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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 154 mentions

English (20)  Spanish (5)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (28)
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
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 |
The introduction was spot on when it described Berlin's writing as electric.

How it crackles in its detached economy and clarity, to create an incredibly palpable sense of love and alcoholism and waiting rooms and abuse and poverty and families, the vibrancy and brutality and gentleness, the beauty underlying the sadness, and ugliness neath the joy.

Her jazzy, syncopated cadence beguiles; those extra phrases she adds onto the ends of sentences, almost like an afterthought, but deliberate, and ever so effective.

Just like with Munro, my favourite stories are the ones where Berlin is clearly revisiting her own life (arguably all of them then!) There's just something about their autofiction that - although not necessarily truthful - feels more truthful than real life.

Now I want to hunt down the Berlin stories that weren't included in this collection. ( )
  kitzyl | Mar 31, 2018 |
I am not usually a fan of short stories, but Lucia Berlin's prose evokes a raw intimacy that leaves the reader satisfied, even after just a few pages. Highly recommended. ( )
  JGoto | Aug 9, 2017 |
Love these stories - so real, so well-crafted. Haven't finished the book, but will reread. Grateful to Eugenia for her award-winning translation into Spanish, and all the acclaim it received convincing me to read it. ( )
  KymmAC | Jul 24, 2017 |
It's too bad Lucia Berlin had to wait for several years after her death to see her first collection of short stories published. The stories are gems of desolation, disconnection, and passion. Berlin's voice is singular in a way like, and unlike, that of writer Raymond Carver. ( )
  Smartjanitor | Jun 12, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (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.
 

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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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