cover image Tough Day for the Army

Tough Day for the Army

John Warner. Louisiana State Univ., $22.50 trade paper (168p) ISBN 978-0-8071-5802-9

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%E2%80%94and 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.)