Synopses & Reviews
Whether she takes on evolution and modern manhood, international adoption, real estate, the movie industry, science and faith, art, or terrorism, Gartner fillets the righteous and the ridiculous with dexterity in equal, heartbreaking, and glorious measure.
Angels crash land, lovers speak IKEA, a mountain swallows tony West Coast properties, and a killer stalks the great motivational speakers of North America.
These stories ruthlessly expose our covert fears and fathomless desires and allow us to snort with laughter—while grieving at the grotesque world we’d live in if we all got what we wanted.
"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." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"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
"Gartners 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.”
“[Gartners] undeniably original voice charges her stories with irresistible verve.”
“A sleek, surreal sensibility composed of equal parts romance and cynicism powers”
- Elle Magazine
“Brilliant…These are clever stories.”
"[Gartner] uses her sharp wit to deft advantage in portraying a parade of clever, observant, sardonic female protagonists."
“Superb new story collection. [Gartner] is the anti-Munro … The emotional weight of Gartners stories comes from the contrast between the persistence of uncontrollable biological urges and an artificial universe.”
“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
About the Author
Zsuzsi Gartner is the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling story collection All the Anxious Girls on Earth