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Tough Day for the Army


Yellow Shoe Fiction

160 pages / 5.50 x 8.50 inches / no illustrations

ebook available


  Paperback / 9780807158029 / September 2014
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.

Praise for Tough Day for the Army

“A short story collection that mashes the surreal with the heartfelt to fantastic effect. . . . 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.”—Publishers Weekly

“Mark Twain and George Saunders have taught us that through their subversive prose and storytelling. Warner trades in the same terrain as these great men, too. His bag of storytelling tricks goes a bit deeper, however, to subvert the form and structure of modern humor. . . . Tough Day for the Army is a middle finger to the strictures of form.”—Scott Elingburg, PopMatters

“A gift to those of us who love the form. . . Nelson asks, ‘Is there anything better than a beautiful girl laughing into your chest?’ My only answer might be a compelling collection of short stories, and John Warner has given us one.”—Los Angeles Review

“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 and become a better man.”—Roxane Gay, author of An Untamed State

“John Warner’s debut collection of stories would be impressive enough for its sheer versatility, how it careers from hilarious to heartbreaking as if written by different authors altogether. Warner may have his influences—Barthelme and Saunders, notably—but Tough Day for the Army is indubitably his, glancing and sly, and, at the end, deeply touching.”—Teddy Wayne, author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine

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