Better Living Through Plastic Explosives
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Better Living Through Plastic Explosives

by Zsuzsi Gartner
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the stories of Gartner’s dexterous second collection (after All the Anxious Girls on Earth), set in or near Vancouver, Canada, the author turns her clever eye on a certain type of upper-class person: the food-snobbing, eco-obsessive, million-dollar-real-estate-negotiating, self-help-seeking yuppie. Two stories feature the collective voices of a suburban cul-de-sac’s residents as they witness how new people change their behavior. In “Summer of the Flesh Eater,” the presence of a crass, low-class, meat-loving man whose truck decays in the front yard pulls the entire town down a Darwinian rabbit hole. And the white parents of “The Adopted Chinese Daughters’ Rebellion” impose archaic Chinese customs, such as foot-binding, on their young, adopted daughters. These stories exemplify one of Gartner’s strengths: her fiction walks an ice pond’s thin skim between sadness and satire. Both begin with a tug of depression, a foreshadowing lament, and then delve into the rigidity of people’s “progressive” beliefs. The stories do not languish here, but rollick into the depths of dark humor and absurdity. Gartner’s themes are topical but never preachy, and she accents the ambiguities found in black-and-white arguments. Gartner delights in a little DeLilloesque postmodern trickery, imbuing new life and meaning to the everyday. It’s a sharp voice in this collection. Handle carefully. Agent: Jackie Kaiser, Westwood Creative Artists. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
“Zsuzsi Gartner’s writing is dazzling, effortless, and clear as a bell. She’s able to crystallize a cultural moment in a way entirely her won that is both instantaneous and eternal. I couldn’t let go of it and read it all in one go.” - Douglas Coupland

“Gartner has outdone herself with Better Living Through Plastic Explosives. She will garner a fistful of award nominations, more than a few fireworks and maybe even some hang-up phone calls.” - Winnipeg Free Press

"Gartner’s sentences are … expansive, polished and dense with flecks and speckles of dark and light. She can go from sardonic to plangent, wry to heartfelt.” - The Globe and Mail

“Superb…. Gartner’s attentiveness to the artificial gives her prose a laser-like sharpness and precision.” - National Post

“What crazy, wonderful writing this is—hilarious, exuberant, apocalyptic, heart-stopping. Gartner sees all, dissects all, loves all. An absolutely irresistible collection.” - Barbara Gowdy

“Zsuzsi Gartner’s new collection of short stories is as smart, satiric, playful and wicked as her previously acclaimed and bestselling book, ALL THE ANXIOUS GIRLS ON EARTH.” - Janet Somerville

“[Better Living Through Plastic Explosives] shows the short story form at its savage best, each story capturing, with brilliant economy and grace, not only entire worlds but whole mindsets as they explode into eloquence. Gartner is one of the supreme noticers in contemporary fiction, and with this book she has produced a rare work of wisdom and laughter.” - 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize Jury

“[Gartner] drills into your brain with amazing images and a snappy delivery that verges on inciting mental whiplash. What a ride! … Gartner is fall-out-of-your-chair funny, but the hilarity has a splendid whack of asperity to it for a great combination. The 10 stories in this book are wonderfully various and humorously satirical … Her send-up of idiotic earnestness is so refreshing, I can’t wait for the next collection.” - Vancouver Sun

“With her second collection of short stories, Zsuzsi Gartner has delved far underground, taken its seismic measure, and returned to give us the report … Dark, sinister, scary? Yes, but Gartner’s skill in the telling is thrilling. I’m a new fan of Gartner. I really liked All the Anxious Girls on Earth … But in Better Living Though Plastic Explosives, Gartner goes darker, deeper, and funnier. Her new stories are more trenchant, more satirical, more surreal. At the same time, Gartner still manages to evoke great empathy for characters and their sad, sad lives. Reading this book, I despaired … But I also felt exhilarated, the same exhilaration I felt when first reading Vonnegut and Barthelme and, more recently, George Saunders.” - Winnipeg Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143180487
Publisher:
Penguin Canada
Publication date:
04/05/2011
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Up in Canada there lives a brilliant, unusually nimble writer who deserves an ample U.S. audience.  Her name is Zsuzsi (pronounced Zhu-zhee) Gartner, and not only would it be great if she could fully break through the U.S.–Canadian fiction border, but it would also be great if she broke though the unstated barrier that exists between ‘experimental’ fiction (her side) and the calmer, more linear, narrative-type of fiction that many readers are initially more comfortable giving a whirl.  There are Customs officials stationed at both the geographical and the artistic posts, and in the latter case, they inquire of all writers trying to pass through, ‘Why should you be read?’ That's an easy one to answer here. There are countless rewards to be found when reading the dexterous, sardonic stories in Gartner's collection, including the presence of suburban send-ups, yuppie send-ups, parental send-ups, gender send-ups, hilarious characters, plentiful social satire, and a surprisingly deeply emotional core. Never sentimental, but never brittle either, and always hyperalert, like the best writers and border-crossers, Better Living Through Plastic Explosives is a unique pleasure for all readers."
—Meg Wolitzer, New York Times–bestselling author of The Ten Year Nap

"Zsuzsi Gartner's writing is dazzling, effortless, and clear as a bell. She's able tto crystallize a cultural moment in a way entirely her own that is both instantaneous and eternal. I couldn't let go of it and read it all in one go."
—Doulgas Coupland, author of Generation X

"Gartner’s inventive wit is reminiscent of that of George Saunders, but her tone is more ferocious and angry. Saturated with pop-culture references and intellectually hilarious, these tales dissect the present human situation and warn against darker times to come.”
— Booklist

“[Gartner’s] undeniably original voice charges her stories with irresistible verve.”
—Publishers Weekly

“A sleek, surreal sensibility composed of equal parts romance and cynicism powers”
– Elle Magazine

“Brilliant…These are clever stories.”
—Library Journal

"[Gartner] uses her sharp wit to deft advantage in portraying a parade of clever, observant, sardonic female protagonists."
—Kirkus Reviews

“Superb new story collection. [Gartner] is the anti-Munro … The emotional weight of Gartner’s stories comes from the contrast between the persistence of uncontrollable biological urges and an artificial universe.”
—National Post

“These stories sing with brightness, and the sentences are often dazzling. But beneath the glow nestles the lurk and pull of violence, and it is this crack inside the glass that pushes these stories and characters into frightening, riveting, complex territories."
—Aimee Bender, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt

“These stories … thrum with bizarro life, the glowing bastard fruit of irradiated breeding experiments involving the DNA of a meticulous, fact-mad journalist, a snarky critic of hippie/hipster/Yuppie mores, an inventive stylist and an old-school fabulist.”
—The Globe and Mail

Meet the Author

Zsuzsi Gartner is an award-winning magazine journalist and the author of the fiction collection All the Anxious Girls on Earth. She lives in Vancouver.

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