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The Lonesome Bodybuilder: Stories

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3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,795 ratings  ·  314 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
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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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
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 dres/>The
...more
Raeleen Lemay
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories, 2019
My faves were The Lonesome Bodybuilder, An Exotic Marriage, The Women, and Q&A. This was such a weird, surreal collection and I really really enjoyed it! I want to read more stories like these!!
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. Ev
...more
Skyler Autumn
Apr 23, 2019 rated it liked it
3 Stars

A collection of bizarre short stories The Lonesome Bodybuilder takes us from a woman whose husband is so completely oblivious to her that he is unable to notice her transformation as she goes from scrawny to a complete muscular bodybuilder, to a woman that believes she is slowly transforming into her husband physically, to a shop clerk stuck trying to help a mysterious being behind the changing room curtain, to a woman taking her boyfriend to the forest to challenge him to a duel. The a
...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!
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
...more
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.
Audra (ouija.doodle.reads)
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 ma
...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 cus
...more
Bill Hsu
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Spotted this on Marie-Therese's feed, and immediately added it to my shelves. I enjoyed most of these surreal, funny, and twisted narratives (with the possible exception of "The Straw Husband"). The (mostly female) protagonists have to navigate some frustrating relationships, with an admirable can-do attitude. The longest piece, "An Exotic Marriage", starts:
One day, I realized that I was starting to look just like my husband.

Being a Brian Evenson fan, I of course expected this to darken into a solipsistic abysstarts:One
...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
Christine
Dec 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I read 6 of the 11 stories, so feel that I've given the book a fair shake ... but this just wasn't for me. I'm okay with fiction that is absurd and/or surreal as long as the writer can capture my attention with a well told story. The deeper I got into this collection, the less I wanted to turn the page. Reading this book had become a chore so it was time to stop.

There's something here, I'd give this author another chance, but this book, for me, was not a good read.
Lauren
Delightfully weird short stories! My favorites in the collection were the title story "The Lonesome Bodybuilder" and the sprawling "An Exotic Marriage".
Marc
Strange. Surreal. Weird. All of these descriptions capture a facet of Motoya's stories, but no one word can really communicate the unique way the twisted is treated so naturally. It's almost like the magical aspects are the most normal part of the stories. The longest story, "An Exotic Marriage," had me the least interested and thinking I might rate the whole collection 3 stars, but almost every other story intrigued, surprised, and transfixed me. Many of the stories deal with relationships and female p ...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
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, Ty
...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
Alan
Apr 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Seekers after a little jolt of the unreal
Recommended to Alan by: BookRiot
Yukiko Motoya is a 21st-Century Japanese playwright and author, whose debut collection The Lonesome Bodybuilder contains eleven stories. In each of them, the ordinary becomes extraordinary—one way or another, one after another, however mundanely they begin, these tales veer into... something else, something which removes them from the realm of mimetic fiction and into—not science fiction, nor even fantasy, but certainly some sort of speculative fiction. Slipstream, perhaps, if that term for a genre-that's-not-a-genr ...more
Anita Fajita Pita
A series of stories that got progressively stranger. Yukio Motoya invokes magical surrealism, something I may have just made up because it works, to really delve into human relationships and with, honestly, a pretty badass feminist undercurrent.

She begins with stories of housewives looking for themselves (The Lonesome Bodybuilder), looking for their husbands (An Exotic Marriage), progressing through stories of courtship involving bloody gang fights in which the would be hero is really not up for the challenge (How to Burden the(How(An(The
...more
Kartika
Rating: 3.5⭐/5

This book is a collection of 11 short stories, all of them strange in their own ways. The stories take you on a trip from a woman who gets obsessed with bodybuilding after watching a boxing match with her husband to a girl who marries her own father, spites her mother, and gets cursed with bloody tears and a lonely life filled with the fear of her mother trying to kill everyone the daughter cherishes. Out of the eleven stories, four stood out for me. One was the story o
...more
Joe M
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
A bizarre and memorable collection, Yukiko Motoya's stories start off in seemingly familiar places (a retail shop's fitting room, a bus stop, a mountain cabin) before turning reality upside-down and going off in surreal and completely unpredictable directions. Carmen Maria Machado has a blurb on the cover which is fitting as they both fall into a similar camp of storytelling which combines the strange and unsettling, with an absurd and decidedly feminist bent. I'd recommend picking this one up if only ...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
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.
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
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.
Zac Smith
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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) ne
...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 mem
...more
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Yukiko Motoya is a seasoned Japanese author, playwright, voice actress and theatre director. She has won prestigious awards in most of those fields including the Kenzaburo Oe Prize, Mishima Yukio Prize, and the Akutagawa Prize.

See also: 本谷 有希子.
“Life’s not worth living if you’re not tending to the whims and demands of a high-maintenance lover!” 3 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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