Book Diary: A Manual for Cleaning Women (Lucia Berlin)

I picked this book up because I thought it said: “A Manual for Unclean Women”.  It wasn’t until I was in the act of buying it that I realised my error.  I don’t know exactly why that mistaken title enticed me (well, okay, maybe I do), but I’m glad I was wrong and I’m glad I have discovered this incredible woman through a silly mistake like that.

I sometimes have a problem with books that I have really loved, where they leave me without words to describe the love I have felt for the words I have read.  I have this issue even more so with Berlin because her stories are so personal, and draw so much on her own life, that I feel that I love her also.

Additionally, when I know that I’m one of many people who (rightly) feel similarly, it can be best to leave the experience of reading something so beautiful in a place without words, so as to just feel instead.

I want to tell everyone who hasn’t already read her, to read her, to live her, but you can’t force beauty on people, it has to arrive.  So, I’ll leave it there, with these three quotes, that made me feel so very, too, much:

The world just goes along.  Nothing much matters, you know?  I mean really matters.  But then sometimes, just for a second you get this grace, this belief that it does matter, a whole lot.  

He felt that way too.  I heard the catch in his throat.  Some people may have said a prayer, knelt down, at a moment like that.  Sung a hymn.  Maybe cavemen would have done a dance.  What we did was make love.  “El Sapo” busted us.  Later, but we were still naked.


Of course I have a self here, and a new family, new cats, new jokes.  But I keep trying to remember who I was in English.


In Albuquerque, when we were young, before I met him, I had listened to him play saxophone, watched him race Porsches at Fort Sumter.  Everybody knew who he was.  He was handsome, rich, exotic.  Once I saw him at the airport, saying goodbye to his father.  He kissed his father good-bye, with tears in his eyes.  I want a man who kisses his father good-bye, I thought.


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