Thursday, January 05, 2012

Better Living Through Plastic Explosives

I have a bizarre relationship with short fiction.  I love it in that it's, well, short.  I love that I can take my time with the book as a whole because I only need to concentrate in small clumps.  That sounds terrible, but with two small children and a busy personal and professional slate, that kind of thing appeals to me.  And with that I've also got a rather large stack of books begging me to read them - many on loan from the library (I swear I'm just now learning how to manage my 'holds' so I don't get a dozen books at a time).  So when a book doesn't grab me within the first chunk of pages, I move on to the next book and don't give it a second thought - life's just too damn short to force yourself to read something.  When it comes to short fiction I'll at least try to read each story in the connection and only skip when I'm just not feeling it at all.  Which brings me to this book of topic. 
I think that Gartner can turn one hell of a phrase, she's a strong writer, great visuals and the usual technical praise.  If I'm honest though, in the entire collection there were only two stories that really grabbed me FLOATING LIKE A GOAT, and SUMMER OF THE FLESH EATER - the later I enjoyed so much I read it several times and I can't help but think that there's a film in there.  It's about a man who moves onto a street filled with men that are more concerned about what rub to put on their piece of meat than how to kill the animal that it came from, and he's more of the killing the animal kind.  It's a fun and smart story that really plays on man's feelings with how the world has changed and so we've changed with it.  Floating Like a Goat is written as a letter from a parent to a teacher condemning for giving their daughter a "does not meet expectations" mark on her report card when, really, the whole point of art is to not meet expectations.  It's a really cute and clever piece.
For me the rest of the book was just fine, but these two pieces were particularly strong.  If you like short fiction (Canadian at that!) then it might just be up your aisle.  It was a finalist for the Giller Prize last year as well.

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