Around the Press in 80 Books: Tough Day for the Army

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Copy and Publicity Coordinator Jenny Keegan writes about Tough Day for the Army.

WarnerTOUGH_covfront(HR)When I redid the cataloging and shelving system for my home library (yes, this is a thing I do regularly, but let’s not get hung up on how nerdy that is), I had the idea of dedicating a whole shelf to short story collections, which I imagined I owned scores of. Turns out I had virtually none at all: just a few never-read anthologies, purchased hopefully at library book sales on the theory that owning a type of book would transform me into the kind of person who read that type of book. It turns out that despite my best (well, my fairly half-hearted) efforts, I prefer my stories long-form.

But even my novel-loyalist heart could not resist the stories in John Warner’s 2014 collection, Tough Day for the Army. Warner said in a blog post, prior to his book’s publication, that his novel The Funny Man (published in 2011 by Soho Press) was called “smug” by a reviewer. He called the stories in Army “if anything . . . embarrassingly earnest.” I love that description, the earnest part for being true and the embarrassingly part for being extremely un-.

It’s tricky to be consistently funny, as John Warner is in these stories—I spit out my coffee when I was reading his gentle send-up of the YA paranormal industrial complex, “My Best Seller”—but it’s even more difficult to be consistently funny and consistently kind. Warner is generous to his characters in a way that I admire tremendously, and the best gift he gives to them is doubt. They doubt that they are worthy of love, though that doesn’t stop them stumbling blindly after it. They doubt the rightness of their cause, but continue with it anyway because they can’t see another option. In a world that can sometimes seem to prize certainty above everything, precluding the possibility of change and growth, the doubt in Warner’s stories is a breath of fresh air.

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