All the Anxious Girls on Earth: Stories

Zsuzsi Gartner, Author Anchor Books $12 (208p) ISBN 978-0-385-49911-8
The nine edgy tales gathered in Canadian short story stylist Gartner's debut collection are daringly diverse in presentation, if uneven in execution. Most problematic is the overuse of a tricky second-person narrative voice, employed in no fewer than three tales, including the opening story, ""How to Survive in the Bush."" Here, the earnestly didactic imperative detracts from the archly humorous underpinnings of a Canadian version of Green Acres involving a city girl and a reclusive aviator. Thankfully, style and content are more happily wedded in the earthy ""boys growing,"" in which a scent-obsessed schoolteacher pursues her still sweet-smelling male students, rejecting men her own age who reek of ""wet metal."" In the hilarious ""The Nature of Pure Evil,"" the protagonist discovers a novel way to assert herself. After her live-in boyfriend of seven years makes her iron his tuxedo shirt before he heads off to what turns out to be his wedding to another woman, Hedy begins calling in fake bomb threats. Gartner proves herself capable of pyrotechnic bursts of prose in ""City of my dreams,"" which revolves around a woman named Lewis, the programmer for a film festival who retreats to work in a shop that sells food-inspired soap after a disappointed filmmaker self-immolates on her front porch. Finally, in the most ambitious piece, ""Odds that, all things considered, she'd someday be happy,"" a terrorist act gets the four-sided Rashomon treatment, with the victim's mother benefiting the most when she uses her daughter's tragic death as the perfect springboard to a career as a talk-show host. When Gartner doesn't strain too hard at her craft, her undeniably original voice charges her stories with irresistible verve. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/19/2000
Release date: 06/01/2000
Ebook - 97 pages - 978-0-307-48129-0
Hardcover - 199 pages - 978-1-55263-029-7
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-1110-9
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-14-318621-2
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