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The Lonesome Bodybuilder: Stories

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3.79  ·  Rating details ·  242 ratings  ·  49 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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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
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
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
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
Delightfully weird short stories! My favorites in the collection were the title story "The Lonesome Bodybuilder" and the sprawling "An Exotic Marriage".
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
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
Rebecca Marie
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Prior to reading the Lonesome Bodybuilder, I had never heard of Yukiko Motoya; now, I find myself a convert worshipping at her altar. 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 ...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
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.
Madeline Partner
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
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
Lidia
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve got two words to describe this short story collection - wonderfully weird. Yukiko Motoya is an incredibly inventive author that had my attention from the very get go. None of the stories fell short for me personally, but my favourite one was An Exotic Marriage hands down.
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.
Colin
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book
Ali-pie
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an outstanding collection of surreal, feminist short stories. It's extremely original, consistently impressive, and I feel like the stories will stay with me for a long time. I hope more of her work will be translated!
Kenny Leck
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read the uncorrected proof copy, and in parts, it reminded me of the writings of Haruki Murakami, Yoko Tawada, and Hiromi Kawakami. But at the same time, there was a certain newness to it. The stories shone best when they were treated in the long form as the characters had room to grow. I'd would look forward to reading a novel from the author. Without the speculative-fict elements, the tone of the stories reminded one of reading Coetzee as well.
Vicki
This collection of short stories are indeed weird, but they're a very specific type of weird: they're Japanese weird. Japanese weird is it's own brand of WTF, as anyone who's seen a Japanese commercial can attest to. Guess what: that brand of weird isn't limited to just their commercials.

And while these stories are that style of weird, they're also poignant in a way that only works from a Japanese author. The weird isn't there for comedic purposes, it's there for thematic purposes. It's there to
...more
Alan
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Already much heralded in her native japan, Yukiko Motoya gets a first-ever English translation and we finally get to see why she has already received numerous literary awards. These 11 stories in the collection are ambiguous, surreal, and sometimes downright disturbing. As the collection progresses the stories become increasingly fantastical and, as good literature should, they make you think, not just ‘what the heck did I just read?’ but also ‘what does it actually mean?’

Many of the stories foc
...more
Joy
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Feminist Japanese literature in short story format. All the eleven short stories in this collection by Yukiko Motoya and translated by Asa Yoneda are compelling reads and strange in their own way.
The stories start off in a mundane recognizable setting - waiting for a bus at the bus-stop, comfortable domestic married life, working as a salesperson at a clothing store - and transforms via magical realism into the realm of the fantastical. The allegorical tales were a breath of fresh air in having
...more
L S Popovich
Nov 08, 2018 rated it liked it
This new translation was at times fun and unique. The Akutagawa Prize winning story "An Exotic Marriage," was a magical realist masterwork, but the other stories burned very dimly by comparison. The author writes in a style similar to Kelly Link, I thought, but with fewer fantasy elements.
There are a lot of literary gimmicks, some morbid jokes inserted haphazardly, and plenty of dark irony. I would not elevate the collection as a whole to the clean mastery of Yoko Ogawa but it has the scattered
...more
Ann
In this book of 11 short stories translated by Asa Yoneda, Yukiko Motoya shows us that the mundane is just a curtain behind which the bizarre putters. In each story, a character discovers some form of freedom from what’s holding them back or down or in. My favorites are “Typhoon,” in which an 11-year-old boy watches as commuters struggle to keep their umbrellas open in a raging storm; “I Called You by Name,” in which a female ad exec in charge of a team meeting can’t ignore the weird bulge in th ...more
Karen Loder
I alternatively liked and disliked this book, though nothing ever truly entirely passionate. In the end I generally liked it and see it as a good introduction to this Japanese author I expect more and better things from. I kind of can't hate her stories because I feel her writing is really similar to mine ie. strange episodes of women reacting to living under suppression though hers are definitely more unrealistic, plot-wise than mine. This may be the most what-a-lib-Westerner-would-call-"femini ...more
Larry Davidson
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderfully creative collection of short stories of varying lengths beginning with The Lonesome Bodybuilder, a story of a mild wife who begins to train with weights but whose transformation is not recognized by her husband. The last story is about a woman who marries a man of straw. And the longest story is about a man who loses his features and generally morphs with his wife into the same being.

A touch of Kafka and a touch of Murakami run throughout the stories. The reader never knows exactly
...more
Taina
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Novelleja, joissa tapahtuu kaikenlaista todella outoa. Pääosissa naiset, jotka eivät tavalla tai toisella sopeudu omaan rooliinsa. Yksi nainen innostuu kehonrakennuksesta ja on surullinen, koska aviomies ei huomaa hänen kehonsa täydellistä muutosta. On naisia, jotka haastavat miehet kaksintaisteluihin ja vain toinen selviää hengissä. On parisuhdeneuvoja jakava nainen, joka suosittelee puolisoksi pyörän satulaa. Ja on aviovaimo, joka muuttuu aviomiehekseen. Tällaisia novelleja lukisin mielelläni ...more
Rachel Christine
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
The Lonesome Bodybuilder ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Fitting Room ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Typhoon ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I Called You By Name ⭐⭐⭐
An Exotic Marriage ⭐⭐⭐
Paprika Jiro ⭐⭐⭐
How To Burden the Girl ⭐⭐⭐
The Women ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Q & A ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Dogs ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Straw Husband ⭐⭐⭐
...more
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“Life’s not worth living if you’re not tending to the whims and demands of a high-maintenance lover!” 0 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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