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Life Ceremony: Stories Hardcover – July 5, 2022

4.2 out of 5 stars 91 ratings

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From the Publisher

Editorial Reviews


Praise for Life Ceremony

An Indie Next Selection

“Murata’s prose is deadpan, as clear as cellophane . . . Chilly and transgressive at the same time . . . Murata is interested in how disgust drives ethics, in why some things repel us but not others . . . Murata’s prose, in this translation from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori, is generally so cool you could chill a bottle of wine in it.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times

“Twelve engrossing entries that probe intimacy and individuality while turning norms upside down . . . Strange and bold.”—Time, “New Books You Need to Read This Summer”

“Picking up on themes in her novel Earthlings, most of these stories are about alienation, exploring what it means to be ‘normal’ through a close focus on characters, nearly always women, who do not conform to social expectations . . . The author’s plain, clear, observational style makes the stories strangely believable, easy to read and hard to forget.”—Lisa Tuttle, Guardian

Life Ceremony uncovers Murata’s preoccupation with our species’ norms writ large, beyond gender, sex, and reproduction. Several stories imagine near-future worlds in which bodies find new uses after death . . . In offering such exaggerated scenarios, Murata exposes the lunacy of the norms we so blithely follow . . . Murata’s lifelong feeling of being a stranger has given her a perspective from which to create her worlds.”—WIRED

“Sayaka Murata writes about the life more ordinary . . . But ordinary is a shape-shifting concept . . . Murata’s prose, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori, is both spare and dreamlike . . . Murata’s skill is in turning round the world so that the abnormal, uncivil or even savage paths appear—if momentarily—to make sense.”—Louise Lucas, Financial Times

Life Ceremony is not a book for the squeamish or easily shocked . . . Much of the humor in these stories comes from the incongruity of grotesque elements in quotidian settings, such as when the characters in Life Ceremony discuss with perfect earnestness how they’ll have to carefully prepare a deceased co-worker’s flesh for a stir-fry with cashew nuts . . . At their best, these macabre stories are suffused with a tender compassion for the foibles of their characters.”—Florentyna Leow, Japan Times

“In Life Ceremony, Murata’s first collection of short stories to appear in English, her narratives are conspicuously weirder, weird in the sense of weird tales—dark and macabre, surprising and strange. The twelve stories blend humor and horror to examine societal norms, and to expose how bizarre and oppressive certain social standards and traditions can be, especially for women . . . Murata’s signature matter-of-fact tone makes this off-kilter reality both viscerally and intellectually provocative . . . Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori, Murata’s style is deceptively blunt and direct, making for a lightning-quick read. And yet, the stories’ haunting premises linger in the mind.”—Kathleen Rooney, Liber

“Mixes her signature blend of the humorous, the awkward, and the terrifying to tell stories of loners and outcasts who buck traditions and societal expectations. Murata’s stories will have you questioning what it means to be human in this world and what is sacrificed when we try too hard to fit in.”—Book Riot

“A strange, inventive, and disconcerting collection of dystopian fiction . . . Marvel at Murata’s brash imagination and bravery, but be warned: Life Ceremony is not for the squeamish.”—New Statesman

“The short-story format serves up a buffet of settings for Murata to work her magic. Whether they’re about eating one’s colleagues, or a sexless marriage, the stories are snapshots of rational, believable worlds on which are projected normal madnesses—and things we might not want to admit we think about—in all their funny, disgusting, innocent human glory.”—Russell Thomas, South China Morning Post

“[Life Ceremony is] strange. Like, brilliantly, properly strange—there’s nothing you’ve read before that you can compare to this. Want to read about a girl who falls in love with her bedroom curtain? You can do that here. How about people who honour their dead by eating them and then procreating? You came to the right place. It’s a wild ride to the edges of your imagination and comprehension—and well worth the trip.”—Harper’s Bazaar (Australia)

“Once more, internationally bestselling Murata confronts unspeakable topics with quotidian calm, shockingly convincing logic, and creepy humor in a dozen genre-defying stories . . . Murata groupies will appreciate a glimpse of characters from Earthlings, while readers seeking the undefinable will enjoy these tales immensely.”—Terry Hong, Booklist (starred review)

