cover image Naked Pueblo Stories

Naked Pueblo Stories

Mark Jude Poirier, Author Harmony $21 (224p) ISBN 978-0-609-60447-2

Set in the suburbanized lower-middle-class Southwest, the 12 stories in Poirier's debut collection inhabit a landscape dominated by fast food joints, thrift stores and outlet malls, typical interiors revealing unmade beds and weary guests dozing on couches, with crumbs scattered all around and the television blaring. The detritus of pop culture becomes theme and holy grail in ""Something Good,"" set at a charity thrift store where a college student worker and his motley fellow employees snap up collector's items like Planet of the Apes coloring books and a Donny and Marie record trunk before they can reach the showroom floor. Adrift on a sea of consumer junk, characters in Poirier's stories depend on unlikely friendships to keep them afloat. In ""Son of the Monkey Lady,"" passive Freddy knows he can always count on his lifelong buddy Chigger to fix his grades, beat up his enemies and find him women. The protagonist of ""La Zona Roja"" is half of a similar duo; his ambitious girlfriend bemoans his alliance with Beezer, a Coors-drinking, white-trash loser, and the protagonist's companion on a trip to a horrific brothel in Mexico. In Poirier's most ambitious story, ""Cul-de-sacs,"" a disillusioned family man named Ed tries to lure his wife and visiting niece away from the local mall to look at planes at a dusty air museum. The day trips fail, and the increasingly hostile Ed takes off on long walks, pushing his son in a stroller through their eerie, half-finished housing development. The tightly knit neighborhood families--including a couple who've adopted a chimpanzee as a surrogate child--represent enticing if bizarre alternate realities for Ed. Though Poirier's tales strain at times for shock value, they are always vivid, often graphic, and sometimes unsettlingly--and deliciously--garish. (Oct.)