Cover image for Naked pueblo
Naked pueblo
Poirier, Mark Jude.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harmony Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
214 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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From the new American West comes a voice that is at once wicked and sad, hilarious and perverse. Mark Jude Poirier's Naked Pueblo is a raucous collection that transports the reader to the heart of Tucson, Arizona: from the trailer parks to the desert, all-night supermarkets to fresh suburban lawns. In rapid-fire succession we meet the misfits of the new frontier--Harper, who'll cook up any amount of frijoles in return for a prayer to St. Jude, Charles Backenbrush and his exotic choice of school art projects, the Monkey Chow-chomping rock climbers, and more. Barflies and bankers, disaffected teenagers and dispirited retirees, all connected by the exquisitely detailed city of Tucson and their search for a place to call home in the ever-changing landscape of the West.

Author Notes

Mark Jude Poirier grew up in Tucson, in a family of eleven children. He received a Maytag fellowship while at the Iowa Writers Workshop and was recently awarded a James A. Michener Fellowship. He is also a graduate of Georgetown, Stanford, and the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins. His stories have appeared in Jane, Bomb, and Tin House. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Poirier's brash, revved-up, yet love-filled short stories illuminate and nearly incinerate the spiky underbelly of his hometown, Tucson, Arizona. He is attuned to the grotesque and fascinated by the tension between our most elemental self, which is focused on basic survival, and our higher consciousness, which seeks beauty, feels compassion, and strives for a sense of purpose and meaning. These opposing forces are at work within the torqued psyches of Poirier's individual characters, but they are even more overtly depicted in the troubled relationships between friends, family members, and lovers that Poirier so cannily dramatizes. He has a soft spot for well-meaning hicks with a wild streak, and sons who are loyal to their husbandless and reprobate mothers, and all the denizens of Poirier's naked pueblo are contrary and a touch crazy. But even though their lives tip toward the more violent and chaotic end of the spectrum, they do look out for each other, so that no one has to go it alone. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

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 familiesÄincluding a couple who've adopted a chimpanzee as a surrogate childÄrepresent 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 unsettlinglyÄand deliciouslyÄgarish. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



From Son of the Monkey Lady Chigger has been lying about the raised lollipop-shaped scar on his neck since the day after he got it, back when he was twelve or thirteen. What really happened was he ran into a barbed-wire fence because the Petronis' dog chased his perverted ass out of their yard the night we were trying to see Mindy undress before she got into her big pink girlie-frilled bed. All Mindy ended up doing was brushing her hair and talking on the phone, and then their dog--his name was Lover Boy--came churning from around front and chased us out of there. Chigger got clotheslined on the barbed wire that separated their land from his mom's, and it cut into his neck. Lover Boy caught up and humped him. The wound was deep. You could see the slimy white of his windpipe like a fish belly--shining, in a bloody hole. Chigger's mother was too drunk to wake up, let alone take him to the emergency room, so we doctored up the hole ourselves. We found disinfectant-laced petroleum jelly in the medicine cabinet next to a box of crispy old condoms that had belonged to Chigger's dead daddy back when his daddy was alive. I packed some of the ointment into the bleeding neck hole, made the blood stop. Chigger didn't cry. Probably because I wouldn't let him see the hole. I put a Band-Aid over the jelly, and he forgot about it until the next morning, when his hungover mother pointed it out. "You did it to me with the nail-pulling end of the hammer last night," Chigger told her, "right after I called you a  man-at-the-dog-track-screwing whore." "You deserved it," she said. "I'm your mother. Always remember, I'm your mother." "Monkey Lady." "You better zip it, or I'll make another hole in your neck," she said. "Just try it," he said. "I hid the hammer." I could only stare into my Raisin Bran. I always ate Raisin Bran, no milk, when I slept over at Chigger's house. They never had any milk that wasn't almost cheese. "I'll use this." She held up a turkey thermometer and slammed it back on the counter. Then she looked down and started smoothing her fake-tan pantyhose, pointing one toe like a ballerina and pulling her skirt up a little, like she was sexy. She wasn't, and that was back when she had both of her legs. She was Planet of the Apes Monkey Lady with creases that ran from her lips up toward her nose and down to her chin, like her mouth had once been stitched closed with wire. "You'd take my temperature?" Chig said. "Stupid." "I'll stick you good," she said. "Stupid." The whole argument was stupid. Chigger was six feet two, 225, even back then in eighth grade. Monkey Lady couldn't have done shit to him even if she had tried. He went through puberty before anyone else and reached physical adulthood at age thirteen. In gym class, if Chigger was on skins when we played shirts and skins basketball, no one would go near him because of his size and because of the thick growth of red fur he had all over his body--even on his back. His team always won. I was always on his team. just last week, we were out at Hotel Congress, sitting in the Tap Room, getting drunk on fifty-cent Coors and celebrating my good grades. A girl sat down with us, squeezing up against Chigger in our booth. "All this and hairy, too," Chigger told her over the crackled Johnny Cash from the jukebox. She had said her name was Montaigne, but I'm sure her real name was something more like Susan or Anne or Rebecca or Linda or Jennifer or Sara. Her eyes were beautifully dark--like little bowls of chocolate pudding. "Hirsute," she said. "Sexy." She scratched her bony elbow. "I must admit I like your hair color." She pushed his bangs off his forehead. His hair was Bozo-red, like his fur. Montaigne had a 3-D mole above her lip on the left. It looked fake, like she'd made it from rolling up a glob of rubber cement into a ball and sticking it on there and maybe touching it up with mascara or something to make it darker. I imagined myself kissing her face. The mole would come off in my mouth, and I'd spit it on the pillow and say, What the hell is that? But I shouldn't have thought that because I had gotten married just a few days before. I shouldn't have pictured myself porking Montaigne, not while I was still married. "How'd you get the scar?" Montaigne asked Chigger, touching her own neck. "Knife fight," he said blankly. "Oh, please." She tapped her cigarettes on the table and bit one out, aiming it at Chigger, then me, but neither of us had a light. She looked around the Tap Room like there had to be cooler people to sit with. There weren't. Only grumpy artists and stinky drunks. One guy who smelled like a urinal puck wobbled over from the bar to our little booth. He held a shaky lighter under her smoke, and Montaigne said, "At least someone's good for something around here," only it was hard to understand her because she had a cigarette in her mouth. "How'd you get the mole?" I asked her. "I was born with it, dumbshit," she said. I reached across the table and pinched her mole and tugged. Her cigarette burned my wrist, but I kept pulling. It felt real all right: rooted, part of her face. Her upper lip stretched out like a tent and she screamed, and her cigarette went down my sleeve and burned me more before I let go. They made me and Chigger leave. The cranky bartender told us that we weren't allowed to ever go back. Montaigne cuddled up to the bartender and laughed at us. We jumped in Chigger's pickup truck and got a case of Miller for really cheap at Liquor Barn on Speedway and drove up to San Carlos Lake. first you see the lights of the prison, then nothing, then Globe, then nothing, then San Carlos Lake. Globe was where they used to make asbestos for school ceiling tiles. People in Globe have gray, loose skin because of it. Some of the real victims have skin that looks like it might slough off at any moment into a pile at their feet. Excerpted from Naked Pueblo: Stories by Mark Jude Poirier All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.