The Lonesome Bodybuilder
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 of the fitting room--and who may or may not be human. A newlywed notices that her husband's features are beginning to slide around his face--to match her own.In these eleven stories, the individuals who lift the curtains of their orderly homes and workplaces are confronted with the bizarre, the grotesque, the fantastic, the alien--and, through it, find a way to liberation. The English-language debut of one of Japan's most fearlessly inventive young writers.

The Lonesome Bodybuilder Details

TitleThe Lonesome Bodybuilder
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseNov 6th, 2018
PublisherSoft Skull Press
ISBN-139781593766788
Rating
GenreShort Stories, Fiction, Cultural, Japan, Asian Literature, Japanese Literature, Asia, Fantasy, Magical Realism, Literary Fiction

The Lonesome Bodybuilder Review

  • Uriel Perez
    January 1, 1970
    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!
    more
  • Kazen
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 West, Japanese women are expected to be wives and mothers first, putting husbands and children before themselves. These women are the protagonists and navigate their way through a world where many things don't go as planned.The centerpiece, and one of my favorite stories, is the novella An Exotic Marriage. A wife realizes that she and her husband look more similar as time goes on. At first she thinks it's learned mannerisms or maybe sharing a taste in clothes, but one day she looks in the mirror and sees that her features have slipped slightly out of place, closer to those of her husband. As soon as she notices they jump back into position, like kids caught doing something they shouldn't, and the story spins on from there.I was worried the longer length would mean absurdities would pile up to the point of being unbearable, but instead they're more nuanced and layered. The page count is a strength, giving Motoya more room to develop characters and sub-plots and draw us into the world. An Exotic Marriage won the Akutagawa Prize, arguably the highest literary honor in Japan, and it's easy to see why.Yoneda is an accomplished translator and her skill is well applied here. I am in the unusual position of being able to read in both the source and target languages, but I never felt the Japanese poke through nor the need to back-translate. The reader is in good hands.All in all I immensely enjoyed The Lonesome Bodybuilder. It's perfect for when you want to read something delightfully different.Thanks to Soft Skull Press and Edelweiss for providing a review copy.
    more
  • Chris
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 The Straw Husband, are interesting on the surface because they are conventionally told stories with somewhat bizarre subject matter. Others, like The Dogs and An Exotic Marriage, create interest primarily through the implications of what is happening in the plot and the characters' psychology.There's no doubt that Motoya is a talented writer with interesting ideas. Sometimes I wish the ideas were executed more clearly and thoroughly; other times I'm pleasantly surprised. I don't know how much of that has to do with translation choices or that the version I received is not the retail version. (There were some obvious errors in the text of one of the stories in the version I received.)Either way, if you're into writers like Ogawa, Kawakami, and Wataya, you'll probably enjoy this collection. It'll be out November 6, 2018.I also put this review on my blog.
    more
  • Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 flowery detail or unnecessarily long sentences. Just the sort of diction I gravitate to.
    more
  • Natalie (CuriousReader)
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 Review: https://curiousreaderr.wordpress.com/...
    more
  • Madeline Partner
    January 1, 1970
    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 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, unexpected relationships and events to explain the nuances of our lives. I thought this collection was well put together; all the stories are well-developed and revolve around similar themes while maintaining some individuality from each other. I am very interested in reading more from this author as more of her work is translated into English.
    more
  • Rebecca Marie
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 rendered useless in typhoon rains. I loved this collection, how sure each story was of what it wanted to be. Equal parts Aesop and Kafka but as if written by Lydia Davis, The Lonesome Bodybuilder is pure delight.
    more
  • Colin
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book
  • Kenny Leck
    January 1, 1970
    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.
    more
  • Alan
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 focus on, and are narrated by, women. Many look at relationships and marriage and, by extension, examine the role of women in modern Japanese society. From a wife who decides to become a bodybuilder, to men challenged by their partners to a duel to liven up their relationship, to a woman out jogging with her husband who just happens to be made of straw… Each story looks at moments of shifts in a relationship, moments of release or freedom. The longest story in the collection, ‘An Exotic Marriage’, involves a couple who literally change shape as their relationship develops, until he spontaneously explodes and turns into a flower, which the wife then plants in a peaceful mountain setting (there is an equally strange sub-plot involving a neighbour and a cat). Other stories, however, have a much darker tone, with violence, death, and incest all making an appearance. Motoya certainly covers a lot of ground in quite a short collection!Some stories work better than others, but all of them made me think. I’m still trying to figure out a few of the stories, but that’s no bad thing if a book resonates long after you put it down. The translation seems to be excellent, and there are certainly echoes of other great names in Japanese literature (Murakami being the one most people will have read) - but Motoya proves that she has her own unique voice and vision. Yes, definitely a book to recommend – one that will take you out of your comfort zone. I can’t wait to see what appears next from this author.(With thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss+ for an ARC in return for an honest and unbiased review.)
    more
  • Patricia
    January 1, 1970
    Utterly amazing, I couldn't put it. I recommend to those who love wacky stories. Really happy I got it.
  • Jacob Hoefer
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 for the book as a whole but some stories do stand out: An Exotic Marriage, Q & A, The Straw Husband were all a step above the rest. Paprika Jiro was proboably my favorite, absolute delight!
  • Margaryta
    January 1, 1970
    REVIEW FORTHCOMING
  • Mark
    January 1, 1970
    Not every story here works, but this is still an interesting collection and a couple of these offbeat tales, have a Murakami feel to them.
Write a review