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Better living through plastic explosives : stories (edition 2011)

by Zsuzsi Gartner

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1423484,396 (3.26)1 / 45
Member:richardderus
Title:Better living through plastic explosives : stories
Authors:Zsuzsi Gartner
Info:Toronto : Hamish Hamilton, 2011.
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
Tags:None

Work details

Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner

  1. 00
    Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (bookwormjules)
    bookwormjules: Part of the 2011 Giller shortlist
  2. 00
    The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje (bookwormjules)
    bookwormjules: Part of the 2011 Giller shortlist
  3. 00
    The Free World by David Bezmozgis (bookwormjules)
    bookwormjules: Part of the 2011 Giller Shortlist
  4. 00
    The Antagonist by Lynn Coady (bookwormjules)
    bookwormjules: Part of the 2011 Giller Short-list
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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
Barely controlled energy propels these short stories. Sharp, fast jabs then wild arcing swings.
The first story, "Summer of the Flesh Eater" was my favourite. The story is told from the perspective of one of the pretentious neighbours who really doesn't have any insight into their snotty-ness, as if their thinking and attitudes are the default position against which the others are measured. The suburban locals refer to one of their neighbours as ‘the Truck Guy’ or ‘Lucy’ (as in missing link). His passion is cars. He likes his meat, as evidenced by the slabs of steaks, ribs, chops at his bbq party, for which 'he eschewed terms like “well-marbled” in favour of “nice and fatty, smacking his pal down soundly on cuts he deemed particularly "bodacious" '. He speaks colourfully “in a dialect Patel, our own Henry Higgins, recalls as “Thunder Bay, 1977.” [that is so bang-on perfect] He moved in to the neighborhood on Canada Day, with a u-haul hitched to a silver Camaro. “He wore what’s commonly referred to as a muscle shirt but what some would call a wife beater.” They “hadn’t seen a grown man in cut-offs that tight since Expo ’86. (We later had a spirited debate about whether his was in fact a conventional mullet or ersatz hockey hair.)”
“Afterwards, he sat down on his new front steps and drank beer straight from the can, wiping his lips with the back of his hand, exaggeratedly rotating his shoulders as if attempting to recalibrate himself. “

This guy is so pegged! And so are his snotty pretentious neighbours who regard him as a specimen; they knew that such men existed but had never had a chance to observe one in such close proximity.
She writes of the nearby rendering plant “The congealed odour of pyrolyzed animal parts would enter the cul-de-sac and then just hang there, as if snagged on a hydro line.”

Zsuzsi Gartner's writing is witty, funny, angry, and sometimes ethereally weird. She smiles when she bites. She sees what is right in front of us, and then presents it to us in a way that is new and fresh. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
Recently shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, this is a great collection of postmodernist short stories. Gartner's humour is pleasingly black. Get a taste by listening to the lead story, "Summer of the Flesh Eaters," in audio. A most entertaining listen, we would love feedback on the narration. Download the MP3 file or listen online at http://www.posthypnoticpress.com/pages/flesheater.(less) ( )
  Post_Hypnotic | Jul 19, 2015 |
Recently shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, this is a great collection of postmodernist short stories. Gartner's humour is pleasingly black. Get a taste by listening to the lead story, "Summer of the Flesh Eaters," in audio. A most entertaining listen, we would love feedback on the narration. Download the MP3 file or listen online at http://www.posthypnoticpress.com/pages/flesheater.(less) ( )
  Post_Hypnotic | Jul 19, 2015 |
Gartner’s short stories are rarely predictable, frequently pushing the boundaries (if there still are any boundaries), sometimes poignant, and almost always awkwardly (or uncannily) funny. I’m struggling to find the right comparator, but Saunders, Homes, and Selecky come to mind.

Many of the stories here involve transformations, both personal and metaphysical. In “Summer of the Flesh Eater”, the inhabitants of a quiet suburban cul-de sac devolve into proto-humans. In “The Adopted Chinese Daughters’ Rebellion”, the multi-cultural extremism of another small suburban community mutates into trans-culturalism. In “We Come in Peace”, discarnate beings incarnate in the bodies of a clutch of suburban children only to learn the lesson that the physical makes its own demands. In “Mister Kakami”, an old growth island off the coast sets its own agenda for the intruding exploiters of its natural charms.

Many of the stories come across as singular, each a tour de force, perhaps, of technique and the well-turned phrase, but lacking roots in emotional insight or psychological truth. It’s as though the high concept, which usually involves a kind of joke, is designed for the graduate student lounge or the sushi wine bar. And in the graduate student lounge, or the sushi wine bar, or the literary journal, they might well be exemplars. But perhaps it is asking too much that they also be something more. Alas, the nagging problem with “metaphysical” storylines is that they risk philosophical scrutiny and that probably puts too great a demand upon the storyteller. Enjoy them for what they are, and pass the sushi. ( )
1 vote RandyMetcalfe | Dec 29, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. The contemporary themes (technology, etc.) are important and not often discussed in literature. The fast-paced voice was interesting to read and kept me turning the pages. Overall, I would recommend this collection. ( )
  checkadawson | Jul 19, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
In another story, a character thinks about her uterus as “a dried gourd inside her, rattling like a maraca.” Animals with teeth like skyscrapers, brains that have delete files, and a uterus like a musical instrument...As a plastic writer, Gartner’s turns her back to the past and looks to the future. Many of her stories have a science fiction and fantasy slant. One features a future America where motivational speakers have become enemies of the state. In another, angels take over the bodies of West Coast teenagers and discover the wonders of communing through texting...The emotional weight of Gartner’s stories comes from the contrast between the persistence of uncontrollable biological urges and an artificial universe. The emotional leitmotif that gets sounded throughout the book is disappointment.
 
Better Living Through Plastic Explosives, Zsuzsi Gartner’s second short-story collection, is funny ha ha and funny disturbing. These stories are not about the beautiful, utopian Vancouver that racks up high scores in all those livable city surveys. No, Gartner’s West Coast is wild and weird, uncanny and unnerving, volatile and violent. ..One of the most common – and I think, unfair and fogeyish – complaints about postmodern fiction is that it is too tricksy, too cerebral, and lacks old-fangled reader-pleasing qualities such as “heart” and “things happening.” Suffice to say that there is no such deficit here.
 
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From an emerging master of short fiction and one of Canada's most distinctive voices, a collection of stories as heartbreaking as those of Lorrie Moore and as hilariously off-kilter as something out of McSweeney's.

In Better Living through Plastic Explosives, Zsuzsi Gartner delivers a powerful second dose of the lacerating satire that marked her acclaimed debut, All the Anxious Girls on Earth, but with even greater depth and darker humour. Whether she casts her eye on evolution and modern manhood when an upscale cul-de-sac is thrown into chaos after a redneck moves into the neighbourhood, international adoption, war photography, real estate, the movie industry, motivational speakers, or terrorism, Gartner filets the righteous and the ridiculous with dexterity in equal, glorious measure. These stories ruthlessly expose our most secret desires, and allow us to snort with laughter at the grotesque world we'd live in if we all got what we wanted.
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