09/03/2014 03:31 PM
BATON ROUGE – John Warner’s “Tough Day for the Army,” the newest entry in LSU Press’s Yellow Shoe Fiction series, moves 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, Warner’s 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.
Warner is the author of “The Funny Man” as well as three other books. He is the editor
at large of “McSweeney’s Internet Tendency” and a weekly columnist for the Printers
Row, the literary supplement for the Chicago Tribune. His short fiction has appeared,
among other places, in Ninth Letter, McSweeney’s, Zoetrope All-Story Extra and Salon.
Posted on Wednesday, September 3, 2014