Driven by strange ambitions, bungled love, and a taste for – or abject fear of – physical danger, the characters in this collection enact the paradox in the concept of a quality snack: the dream of transmuting the mundane into something extraordinary.
Andy Mozina depicts high-stakes performances to gratify both deep and superficial needs: A man experiencing a career crisis watches a 74-year-old great grandmother perform aerial acrobatics at the top of a swaying 110-foot pole. A troubled young man tries to end his father’s verbal harassment by successfully hunting a polar bear. Desperate to find a full-time job, a pizza deliveryman is fooled into a humiliating sexual demonstration by a couple at a Midway Motor Lodge. And in the title story, a flavor engineer at Frito-Lay tries to win his boss’s heart with his strategy to reposition Doritos from snack food to main course.
I was browsing some titles on Net Galley and on a whim I decided to request Andy Mozina’s Quality Snacks only after reading that it is a short story collection. I have been on a short story collection quest these days, you see, and I can not resist the temptation of sampling this collection even if I haven’t heard about the author yet.
Quality Snacks is a collection of fifteen stories — some bizarre, some hilarious, some haunting, all of great writing and philosophical — and I had a grand time enjoying the reading experience.
I must admit that the first few stories did not really speak to me that well (the first two stories actually baffled me), although five stories in, I finally got the hang of Andy Mozina’s writing. What made me continue to read was the prose, because it was matter-of-fact, and the tone, because it was funny. Admittedly, several stories are “for adults only”, but as an adult, I appreciated the way Andy Mozina depicted his characters. The characters were dominantly male who are either disillusioned, dispirited, narcissistic, or desperate, I cannot help but be reminded of Raymond Carver’s pathetic characters in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
If I were to pick out my top 5 favorite stories, the list would include the following, in no particular order, with my favorite quotes in them:
- A Talented Individual. “He didn’t want to be that guy. The people he read about in magazine profiles never needed bracing slaps from their life partners — they were arrogant bastards, floating on clouds of success.”
- Quality Snacks. “It occurred to me, as I pondered these judgments, that while Americans had overcome the challenges inherent in producing quality snacks, we were not as good at fostering quality human relationships…”
- Self-Reliance. (This story really had me LMAO.) “Yes, they had seen everything about me, but it occurred to me that you can’t rely on yourself if you feel ashamed of yourself, so I told myself I was not ashamed.”
- My Nonsexual Affair. “There is a natural progression to things, which, you could say, we resisted, but I believe our adventure was singular, and as a result it is something to be cherished.”
- No Joy in Santa’s Village. “He had retired from gift giving and turned to baseball because no one believed he could deliver so many presents in one night, and so people had, more and more over the years, gotten used to making their own arrangements for gifts…”
- The Bad Reader
- Always the Same Dream
All in all, Quality Snacks is a surprisingly good read; not bad for a random pick. I am thoroughly pleased. 🙂
My copy: ebook from Net Galley.
Wayne State University Press
May 1, 2014
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