The stories in John Warner's Tough Day for the Army move from hilarious and biting to unsettling and sad -- sometimes within the span of a few pages. Mining the absurdities, confusions, and hypocrisies of our contemporary times, these stories raise questions such as: What would happen if Jesus Christ played minor league hockey before he became the Son of God ("Second Careers")? What would you do if a group of poets in search of inspiration appeared on your farm ("Poet Farmers")?
Many of the stories upend expectations of the act of storytelling, as in "Corrections and Clarifications," written entirely in the form of newspaper corrections, or "Return-to-Sensibility Problems after Penetrating Captive Bolt Stunning of Cattle in Commercial Beef Slaughter Plant #5867: Confidential Report," which begins as a straightforward account of slaughterhouse operations but quickly devolves into something wholly surprising and different.
Warner's relentlessly inventive stories are reminiscent of the works of Donald Barthelme, George Saunders, and Amy Hempel. With comic and tender rambunctiousness, his satirical voice parries and thrusts its way through each narrative, combining a strong wit with a soft heart.
John Warner is the author of The Funny Man as well as three other books. His short fiction has appeared, among other places, in Ninth Letter, McSweeney's, Zoetrope All-Story Extra, and Salon. He is a weekly columnist for the Printers Row, the literary supplement for the Chicago Tribune.
"John Warner is, as the saying goes, crazy in a good way. Things that to us seem perfectly harmless and mundane hamburgers, pets, peacekeeping missions, marriages appear to him in very altered and somewhat dangerous forms. When we read his stories, the things that don't make any sense to him suddenly don't make any sense to us, either, and things get kind of weird for a while, and then, magically, we find out something new about the characters, about ourselves, about the world we were so comfortable living in just moments before. Tough Day for the Army is as striking and original a collection of stories as you're likely to come across in a day's march." - Keith Lee Morris, author of The Dart League King
"John Warner is an uncanny writer, bringing both heart and humor to his stories in the most winning of ways. In Tough Day for the Army, Warner is at his best. He takes bold chances and the risk always pays off. The highlight of the collection is 'Homosexuals Threaten the Sanctity of Norman's Marriage,' as Warner cleverly reveals that the real threat to any marriage rises from within and still allows Norman, poor misguided Norman, to try to become a better man." - Roxane Gay, author of An Untamed State
★ 09/22/2014Publishers Weekly
Warner, editor at large of McSweeney's Internet Tendency, has produced a short story collection that mashes the surreal with the heartfelt to fantastic effect. In "Monkey and Man," an organ-grinder's monkey may or may not be framing the narrator for murder—and why does the monkey know so much about his ex-girlfriend? In "Poet Farmers," a married couple struggles to endure the caped poets who recurrently show up at their farm wanting to learn "the toil and the drought, the struggle against the soil." "My Best Seller" depicts an author's hilarious machinations at crafting a storyline for his would-be novel that conforms to the fickle reading trends of the day. Like George Saunders and Etgar Keret, Warner plays with conventional mores, turning them on their ear. Also like those authors, Warner successfully layers his satire with rich characters and a general playfulness with form that somehow renders a deep emotional resonance. The result is a well-written and wonderfully comedic collection of short stories that gooses as much as it gives. (Sept.)
"Mr. Warner follows the path of authors like Chris Buckley and Randall Silvis, but he is darker than the former and funnier than the latter. . . . [Warner is] among the most perceptive and edgy chroniclers of an increasingly coarse American culture."New York Journal of Books
"Mr. Warner follows the path of authors like Chris Buckley and Randall Silvis, but he is darker than the former and funnier than the latter.... [Warner is] among the most perceptive and edgy chroniclers of an increasingly coarse American culture." -New York Journal of BooksFrom the Publisher