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The Lonesome Bodybuilder

A collection of stories by

2019 Otherwise Award (nominee)

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 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 her husband's features are beginning to slide around his face - to match her own.

In these 11 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 Lonesome Bodybuilder is the English-language debut of one of Japan's most fearlessly inventive young writers.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Praise for this 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 enormous satisfaction to the sensitive organ inside me that is attuned to the pleasure of reading." - Hiromi Kawakami

"I knew immediately this book was a work of quality entertainment by a writer who had consciously worked to hone their craft - but was it literature? I had the lingering doubts of an old man now far removed from the current readership. Wanting to delve deeper, I decided to read it again, laying aside my long-held view of fiction: one that demarcated 'entertainment' from 'real literature.' I realized I couldn't deny it. This collection serves almost as a sampler of fresh ideas and forms, but the pieces demanded more than simply to enjoy them and then put them away, saying, 'Well, that was fun.' How is it that these pieces work with their twists and tricks, and then, on top of that, also attain the state of literature? The writer possesses an acuity in human observation that will be a life's work, and the prose skill to describe it concisely. After tasting the delightful surprises in each story in this varied collection, I felt not as though I had passed through a gallery hung with individual talents, but that I had seen at one glance the irrepressible formation of an artist." - Kenzaburo Ōe

"Playful and eerie and utterly enchanting, Yukiko Motoya's stories are like fun-house mazes built to get lost in, where familiar shapes and features from the everyday world are revealed to you as if for the first time, twisted into marvelously odd shapes. These eleven stories possess a mundanely magical logic all their own, surprising and entirely absorbing." - Alexandra Kleeman

"Charming, bizarre, and uncanny, The Lonesome Bodybuilder is Etgar Keret by way of Yoko Ogawa. I'd follow Yukiko Motoya anywhere she wanted to take me." - Carmen Maria Machado

"This may well give Your Duck Is My Duck a run for its money as best title of the century. People around the world have been whispering Motoya’s name in my ear. Now she’s translated into English!" - Gary Shteyngart

"I was impressed by how each story has a different idea, none being mere variations on a theme. It's not a book to consume in one sitting. Read carelessly and you run the risk of ending up flat on your back with no idea of what just hit you. It dawned on me that in these pieces, Motoya, already well-known for theater, was trying to achieve in fiction the gamut of what can't be done on stage. Reading this made me want to sit down and get to work. This is a collection that is provocative to writers as well." - Yasutaka Tsutsui

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