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Fiction Short Stories (single Author)

Better Living Through Plastic Explosives

by (author) Zsuzsi Gartner

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Apr 2012
Short Stories (single author), Literary, Satire
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2012
    List Price

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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 ofMcSweeney's.

Better Living through Plastic Explosives is a powerful depth charge of Zsuzsi Gartner's trademark dark humour and deadly satire. 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 covert fears and fathomless desires and allow us to snort with laughter—at the grotesque world we’d live in if we all got what we wanted.


About the author

Zsuzsi Gartner is the author of the critically acclaimed story collection All The Anxious Girls on Earth. A former senior editor at Saturday Night magazine, she is currently creative director of Vancouver Review's Blueprint B.C. Fiction series. She is the winner of a 2007 National Magazine Award for Fiction and the recipient of numerous awards for her magazine journalism. Her stories have been produced on radio in Canada and the U.S. Gartner has lived in Winnipeg, Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa and now lives in Vancouver, a utopian dystopia.

Zsuzsi Gartner's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“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

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