by her husband’s criticism takes up body-building and learns more about herself and her husband.

Perhaps the most hilarious s
...more
Stefani
In my mind, there's a fine line between the charmingly off-kilter and the manifestation of a bizarro underworld of repressed human emotion—in Yukiko Motoya's novel, it often resides in the same place. This is perhaps representative of the contrasts of Japanese culture itself, with its quirky yet endearingly appealing cat cafes, Kawaii, and the comically outlandish packaging of many snack foods, as well as its graphic anime porn, clubs catering to subway-groping fantasies, and several of the toys ...more
D
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: anthologies
This is a collection of short stories by Motoya Yukiko, whom I've never heard of before. I admit I went 'wtf did I just read?' more than once while reading the stories.

With these kind of stories--the ones that are strange and sometimes incomprehensible-- it's easy for me to get lost. I don't like this experimental kind of style in art and movies because I have a literal mind and I like things to be less metaphorical and more solid. I tend to like more clear-cut stories too, but Motoya does such
...more
Anna Lumpkin
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Every time I got together with someone new, I got replanted, and the nutrients from the old soil disappeared without a trace. As if to prove it, I could hardly recall the men I’d been with before. Strangely, too, the men I’d been with had wanted me to grow in them. Eventually, I’d start to feel in danger of root rot, and would hurriedly break the pot and uproot myself.”

“My husband the snake opened his mouth and swallowed me headfirst, and I desperately resisted his sticky, moist membranes, but
...more
Zachary Houle
Nov 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I’m a sucker for Japanese fiction, and — generally speaking — surreal Japanese fiction is my bag. Some of Haruki Murakami’s work has really resonated with me (though he can be a touch weird for weirdness’ sake), so when a new Japanese author came out with a short story collection that’s very peculiar, I jumped at it. And Yukiko Motoya’s debut English translated short story collection is very peculiar. These are stories that you’ve never really read before, making Motoya something of a Japanese J ...more
Sachi Argabright
Jan 28, 2019 rated it liked it
THE LONESOME BODYBUILDER is a unique collection of short stories from Japanese author Yukiko Motoya (translated by Asa Yoneda). These 11 stories start with narratives highlighting fairly “ordinary” Japanese experiences then progressively elements of magical realism and fantasy are added. Ranging from the title story of a woman who takes up bodybuilding while her husband is too busy to notice to the last story of a woman who is married to a man made of straw who is leaking musical instruments as ...more
Molly
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
For fans of Convenience Store Woman.
Sarah
These are definitely not perfect stories, but they are stories I'm going to reread and I've been thinking about since I finished this. It was just the perfect amount of surrealism for me.
Jessi
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Biggest "fuck men" of 2018
Matthew Martens
Dec 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Oe is right that these stories are often less slight than they seem. Perhaps not quite often enough. On the other hand, some of them could stand to be slighter, or at least slimmer. In any case, notional images as concentrated and delightful as the peony in "An Exotic Marriage" occur just often enough to keep a reader humming along.
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“Life’s not worth living if you’re not tending to the whims and demands of a high-maintenance lover!” 1 likes
“When I woke up and looked in the mirror, I saw that my face had finally begun to forget who I was.

I guessed my features had just been caught off guard that day. When I peered closer, they rushed to reassemble, as though to say, Oh, shit. But it was as if they couldn’t remember their original placement, and as a result, the final impression was a little off-kilter.”
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