You graduate from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop with a short story published in The New Yorker and subsequently Best American Short Stories. You stay in town and work on your novel. And work on your novel. Until, finally, twelve years have passed and you are working as a media escort for author tours and your unfinished novel sits in a box under your bed. Your girlfriend has left you. Your car is missing a muffler. Your neighbor is walking around naked because his hands are bandaged and he can’t unzip his pants. You are at the whims of a slew of increasingly crazy writers, and when one of them disappears, an insane New York publicist begins stalking you. This is the life of Jack Hercules Sheahan, a character well understood by author John McNally. He is also a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop as well as a former media escort, and these misadventures are brought to life by his very own. Recalling the ease and humor of novels by Nick Hornby and Michael Chabon, After the Workshop tells the satirical story of a writer who confronts the demons from his past while escorting those of his present.
After the Workshop
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JOHN MCNALLY is the author of two novels and two story collections, most recently Ghosts of Chicago. His fiction and nonfiction have been widely published and anthologized. He teaches at Wake Forest University and lives with his wife in North Carolina.
"A swift, wicked, and very funny book about what writers do when they're not writing. They're gossiping, scheming, pining, teaching, going on book tours, and--in the case of McNally's blocked and shopworn hero, Jack--babysitting more famous writers on tour and trying to think of a reason to live. The pace is brisk, the prose is buoyant, the vision clear and sharp, and the outcome unexpectedly moving. A fine novel."—Kevin Canty, author of Where the Money Went
"John McNally skewers so many sacred cows of the writing and publishing world in After the Workshop that he may need to hire a bodyguard. But beyond the biting humor and literary Schadenfreude is a novel about how hard it is to meet your own great expectations, which McNally renders with humanity and charm and his own trademark dark wit."—Tod Goldberg, author of Other Resort Cities
"John McNally is a ridiculously funny writer and this is satirical fiction at its very finest--not only does After the Workshop shred the eye-rolling vanities of our day, but it takes care, in the meantime, to smile kindly on what's good in the world, too."—Patrick Somerville, author of The Cradle
"After the Workshop is a rollicking, hilarious lampooning of the book business, from the most pretentious literary poses to ridiculous purchasing and marketing procedures. John McNally is a master of satire and wit, but what makes this novel most satisfying is that he is also a superb storyteller and the story of Jack Hercules Sheahan, a classic underdog with whom the reader feels an immediate kinship, is one not to be missed."—Jill McCorkle, author of Going Away Shoes
"Often picaresque chapters are delivered with a satirist's perfect understated pitch and announce John McNally . . . as a gifted meta-memoirist."—Washington Post
"This book is charming, sensitive, and at times flat out hysterical."—Mitch Albom, author of The Five People You Meet in Heaven
"John McNally's vivid, skewed characters, his vibrant prose and hilarious situations make The Book of Ralph, with its undercurrent of menace, a serious joy."—Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls
"Hilarious, perverted, cartoonish, violent, absurd, disturbed, and, in the end, dead-on realistic."—Julianna Baggott, author of Girl Talk
"McNally scores high for . . . not confusing earnestness with drama; for an inventive, engaging story . . . for trenchant observation; and for writing that endows its disaffected characters with dimension and some genuine pathos."—Chicago Tribune
"A whacked-out, often inspired satire that romps far and wide over the bizarre landscape of this conflicted country."—Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"It's rare to find such a thought-provoking novel that is also so effortlessly entertaining."—Time Out Chicago