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Better Living Through Plastic Explosives Hardcover – 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Canada; 1St Edition edition (2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670065188
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670065189
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,704,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Some of the stories had no plot.
S. Brita
What a wonderful collection of short stories and the author really captures some of the real characters of the region.
Seattle Jogger
As an encouragement, this book gave me a clear understanding of what good short stories should look like.
I Built a Mountain of Thunder

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By I Built a Mountain of Thunder on June 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Zsuzsi Gartner is a darn fine writer and reading "Better Living Through Plastic Explosives" both encouraged, yet depressed, me as a struggling, see fledgling, writer myself.

As an encouragement, this book gave me a clear understanding of what good short stories should look like. These are stories with tight, concrete sentences and language that highlights Gartner's cynical, yet sarcastic, tone.

However, the most appealing thing about "Better Living" is the characters. These are characters anxious with longing, characters bold enough to get drunk with existentialism and ask, "If we truly have developed from apes, then why do we still pick and prod at this thing called a soul?" and "Why are we doomed to want what we can't have?" and "Just what exactly are we doing here?"

Most of us aren't brave enough to sit down with these questions and talk to them until we're red in the face. But Gartner won't let her characters do that. No, Gartner sits her characters down and shows them, and us, that maybe life isn't about finding answers. Maybe life is about being courageous enough to ask questions, and not let go. Maybe life is a question without an answer, and maybe we feel sad for these characters because their inability to answer their questions reflects our inability to answer our questions, as well.

But at least they're bold enough to ask them, which is something us non-fictioneers are often too afraid, and unwilling, to do.

And for the depression. Well, the depression hits when I realize that I can't write like Zsuzsi Gartner, which, I guess, is okay--for now.

For now, I can just convince myself that I'm not carbon-copying her characters. And hope too, that somehow, she doesn't find out.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By B. Case TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Zsuzsi Gartner's collection of short stories, "Better Living Through Plastic Explosives," is almost too brilliant, too literary, and too extraordinary for its own good. It is extraordinary...by which I mean fully outside and beyond what might normally be called outstanding literature; it is disarmingly unique--off on the tail end of the good literature bell curve.

Frankly, I liked the work very much...but I did not love it, and I think that is very significant. The stories rewarded me a thousand fold with breathtaking prose, astute social satire, dark humor, and uncommon insight...but I always felt uncomfortable reading it. It made me feel like I was holding and admiring the iridescent scales on a deadly viper.

Perhaps the problem is this: there is not one person I know whom I would encourage to read this book. Doesn't that say a lot? And how do I review a work like that? In my years as a literary reviewer, I've read some weird and wonderful literary gems--almost all with potentially small audiences--but this work is truly remarkable, peerless, and singularly distinctive.

Am I making my point yet? Let me try to imagine for you the type of person who might enjoy this work. That person would probably need to be cosmopolitan (living in a densely populated metropolitan area); brilliant with a first-rate liberal arts education and an advanced degree (no mere average college education would do); a fairly radical liberal (definitely opinionated, perhaps even a closet ecoterrorist); comfortably in touch with elements of the current ongoing academic counterculture; an astute observer of modern culture; and someone who can find joy and humor in looking at the dark side of modern life, i.e.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rob Slaven - slavenrm@gmail. com TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Paperback
A wonderfully funny,ironic read that takes a broad-but subtle-back hand swipe at various pop-culture trends.
Adoption of Chinese females,Slow/Whole/Sustainable Yoga practioner gourmands and the family dynamics
thereof...all are flayed in this witty/literate collection. A bonus inclusion was the second usage of the word "aurochs"
I have ever encountered. That alone makes it worth a read.
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By bushwacker on February 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you love to read stories that involve politically correct people having their lives upended then definitely buy this book!
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