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Unsung Heroes of American Industry


Unsung Heroes of American Industry

I get it sent to my e-mail every so often as an attachment --- a
photo of a line of older ladies, all of similar size and shape and
in similar dress, smelling the armpits of men. They are deodorant
testers. No doubt about it, that's certainly an odd job. Armpit
sniffers, shopping cart manufacturers, and urinal puck delivery
driver. These are some unusual jobs not commonly found in the want
ads of your local newspaper. Mark Jude Poirier knows a bit about
odd jobs, and his latest collection of stories, UNSUNG HEROES OF
AMERICAN INDUSTRY, is about odd jobs and the workers who work

Poirier, whose lunacy has been written and read in books such as
NAKED PUEBLO, his first collection of short stories, and GOATS, his
first novel, continues with his skewed, dark and often
laugh-out-loud (or at least soft chuckle, or at the very least,
good smirk) new collection. "Buttons" is about the Badde family and
their dynasty. They're known as the Royal Family of Pearl Button
Making, but can they survive the tides of popularity and button
making machines? Then there's the love story of Billy, the worm
farmer, and Dora, the journalist who meets Billy while interviewing
him for a story she is writing in "Worms." It doesn't end all that
happily. In "Gators" there is the story of Durina, who makes shoes
out of the alligators that her mother skins. "Pageantry" takes a
look at beauty pageants for girls: "The fourth girl is a mongrel,
which is mean to think, Belinda knows, but she's honestly the
ugliest thing Belinda has ever seen in eight years of pageantry.
She has shapeless brown hair, wide-set Tori Spelling fish eyes, a
flat nose, and teeth like a jack-o'-lantern."

Granted, these stories aren't all that deep or philosophical and
they probably won't be found in stuffy college literary magazines.
They are, however, quite entertaining. They're funny, they're
witty, they're filled with a darkness behind the humor. "My family
didn't do gators. They didn't fish, either, or work in the cancer
factories on the river. My daddy built up a small carnival from
nothing but a pair of trained monkeys he had traded with a man for
one steel-belted radial tire --- when those tires were first

The book is slim, but the stories are thick with goofball antics
and fun wickedness. Poirier doesn't talk down to the button makers
and beauty queens, he just tells their tales and lets them live
their lives without the thud of judgment or condescending words. It
makes the reader wonder about other jobs that are rarely thought
about. Poirier tries to remind us, slyly and with humor.

Reviewed by Jonathan Shipley on January 24, 2011

Unsung Heroes of American Industry
by Mark Jude Poirier

  • Publication Date: March 20, 2002
  • Genres: Short Stories
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Miramax
  • ISBN-10: 0786868279
  • ISBN-13: 9780786868278