Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin, edited by Stephen Emerson, 403 pages. Audio is read by multiple narrators.

Christa and another coworker, Kathleen, maybe, had spoken well of this book back when it came out, in 2015. It took me a while to read it, or rather to listen to it and read it, but I am so glad I did.

The writing is beautiful and the arc of the book is amazing. The characters are so present, so clear; they're sad, or at least in pitiable circumstances, but they are not asking for pity. All of the characters are ware of what a mess their lives are, aware of they got there, and they are often at least thinking about changing their behavior. Her protagonists are working women, nurses, house-cleaners. There's no romanticizing the work, and no romanticizing the attendant problems with spouses, parents, siblings, and alcohol.
Really an amazing book.
It took me far too long to realize that these were the same characters (parallel characters? Is Charlotte, Carlotta also Lucille?)  appearing again and again.

I almost never read forewords or introductions to works of fiction (unless we're going to discuss the book), but since I listened to the first half of this book, I kind of had to. It was only because of Lydia Davis's foreword that I was aware of the parallels between the stories and the author's life; Davis quoting the author, "I exaggerate a lot and I get fiction and reality mixed up, but I don't actually ever lie."
Very glad I read this.

1 comment:

  1. For the record, this is one I've always wanted to read, but never got around to. Will have to re-visit.