A stylish but ultimately slight debut collection of nine stories: think early Lorrie Moore, but without the empathy and insight.
Canadian writer Gartner strikes the obligatory hipster pose of ironic detachment without delivering much in the way of feeling. Nonetheless, she uses her sharp wit to deft advantage in portraying a parade of clever, observant, sardonic female protagonists who are, generally speaking, fed up: with men, their jobs, their lives. In `City of My Dreams,` a young woman working in a soap and cosmetics store in Vancouver reviews with stinging humor some of the absurd twists her life has taken. The most striking story here, `The Nature of Pure Evil,` centers on Hedy, whose lover has left her to marry another woman. First, she avenges herself by calling in a phony bomb threat to a restaurant where she knows the two are dining. Then things snowball, and Hedy begins to make random bomb threats having nothing to do with her lover; she gets a subversive thrill out of calling the shots and seeing people dance to her tune. Nothing much happens in this tale—nothing of real consequence happens in any of the stories—but it exemplifies Gartner's quirky voice and her feel for the way people drift through their lives without ever giving away what they're really thinking. But a little of Gartner's style goes a long way: a story can only skate so far on attitude alone, and one hungers for a character that doesn't evaporate the moment the page is turned.
Might well amuse the slacker crowd, but more demanding readers will find the laughs ultimately hollow.