Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Berlin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Berlin. Show all posts

11 November, 2015

Lucia Berlin, "A Manual for Cleaning Women"

First-person point of view story divided by the bus routes to houses the narrator, Maggie, cleans. "33-BERKELEY EXPRESS. The 33 got lost! The driver overshot the turn at SEARS for the freeway."

The first time I read it I thought that the narrator lied about having an alcoholic husband who had just died. "Learned to tell the ladies right away that my alcoholic husband just died, leaving me and the four kids. I had never worked before, raising the children and all." Upon a second reading, I think she's telling the truth here even though there is never any other mention of children. Later in the story, she addresses her husband, "I can't handle you being dead."

She imparts bits of wisdom for cleaning women set apart in parentheses. "(Cleaning women: As a rule, never work for friends. Sooner or later they resent you because you know so much about them. Or else you'll no longer like them, because you do.)"

She eventually stock piles thirty sleeping pills that she's stolen from her clients. "I have thirty pills now, from Jessel, Burns, Mcintyre, Horowitz and Blum. These people I work for each have enough uppers or downers to put a Hell's Angel away for twenty years." She and her husband had "made a pact...if things weren't okay by 1976 we were going to have a shoot-out at the end of the Marina."

In the end, she admits that she doesn't want to die, "Ter, I don't want to die at all, actually," and she cries.

link to review at New York Times 

09 November, 2015

Lucia Berlin, "Dr. H. A. Moynihan"

A crazy, wild first-person story told by a granddaughter who ends up helping pull all of her grandfather's teeth and, "...shoved a handful of tea bags into his mouth and held his jaws closed." Her grandfather was a dentist, a drunk, a collector, and a bigot but was also the best dentist in West Texas.  It's a wild ride of a seven-page story.

Lucia Berlin had an interesting and varied life as a young person as well as an adult. Just this year a collection of her best stories were published under the title A Manual for Cleaning Women.

08 November, 2015

Lucia Berlin, "Angel's Laundromat"

Told in first-person we see a woman doing her laundry in two different cities, Albuquerque and New York. In each place, revealed to her are other people in the middle of their own troubles. We don't learn a lot about the narrator--except that supposedly she'd had a cigarette lit by a prince. People she encounters are obviously interested in her. The Apache likes to look at her hands in the mirror.
Mrs. Armitage in New York entrusted her apartment key to the narrator so if Mrs. Armitage didn't show up at the laundromat on Thursday, that meant she'd be dead and would the narrator please go find her body. Oh my.

"Angel's Laundromat" is the first story in the new collection, A Manual for Cleaning Women, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2015. Lucia Berlin died in 2004. The stories were written mostly between the 1960s and 1980s. "Angel's Laundromat" was first published in the Atlantic Monthly.

Lucia Berlin Wikipedia page
web page including contact information for agent and publisher
a Vanity Fair magazine essay by Berlin's student and friend, Dave Cullen
a Guardian essay by Catherine O'Flynn
on Vimeo Berlin speaks about writing and reads some of "Angel's Laundromat"