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A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected…
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A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories (2015)

by Lucia Berlin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 162 mentions

English (24)  Spanish (4)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
El cuento en su máxima expresión. ( )
  LeoOrozco | Feb 26, 2019 |
Probably would be fine for me if it had been another time.
  ParadisePorch | Jan 15, 2019 |
I’ve realized my challenge with short stories. It takes me a few pages to figure out the characters and setting, I start getting into it...and then it’s over. Unless it is a book like The Unaccustomed Earth that I stay up until 3 am to finish, it takes me forever to get through a book of short stories because I don’t feel the urge to pick it up after putting it down.
Lucia Berlin’s stories were compiled after her death in the book A Manual for Cleaning Women. They are fictional but autobiographical too. They deal a lot with the places she lived (Idaho, AZ, Chile, TX, CA, CO) and her life’s struggle with alcoholism, her sister’s cancer, her abusive mother and her many stints in blue collar jobs.
I wish the book was about half the length and either organized by topic or place rather than random stories, I.e all the short stories with her sister Sally in one section, her CA stories in another. That may have made it easier for me to want to keep reading.
Although it sounds very depressing, there are some stories and language filled with hope and love and lots of beauty in nature. It was a good book for book club discussion. Plus, with short stories you don’t have to worry about spoilers as much when some people have only read a few stories. ( )
  strandbooks | Dec 8, 2018 |
The forty-three stories in this collection are both a vibrant demonstration of Berlin’s excellence with the from-life short story and, to some degree, the narrowness of her range. Certainly the best of these stories are up there with the highest examples of the artform during the latter half of the 20th century. Some are so poignant and painfully raw as to be almost embarrassing to read. A few are just so sad. Berlin suffered early physical trauma, childhood sexual abuse, emotional shrivelling due to rampant alcoholism in her family especially her mother, and constant uprootedness as the family followed the father’s job placements at mines in the American southwest, in Chile, and elsewhere. Perhaps it is no surprise that Berlin herself turned to alcohol and had to battle with its charms and bedevilment for much of her life. She was as sexually adventurous as the female protagonists in her stories, but she also raised four boys, took on numerous service-related jobs to make ends meet, and, as this collection shows, also managed to write and publish dozens of fascinating and skillful stories.

One thing that surprised me here was not the vivid content of the stories or their frank presentations of alcoholism or sexual wandering. Rather it was the near absence of the act of writing, the process, the hours and hours that Berlin, as a real person, must have spent developing and honing her craft. That must have been a major component in her life and yet here it is nearly invisible. For someone touted as a great realist writer who famously draws on her own experience and presents it seemingly unfiltered, this seems curious. I can only assume it is deliberate artistic choice. (Because I doubt she found writing to be more shameful than some of the things she did under the malign influence of alcohol.) My question is what does that choice reveal?

I’m glad I read this collection and got a chance encounter some of Berlin’s writing. I just don’t think I’ll confuse that with having met her. I think there is more here than what appears on the surface. Which is probably no surprise.

Recommended. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Nov 9, 2018 |
When I was in college, I wrote a collection of short stories. They likely weren't very good (and no one read them beyond my advisor, my first reader, and potentially my parents). But they were very much of the write what you know variety and I mined experiences from my own life and from my mother and grandmother's lives to come up with the basis for the stories. Lucia Berlin also uses her own life and experiences in creating the sort stories that form this collection. Although hers are chock full of autobiographical elements, as were mine, I cannot claim to have the facility with language or sophistication of craft that she does but I hope that mine have a sliver more hope and happiness in them than hers contain.

This is a collection of 43 stories, all populated with broken characters. Many are clearly half-autobiographical and several are about the same recurring characters. Even those that are not obviously linked in this way are very similar in theme and tone. The stories are raw, dealing with alcoholism, drug addiction, cancer, death, despair, and loneliness. Berlin doesn't write happy. She writes about the disadvantaged, the poor, the overworked, and the floundering. The stories are straightforward and clearly personal. Having so many under one cover highlights the repetition though. They are well written but perhaps a more careful curation would have prevented the fatigue that set in as I pushed further into the book. Short story readers will likely appreciate these as the neglected gems that so many reviewers have labelled them, I just reached a saturation point before I finished (and I did in fact finish). ( )
  whitreidtan | Aug 16, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
In “A Manual for Cleaning Women” we witness the emergence of an important American writer, one who was mostly overlooked in her time. Ms. Berlin’s stories make you marvel at the contingencies of our existence. She is the real deal. Her stories swoop low over towns and moods and minds.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lucia Berlinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Davis, LydiaForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Emerson, StephenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Torrescasana, AlbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374202397, Hardcover)

Stories from a lost American classic "in the same arena as Alice Munro" (Lydia Davis)

"In the field of short fiction, Lucia Berlin is one of America's best kept secrets. That's it. Flat out. No mitigating conditions." —Paul Metcalf

A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With her trademark blend of humor and melancholy, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday—uncovering moments of grace in the cafeterias and Laundromats of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Northern California upper classes, and from the perspective of a cleaning woman alone in a hotel dining room in Mexico City.
     The women of Berlin's stories are lost, but they are also strong, clever, and extraordinarily real. They are hitchhikers, hard workers, bad Christians. With the wit of Lorrie Moore and the grit of Raymond Carver, they navigate a world of jockeys, doctors, and switchboard operators. They laugh, they mourn, they drink. Berlin, a highly influential writer despite having published little in her lifetime, conjures these women from California, Mexico, and beyond. Lovers of the short story will not want to miss this remarkable collection from a master of the form.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:11 -0400)

"Stories from a lost American classic "in the same arena as Alice Munro" (Lydia Davis) "In the field of short fiction, Lucia Berlin is one of America's best kept secrets. That's it. Flat out. No mitigating conditions." --Paul Metcalf A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With her trademark blend of humor and melancholy, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday--uncovering moments of grace in the cafeterias and Laundromats of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Northern California upper classes, and from the perspective of a cleaning woman alone in a hotel dining room in Mexico City. The women of Berlin's stories are lost, but they are also strong, clever, and extraordinarily real. They are hitchhikers, hard workers, bad Christians. With the wit of Lorrie Moore and the grit of Raymond Carver, they navigate a world of jockeys, doctors, and switchboard operators. They laugh, they mourn, they drink. Berlin, a highly influential writer despite having published little in her lifetime, conjures these women from California, Mexico, and beyond. Lovers of the short story will not want to miss this remarkable collection from a master of the form"--… (more)

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