Sequestered on Kwajalein, an island hardly larger than a shopping mall, this American community of 2,500 civilians seems the embodiment of the American dream, like a frowzy, white-washed beach town forgotten by time. Americans who come here- – school teachers and nurses and engineers contracted by the U.S. Army to support the missile test site- – believe that they are getting away from it all. But they quickly discover that they have brought their problems with them. At turns comedic and nearly heart-breaking, the characters’ struggles for love, success, acceptance, and peace of mind in Missile Paradise illuminate the difficulties and contradictions of life in the twenty-first century.
David Owen, staff writer for the New Yorker, author of Green Metropolis
Marion Winik, author of Glen Rock Book of the Dead
Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Summer of Naked Swim Parties
Chris Jones, writer-at-large for Esquire
Julia Glass, author of Three Junes and A Widower’s Tale
Lia Purpura, author of On Looking and Rough Likeness
Here is a mordant romp, a ballad in the key of grit. Kiss Me, Stranger posits a cartoon future uncomfortably credible, in which scrap iron is more valuable than gold, rival militias are interchangeable, and the garbage rises to engulf us. How remarkable, then, that children, generosity, resilience, and love still tug at us in the old way. Bravo!
Janet Burroway, author of Bridge of Sand
Ron Tanner’s amazing amalgam of a book, Kiss Me, Stranger, has done the impossible, namely, simultaneously alloying a dark dystopic landscape with a dreamy demonicly manic state of stone-cold wonderfulness. This book out-hybrids any hybrid you can imagine, cobbling it together (with shit-kicking genius) inside the gaping maw of awe, deep, deep in our big ol’ oxygen starved brains. Stunning.
Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone
Ron Tanner has all the right wires crossed in his head, his imagination smoking, short-circuiting, his sentences snapping with a wild electricity in KISS ME STRANGER, a dystopic novel that reads like some wonderfully disturbed bastard child of Vonnegut and Orwell.
Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon
Ron Tanner’s KISS ME STRANGER would be remarkable for the eerie simplicity of the text alone, but his seemingly guileless illustrations flip this impressive book into another dimension, well outside the spectrum of post-apocalyptic narratives than runs from RIDDLEY WALKER to THE ROAD.
Madison Smartt Bell, author of The Devil’s Dream
Beautiful and absurd, clever and inventive, Ron Tanner’s speculative eco-fiction is a terrifying story for our times.
Michael Kimball, author of Dear Everybody
My choice for the first G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize is A Bed of Nails. The author is fabulously imaginative, experimental, witty, often breathtaking. The series of ‘Revolutionary Militia’ stories that thread the collection, and which are not science fiction so much as eco-fiction, have an eerie convincingness. Both male and female voices are handled beautifully, although the prose is what we’ve come to call ‘muscular.’ At first I felt that this was actually two collections, one concerned with life as we know it and one as we fear it will be-but came to believe that the worlds are perfectly married through their askew inventiveness and their witty contemporary language. It’s very assured and audacious work.
Janet Burroway, competition judge
A Bed of Nails went on to win the Towson Prize for Literature for the best book by a Maryland author. Administered annually by Towson University, in Towson, Maryland, the prize is granted on the basis of literary and aesthetic excellence as determined by a panel of distinguished judges appointed by the university. The first award, made in the fall of 1980, went to novelist Anne Tyler.
Other accolades for A Bed of Nails:
Ron Tanner is a writer with versatility, elegance, and wit to burn, but in the end his greatest gift is his ability to penetrate the hearts of whatever characters he’s chosen to inhabit and take us in there with him. When we return to hearts of our own, they feel just that much larger. A Bed of Nails remains one of the most beautifully strange and unpredictably moving story collections I have ever read.
Julia Glass, author of Three Junes and The Widower’s Tale
The stories in Ron Tanner’s wonderfully ingenious and diverse collection create a whole new image of the complex interrelationships between art and life. A Bed of Nails is a rigorous pleasure.
Madison Smartt Bell
Ron Tanner has a talent for creating stories that provoke his characters and readers to come to terms with risks-physical, emotional, and political. A compelling collection.
Assignment: Combine the tender realism and precise social observation of an Alice Adams with the wild machinations of a Donald Barthelme. Logically impossible, you say? Not for Ron Tanner, as his startling debut collection-with its clever premises, moving material and wildly imaginative details-proves.
In these thirteen diverse and nimble stories Ron Tanner juxtaposes raging tales of war with intense daily dramas where the dangers are more to the spirit than the body. The four war stories–which could be set in many countries–present a gruelling, tender, unsentimental portrait of a family fragmented by struggle against dictatorship. In his wry, unblinking style, Tanner also writes about a sales woman looking for love in a shopping mall; a Hollywood monster actor searching for his identity; a drummer who chooses between human love and artistic devotion. Throughout the book, one trusts the intelligence, research and genuine compassion of the author. Tanner’s approach is always enlighteningly unpredictable as he explores themes of longing, loss and survival. The Day His Wife’s Face Froze is a crucial reminder about the line between the folly of anticipation and the necessity of hope.