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