Barely controlled energy propels these short stories. Sharp, fast jabs then wild arcing swings.
The first story, "Summer of the Flesh Eater" was my favourite. The story is told from the perspective of one of the pretentious neighbours who really doesn't have any insight into their snotty-ness, as if their thinking and attitudes are the default position against which the others are measured. The suburban locals refer to one of their neighbours as ‘the Truck Guy’ or ‘Lucy’ (as in missing link). His passion is cars. He likes his meat, as evidenced by the slabs of steaks, ribs, chops at his bbq party, for which 'he eschewed terms like “well-marbled” in favour of “nice and fatty, smacking his pal down soundly on cuts he deemed particularly "bodacious" '. He speaks colourfully “in a dialect Patel, our own Henry Higgins, recalls as “Thunder Bay, 1977.” [that is so bang-on perfect] He moved in to the neighborhood on Canada Day, with a u-haul hitched to a silver Camaro. “He wore what’s commonly referred to as a muscle shirt but what some would call a wife beater.” They “hadn’t seen a grown man in cut-offs that tight since Expo ’86. (We later had a spirited debate about whether his was in fact a conventional mullet or ersatz hockey hair.)”
“Afterwards, he sat down on his new front steps and drank beer straight from the can, wiping his lips with the back of his hand, exaggeratedly rotating his shoulders as if attempting to recalibrate himself. “
This guy is so pegged! And so are his snotty pretentious neighbours who regard him as a specimen; they knew that such men existed but had never had a chance to observe one in such close proximity.
She writes of the nearby rendering plant “The congealed odour of pyrolyzed animal parts would enter the cul-de-sac and then just hang there, as if snagged on a hydro line.”
Zsuzsi Gartner's writing is witty, funny, angry, and sometimes ethereally weird. She smiles when she bites. She sees what is right in front of us, and then presents it to us in a way that is new and fresh.