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Better living through plastic explosives : stories (edition 2011)

by Zsuzsi Gartner

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12031100,400 (3.28)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

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Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner

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  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
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    The Free World by David Bezmozgis (bookwormjules)
    bookwormjules: Part of the 2011 Giller Shortlist
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    The Antagonist by Lynn Coady (bookwormjules)
    bookwormjules: Part of the 2011 Giller Short-list
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Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
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 |
This book was a Giller finalist. It is a book of short stories. Some of the stories are 'out there' with modern technology and lingo - lots of letter (acronyms).
One interesting story: 'Floating Like a Goat'. It's a letter sent to the grade one art teacher who said their daughter Georgia is 'not yet meeting expectation' in art. The mother feels that this fact should put her at the top of her class. The letter is sarcastic and amusing.
This author packs so much into a story that I often lost the plot- is there one? She puts extra thoughts in brackets or footnotes. In "We Come in Peace' - a story of 5 beings in the after life, she has a long bracketed comment about Star Trek.
The author uses TMI as well as other letters. I found nearly all her stories had TMI!!!
I had no idea what most of the stories were about- especially the title story.
don't know why I persevered through the whole book. One good story, nine weird ones. ( )
  bettyroche | May 17, 2013 |
As usual I received this book from a GoodReads giveaway.

I really wanted to like this book but I just could never quite catch my stride with it. The stories contained here are brief and disjointed in a way that fails to capture one's attention. Viewed in isolation the author is obviously good at their craft but somehow taken as a whole it's hard not to just skim over the words and realize only later that you've been reading for 20 minutes but not consumed anything the author had to say. In fact, the text blows by like a summer breeze and it makes it difficult to even formulate a coherent review. Nothing is more ample evidence of that fact than this rather incoherent bit of feedback.

Perhaps the whole thing would be better consumed in small bits over several days rather than taken all at once. The text is exceptionally tangled and complex so that generally means that one story a day is more in order. Sadly, the bits of this I did manage to catch are not interesting enough to motivate me to pursue that line of evaluation. ( )
  slavenrm | Apr 28, 2013 |
As usual I received this book from a GoodReads giveaway.

I really wanted to like this book but I just could never quite catch my stride with it. The stories contained here are brief and disjointed in a way that fails to capture one's attention. Viewed in isolation the author is obviously good at their craft but somehow taken as a whole it's hard not to just skim over the words and realize only later that you've been reading for 20 minutes but not consumed anything the author had to say. In fact, the text blows by like a summer breeze and it makes it difficult to even formulate a coherent review. Nothing is more ample evidence of that fact than this rather incoherent bit of feedback.

Perhaps the whole thing would be better consumed in small bits over several days rather than taken all at once. The text is exceptionally tangled and complex so that generally means that one story a day is more in order. Sadly, the bits of this I did manage to catch are not interesting enough to motivate me to pursue that line of evaluation. ( )
1 vote slavenrm | Apr 11, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (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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