cover image The Lonesome Bodybuilder

The Lonesome Bodybuilder

Yukiko Motoya, trans. from the Japanese by Asa Yoneda. Soft Skull (PGW, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-59376-678-8

Motoya’s English-language debut is an unusual but ingenious collection that blends dark humor and bemused first-person narrators suddenly confronted with unhappy relationships and startling realities. The title story follows an ignored wife’s transformation into a massive weight lifter, and her husband’s clueless indifference. In the novella-length “An Exotic Marriage,” San is concerned about her husband’s increasing lassitude about work, and her perception that his facial features are melting. While she frets quietly over these changes, she also agrees to help her neighbor abandon her chronically incontinent cat in the mountains. Male fantasies about assertive girlfriends become a little too real when women start challenging their partners to duels in “The Women.” In “How to Burden the Girl,” a man yearns to save his neighbor from the gangsters that keep attacking her family and killing them one by one, but his discovery of her disturbing past rattles him. Other stories include similarly surreal elements, including a husband made of straw and the use of umbrellas to fly. Funny without collapsing into wackiness, these eccentric, beguiling stories are reminiscent of Haruki Murakami and Kafka. (Nov.)