Friday, September 09, 2005

All the Anxious Girls on Earth

Swank Home

All the Anxious Girls on Earth
Stories by Zsuzsi Gartner

Contributed by Lezah

Short stories - they make me shudder. They take me back to grade 8 English class when, on my first day in high school - as a matter of fact, in my first ever class in high school (I had English in block A) - I had to read The Most Dangerous Game, that 'classic' story of a rich man who likes to hunt live human beings for sport.

From there until the end of my university days, I have read literally hundreds of short stories, and for the most part they are all as equally depressing/bleak/dark. I came to the conclusion that while poetry is often short - beautifully and succinctly so - and novels can often be luxuriously long, short stories are neither. They're neither long enough to flesh a decent story out, nor are they, in some cases, short enough - a bad short story can never be short enough in most cases. There are, of course, certain exceptions to this: Salinger's 'Nine Stories' is one that springs to mind.

So, when I picked up my copy of 'All the Anxious Girls on Earth', I was unaware that it was a book of short stories. I thought it was a novel, in other words... But, being a compulsive reader, I read it anyway.
'All the Anxious Girls on Earth' contains nine short stories dealing largely with the theme of personal responsiblity. Many of the stories were similar in tone to Pahluniak's 'Survivor', with the presence and influence of the media playing the role of evil step-mother to the characters in many cases. I think my favourite story was the one called "The Nature of Pure Evil" about a recently jilted young woman who phones in fake bomb threats to buildings.

Apparently this is Gartner's first effort, and with that in mind (and taking into account my prejudice against short stories in general), I have to give this book a thumbs up. The characters are quirky and the stories are varied and ... different - certainly different than the norm. But in a good way.

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