Sunday, November 27

Book Review: Better Living Through Plastic Explosives

Title: Better Living Through Plastic Explosives

Author: Zsuzsi Gartner

Pages: EBook (Approx 181)

Summary: 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.

My Rating: 4/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Incredibly well written, intelligent and witty writer the has a lot of talent when it comes to writing, it's what I enjoyed most about the book, was the quality of writing that was in it. Unfortunately, that's where the good parts of the book ended, as I didn't enjoy the plots of tje short stories - there's great writing, but you need more than that to tell a good story and I found the story telling wasn't up to par with the writing.

I didn't find the stories left much of an impression on me, I read them, but none of them stuck with me. They didn't have much of a plot to them, and the characters were written in a way that you couldn't connect to them, they were just words on the page. I can't say I have a favourite short story from the collection. While I enjoyed the author's writing, the actual storytelling fell flat.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure, I didn't find the collection to be a good read. Excellent wiring yes, but I need a little more in a book, especially in a collection of short stories.

What to read next: This is from the Giller shortlist, so I'd say the other books from the shortlist.

Challenges: Canadian Reading Challenge 5


  1. I usually leave some time between each story, usually a day or so, but with this collection, I felt like I needed to leave much more time between each story (and I didn't, because I was obsessing over the longlist). There is so much energy to the language, that I found it was a lot to take in. But, at the same time, I could immediately think of some reading friends who would absolutely love these stories, who are frustrated by the Alice-Munro-type stories that I love so much...

  2. I can't say that this book sounds appealing to me, even though the writing sounds brilliant. I have to care some for the stories in a collection for them to really work for me, and it sounds like these probably wouldn't. Sorry to hear this one wasn't an unparallelled success.

  3. I had this book out from the library, but I just couldn't inspire myself to read it at the time. I might have to try again in the future...

  4. Buried in Print - I never saw the energy to the language, I saw a lot of ranting and bitterness. I don't need a lot of time between short stories, unless they're very profound. I prefer Munro stories, perhaps it's why this collection didn't work for me.

    Zibilee -My feelings exactly. It was worth trying, as I tried out a new author, but not one I'd go back to.

    Kailana - I've had books like that, some I promised my self I get back to. Depends on your personal tastes on whether or not you'll enjoy it.