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A Manual for Cleaning Women

Selected Stories

4.17 based on 6895 ratings & 1153 reviews on Goodreads.com

Synopsis

The New York Times bestseller

'This selection of 43 stories should by all rights see Lucia Berlin as lauded as Jean Rhys or Raymond Carver' Independent

The stories in A Manual for Cleaning Women make for one of the most remarkable unsung collections in twentieth-century American fiction.

With extraordinary honesty and magnetism, Lucia Berlin invites us into her rich, itinerant life: the drink and the mess and the pain and the beauty and the moments of surprise and of grace. Her voice is uniquely witty, anarchic and compassionate. Celebrated for many years by those in the know, she is about to become - a decade after her death - the writer everyone is talking about. The collection will be introduced by Lydia Davis.

'With Lucia Berlin we are very far away from the parlours of Boston and New York and quite far away, too, from the fiction of manners, unless we are speaking of very bad manners . . . The writer Lucia Berlin most puts me in mind of is the late Richard Yates.' LRB, 1999

In the media

Berlin's tales of addiction and violence, formally unpredictable and drolly grotesque, defy our expectations for working-class fiction . . . If you aren't familiar with Berlin, now's the time to get acquainted . . . A Manual for Cleaning Women brings together 43 of the unconventional, unnerving stories Berlin wrote over the course of thirty years . . . offer[ing] unusually detailed portraits of working-class lives . . . Allusive and lyrical, her writing looks more modernist than minimalist . . . [Berlin] didn't generalize or ironize working-class experience; she instead presented her neighbors in all their compelling specificity . . . What this writing affirms is the beautiful, broken human body as well as Berlin's rightful place in the canon of American short fiction.
New Republic
Lucia Berlin has long been overlooked as one of America's best short story writers, and it only takes readers the first couple of pages to recognize that . . . Reminiscent of Raymond Carver with a dash of survivor's humor, which makes even the bleakest tales thoroughly enjoyable.
Nylon
Berlin was underrecognized during her life-she died in 2004 at age 68-but A Manual for Cleaning Women, a collection of her work edited by Stephen Emerson and with a foreword by Lydia Davis, should correct that. These 43 stories, mostly published from the 1960s to the '80s, illuminate a gritty world where pink-collar workers seek illegal abortions, endure unwanted caresses from strange men and scavenge for pennies to nurse their addictions . . . Infused with Berlin's caustic humor and a sense of self-discovery . . . the most touching stories have fun with the foreboding.
Time