Better Living through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner


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I hate it when I don’t enjoy a book, it seems offensive somehow, like I’m letting somebody down. I just finished reading Better Living through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner and I don’t know what to say. It’s not that it was horrible, the short stories are witty, thoughtful and funny, it’s just I don’t think I understood all of the satire.

Better Living through Plastic Explosives explores the ironic side of society. What if the husbands took the roles of the wives and vise versa? What if there were architectural geniuses among the homeless? What if a movie producer decided to become one with nature and leave behind all of the glitz and glamour? What if the gods decided to inhabit the bodies of teenagers? And my personal favorite, what if there was a support group for terrorists? It’s an amalgamation of what if’s and a witty response to each one.

My favorite story in this collection was Summer of the Flesh Eater. The husbands take the place of the wives and the wives take those of the husbands. And what are these prim and proper men to do when a Neanderthal (big muscled, car loving guy) moves into their uppity neighborhood? The children love him and oh no…so do the wives. What is a husband to do?

Another great story is We come in Peace. In this one five gods inhabit the bodies of teenagers and in their quest to learn more about mankind they begin to empathize with the teens whose lives they have taken over. At the same time, they realize that certain themes such as acceptance among peers and the fight for and against woman’s rights hasn’t changed over the eons. I love this story for its simple truth and its hilarious scrutiny of human life.

I think with this collection of short stories Zsuzsi Gartner took the mundane stereotypical lives of people, made them funny and essentially allowed us to laugh at ourselves. If the goal was to make people smile and contemplate how ridiculous we all are with our vanity and our superficial wants and needs then mission accomplished.

There were some stories I really enjoyed and others where I was waiting for it be over. This doesn’t mean that the stories and the writing weren’t well done, just that it wasn’t to my liking. I think if satires are your cup of tea then you’ll enjoy this book a lot more then I did. Happy reading!


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