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The Lonesome Bodybuilder

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  2,981 ratings  ·  504 reviews
Winner of the Akutagawa Prize and the Kenzaburo Oe Prize

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

"In Yukiko Motoya’s delightful new story collection, the familiar becomes unfamiliar . . . Certainly the style will remind readers of the Japanese authors Banana Yoshimoto and Sayaka Murata, but the stories themselves—and the logic, or lack thereof, within their sentences—ar
Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published November 6th 2018 by Soft Skull Press
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Average rating 3.62  · 
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 ·  2,981 ratings  ·  504 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
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
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Skyler Autumn
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
Anna Luce
Picnic in the Storm, also published as The Lonesome Bodybuilder, is a collection of 11 extremely weird tales. Yukiko Motoya imbues mundane settings with a sense of the surreal so that even a story about a saleswoman at a clothing shop who is trying to assist a customer who won't come out of their changing room ends is far from ordinary. My first story in the collection, which happens to be my favorite, is called 'The Lonesome Bodybuilder' and follows a woman who decides to go to the gym in order ...more
Uriel Perez
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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)
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
Jun 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this short story collection overall, “quite a bit”. How can I not like it when on the back cover are names of two other Japanese authors I like a lot — Hiromi Kawakami (Strange Weather in Tokyo, The Nakano Thrift Shop) and Yoko Agawa (Revenge, The Memory Police)?

Hiromi Kawakami had this to say about the book:
• I could never try to explain Yukiko Motoya’s stories. For me, the joy of reading fiction isn’t to analyze it, but to feel it in my body. In that sense, her writing offers enormou

- The lonesome bodybuilder
- the fitting room
- I called you by name
- an exotic marriage

Least faves;
- how to burden the girl
- the women
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.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 married couple
2.5 stars

Motoya's stories start out promising and interesting enough, but then they take that interesting premise and draw it out for so long that it absolutely loses any of the appeal it once had. The ideas were there; the execution was not.

These stories were too long or too convoluted or too nonsensical, often padded out with a lot of filler that felt like it added nothing to the stories' narratives. Seeing as I only really enjoyed one story from this collection, "Fitting Room," I can't say
Bill Hsu
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 s
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
Delightfully weird short stories! My favorites in the collection were the title story "The Lonesome Bodybuilder" and the sprawling "An Exotic Marriage". ...more
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 26, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Collection of bizarre and fantastical short stories by a very imaginative writer.
Apr 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ge ...more
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 ...more
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sara Klem
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Rasydan Fitri
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
She knows how to deliver absurd, funny stories lined with creepy tones at the same time. Some stories ended too abrupt, but overall a good read.
I was delighted to receive this book from a Goodreads Giveaway program.

4.5 stars rounded down. A collection of short stories, mostly individual recipients of prestigious literary awards in Japan. My favorite was "Exotic Marriage," but the adjective "Exotic" makes me wonder what the Japanese titles is. The two best stories (in my opinion) were "The Lonesome Bodybuilder" and "Exotic Marriage," both narrated by a woman experiencing a failing marriage. Both ends are so different yet equally satisfyi
2.5 rounded up

While very readable these stories were a wee bit too bizarre and surreal for my personal taste, with the ideas taking precedence over actual meaning and substance.
Mar 28, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"An exotic marriage" is a very scary story ...more
Sep 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 fo
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, read-2019
Yukiko Motoya's imagination is wild and rich in her 11 whimsical short stories in this book. These stories tell Motoya's meditation on solitude, and her views on many issues of man-woman relationship. The most impressive story is An Exotic Marriage in which the wife felt that she was losing her identity in the marriage, and her husband started looking like her.
"There are two snakes, and they each start cannibalizing the other one's tail. And they eat and they eat at exactly the same speed, until
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Yukiko Motoya (本谷 有希子) 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.

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37 likes · 3 comments
“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.”
“Life’s not worth living if you’re not tending to the whims and demands of a high-maintenance lover!” 3 likes
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