“A singular collection . . . [Murata] investigates the validity of our most basic rituals—how humans eat, marry, procreate, and die—and incisively explores the rich, messy stuff left behind once they’re violated . . . Murata’s stories are tightly woven and endlessly surprising, with far more going on beneath the surface than is initially evident and surprising moments of unexpected beauty . . . Murata’s writing remains essential and captivating, expertly capturing the fragility of social norms and calling into question what remains of human nature once they’re stripped away. Beautiful, disturbing, and thought-provoking.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“With Life Ceremony, Sayaka Murata has created a series of funhouse mirrors, each story in the collection pushing readers to reconsider what is true, distorting the image so completely as to open the viewer to new and unexpected perspectives . . . Each story displays a fine-boned architecture, a careful curation of details and paring away of the extraneous. The result is remarkable, the lean force of Murata’s imagination rippling through each piece.”—Shelf Awareness

“In this off-kilter collection, Murata brings a grotesque whimsy to her fables of cultural norms . . . Like the author’s novels, this brims with ideas.”—Publishers Weekly

“Murata’s premises are always eye-opening, and the result will intrigue and satisfy readers of literary and speculative fiction alike.”—Library Journal

Praise for Sayaka Murata:

“To Sayaka Murata, nonconformity is a slippery slope . . . Reminiscent of certain excellent folk tales, expressionless prose is Murata’s trademark . . . The strength of [Murata’s] voice lies in the faux-naïf lens through which she filters her dark view of humankind: We earthlings are sad, truncated bots, shuffling through the world in a dream of confusion.”—New York Times Book Review

“Murata takes a childlike idea and holds onto it with imaginative fervor, brilliantly exposing the callousness and arbitrariness of convention.”—New Yorker

“Murata manages what her characters cannot: She transcends society’s core values, to dizzying effect . . . Her matter-of-fact rendering of wild events is as disorienting as it is intriguing.”—Atlantic

“If you’re in the mood for weird, Sayaka Murata is always a reliable place to turn.”—Seattle Times

“The imagination of this writer grows and grows like outer space.”—Literary Hub

“Murata celebrate[s] the quiet heroism of women who accept the cost of being themselves.”—NPR’s Fresh Air

“Murata’s sparkly writing and knack for odd, beautiful details are totally her own.”—Vogue

“Murata’s novels are a valuable, heightened exploration of the intense discomfort that people, autistic or not, who are just a little outside of society can feel when they try to force themselves to fit in. Murata’s message is: stop trying.”i-D

About the Author

SAYAKA MURATA is the author of many books, including Earthlings and Convenience Store Woman, winner of the Akutagawa Prize. Murata has been named a Freeman’s “Future of New Writing” author and a Vogue Japan Woman of the Year.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Grove Press (July 5, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 256 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0802159583
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0802159588
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 12.8 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.75 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.2 out of 5 stars 91 ratings

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Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5
91 global ratings

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3.0 out of 5 stars Bold and aggressive writing style
By Camila Russell on July 5, 2022
I read Murata’s two previous novels translated into English but this is my first short-story collection. The author continues with the same tone of her previous works, maintaining the characteristics of the modern Japanese literature, with a bold and aggressive writing style, attacking traditions, systems, and hierarchies.

In Life Ceremony we have twelve short-stories. They are harsh, unsettling, disturbing, and sometimes humorous. Murata has a different way to look at things, as do her characters, who defy societal norms, do not fit in the mould established by contemporary society, who embrace freedom and leave social constructs behind.

With these kafkaesque stories, Murata seems to show us that the world is changing, and this transformation of the world can be seen by her approach of the idea of multiculturalism that respects others who have a different view of the world from themselves. What is "normal" and what is "abnormal"? If you choose a different life path from most people, must it be wrong?

How should we face these changes? Maybe this is also the answer that the author was seeking in this book. As always, Murata makes a sharp analysis of social rules, of the situation of contemporary people and of the women's identity. I don’t think this collection is for everyone, but I recommend it to those who appreciate the work of this writer.
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Cerro Yaguajay
3.0 out of 5 stars Boring. Like a children’s book.
Reviewed in Canada 🇨🇦 on September 15, 2022