“A near-miraculous, brilliant debut.”—George Saunders, Man Booker Prize–winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo
“In one exquisitely crafted story after the next, Will Mackin maps the surreal psychological terrain of soldiers in a perpetual war.”—Phil Klay, National Book Award–winning author of Redeployment
WINNER OF THE PEN/ROBERT W. BINGHAM PRIZE FOR DEBUT SHORT STORY COLLECTION
The eleven stories in Will Mackin’s mesmerizing debut collection draw from his many deployments with a special operations task force in Iraq and Afghanistan. They began as notes he jotted on the inside of his forearm in grease pencil and, later, as bullet points on the torn-off flap of an MRE kit. Whenever possible he incorporated those notes into his journals. Years later, he used those journals to write this book.
Together, the stories in Bring Out the Dog offer a remarkable portrait of the absurdity and poetry that define life in the most elite, clandestine circles of modern warfare. It is a world of intense bonds, ancient credos, and surprising compassion—of success, failure, and their elusive definitions. Moving between settings at home and abroad, in vivid language that reflects the wonder and discontent of war, Mackin draws the reader into a series of surreal, unsettling, and deeply human episodes: In “Crossing the River No Name,” a close call suggests that miracles do exist, even if they are in brutally short supply; in “Great Circle Route Westward Through Perpetual Night,” the death of the team’s beloved dog plunges them into a different kind of grief; in “Kattekoppen,” a man struggles to reconcile his commitments as a father and his commitments as a soldier; and in “Baker’s Strong Point,” a man whose job it is to pull things together struggles with a loss of control.
Told without a trace of false bravado and with a keen, Barry Hannah–like sense of the absurd, Bring Out the Dog manages to capture the tragedy and heroism, the degradation and exultation, in the smallest details of war.
Praise for Bring Out the Dog
“Good stories that deal with war must deal with the extremes of war: heroic altruism and murderous selfishness, piercing beauty and disgusting ugliness. Mackin hits all the notes and all the notes sound true. These stories are right at the top with the best I’ve ever read.”—Karl Marlantes, New York Times bestselling author of Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War
About the Author
A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Will Mackin served in Iraq and Afghanistan, first as a weapons system officer aboard a carrier-based jet, then as a joint terminal attack controller attached to a SEAL team. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, GQ, The New York Times Magazine, and Tin House and been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 2014. Originally from New Jersey, he lives in New Mexico with his wife and their two children.
“A near-miraculous, brilliant debut—a perfect storm of rarefied and timely experience expressed in a jaw-droppingly original prose style—this collection opens new doors through which the short story form may now step. Bring Out the Dog announces the arrival of a great writer, at just the moment when his signature combination of complexity, heart, stylistic verve, and fearlessness is sorely needed. If you harbor any doubts about fiction’s essentiality or relevance—its ability to expand to accommodate the special insanity of the historical moment—read this and be consoled. Will Mackin has written a first book that will last a long, long time—as long as there are wars and human beings fighting them.”—George Saunders, Man Booker Prize–winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo
“Unforgettable . . . spellbinding and adrenaline-fueled . . . It is the language as much as the experience that drives the action, creating taut, almost terrifying suspense. Mackin’s masterful prose is both poetic and aggressive.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Mackin turns in a virtuoso performance. . . . With vividly drawn characters and a strong sense of the absurdity of war, this striking debut collection will evoke memories of Tim O’Brien’s classic Vietnam stories, The Things They Carried.”—Booklist