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A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  13,414 ratings  ·  2,002 reviews
A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With the grit of Raymond Carver, the humor of Grace Paley, and a blend of wit and melancholy all her own, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area uppe ...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published August 18th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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DF My tiny local branch of the Portland (Maine) Public Library had it in a "recommended" book shelf - on audio. Love love love this book.
John I'm not sure that there is any evidence that sexism or classism or any other "ism" was involved in causing her to be relatively obscure before the…moreI'm not sure that there is any evidence that sexism or classism or any other "ism" was involved in causing her to be relatively obscure before the publication of MCW. Certainly there are plenty of published women authors out there.
I suspect that there are a number of other explanations. First, I understand that her entire oeuvre consists of 76 short stories. I don't believe that she ever wrote a novel. I think it is much harder for a short story writer to obtain wide recognition than for a novelist. Alice Munro and a few others are notable exceptions.
Second, Lucia was writing in the western United States rather than the east where she might have had better access to a major editor and publisher. Who was there to champion her work during her lifetime and help her gain a national reputation?
Third, the totality of MCW can (should?) be viewed as a memoir. The whole genre of non-celebrity memoirs, as I understand it, got started in the '90's with the publication of "The Liars' Club" by Mary Karr. Since then, the genre has taken off. It may well be that the publishing world and reading public hadn't developed a taste for the genre at the time that Lucia was writing. In that sense, she may have been ahead of her time.
Finally, I understand that it's just plain hard for any author to get his or her work published and obtain wide recognition. Many authors who today are household names had great difficulties getting their work published. How many worthwhile works never see the light of day due to lack of a publisher?(less)

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4.18  · 
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 ·  13,414 ratings  ·  2,002 reviews

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Dave Cullen
Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My foundation as a writer was shaped by these stories. I first read most of them in 1984, when I went to grad school in writing at U of Colorado in Boulder. Lucia was one of several wonderful profs I had there, but it was her stories alone that I read, with awe, and said, "THAT is what I want to do!"

Quiet awe, by the way. That's the beauty of these stories. No kings or dukes or ladies in waiting losing their heads or fighting for the crown. No grand sweeping anything, no boisterous narrator, sho
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana, racconti
La vita o la si vive o la si scrive, diceva Pirandello.
Lucia Berlin invece l’ha vissuta e scritta, prima vissuta e poi raccontata, ma anche contemporaneamente.
Non è stata certo l’unica ad abbinare vita e arte, ma a lei sembra riuscito particolarmente bene, il connubio è pressoché perfetto.

Pensai: voglio un uomo che per salutare suo padre lo bacia.

[Irresistibile] Lucia Berlin a 29 anni.

C’è un’ironia particolare nelle parole della Berlin, che taglia tutto e niente,
Julie Christine
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I know already, just four stories in, that this will be a 5-Star read for me. And that a few weeks from now—because I am reading slowly, to savor each bit— I will struggle to pick my favorites from the forty-two short stories collected here. So this review contains tidbits from those stories which most capture my heart and brain and I will update as I move along.

Angel's Laundromat
A laundromat . . . that transient, warm, sad space . . . where we watch others sorting, folding, watching us... But
da AL
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Warning: Skip the two introductions to the book, unless you want to know how many of the stories end before you read them. In the case of the audio book, skip ahead to track 15 of CD 1. What were the people who wrote the introductions, and then the people who let them do it, thinking?!

A beautiful collection of short stories that inspire compassion and imagination. The multiple audiobook readers did well. Given how the book is autobiographically inspired and the author was fluent in Spanish, it w
Barbara Adamson
Aug 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I first met Lucia Berlin in 1991 as the significant other of one of her sons, who remains my closest friend. Though I knew she wrote short stories, it was something that was mentioned in passing and I never seemed to make the time to read them. I am thankful that I didn't. My age and experiences have just added to the thrill of discovering her writing now. I wish you could be here to see this, Lucia. Your time has come.
I was a little afraid to read this book. What if I didn't like it? Or think
Francesca Marciano
Nov 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
What a wonderful discovery: how is it possible only few of us knew of Lucia Berlin? Hard core readers should all be in love with her without question. Her stories are pitch perfect: witty, unpredictable,funny, tragic, sad. Her humor is oblique, original. The stories are so personal, clearly autobiographical, and I wonder if there were a few - about her alcoholism so painful to read - that she may have not wanted to see them published. No matter how self destructive she may have been, there is al ...more
Julianne (Outlandish Lit)
I wasn't going to review this book. I really wasn't. Because how does one even begin to go about describing what it feels like to be in love? Ok, maybe that's hyperbolic, but at the same time I'm feeling the same excitement and utter loss for words. I almost skipped this book because of all the hype. Because that's the kind of person I am. I figured there's no way I won't be disappointed by a book getting this much press and acclaim. But I am here to tell you that I, the coldest heart this side ...more
Mar 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Reading this collection of short stories was a little like going to MOMA and admiring a piece of modern art you know nothing about. At first you think, hmm, it's kinda neat, but then the harder you look the more the beauty shines through.
As the stories unfold in A Manual for Cleaning Women you realize they are all loosely connected, that there is a strand of consciousness. Gradually, Berlin's words begin to eat away at you.
I won't say I loved this book but what I will say is that her words haunt
“Afterward we went to a Chinese restaurant. But it was closing. ‘Yes, we always arrive when it’s closing. That’s when they order takeout pizza.’

How they had originally found this out I can’t imagine. They introduced me to the waiter and we gave him money. Then we sat around a big table with the waiters and chefs and dishwashers, eating pizzas and drinking Cokes. The lights were off; we ate by candlelight. They were all speaking Chinese, nodding to us as they passed around different kinds of
A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin is an amazingly wonderful collection of short stories. They share themes and characters so in some ways this collection shares some of the feeling of a novel but each story is a complete, vivid moment in itself. The people are so realized that I found myself thinking of them as real-more real in some ways than people who are actually alive since I got to know these people so much better than you can get to know most people you meet. E ...more
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: n-eua, g-contos, favorites, 5e
Lucia Berlin nasceu no Alasca em 1936.
Casou três vezes e teve quatro filhos. O primeiro marido abandonou-a grávida do segundo filho. O terceiro era viciado em drogas. Aos 32 anos estava sozinha e não voltou a casar.
Para sobreviver e criar os filhos trabalhou como professora, empregada doméstica, recepcionista, assistente hospitalar...
Durante um ano, parou a sua vida e foi cuidar da irmã em fase terminal de cancro.
Na juventude foi-lhe diagnosticado escoliose que a obrigou a usar um suporte de
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lydia Davis, en el prólogo al libro, nos dice que “Parte de la chispa de la prosa de Lucia está en el ritmo: a veces fluido y tranquilo, equilibrado, espontáneo y fácil; y a veces entrecortado, telegráfico, veloz.”

Gustándome la mayor parte de los relatos, quiero mostrar mi entusiasmo por los segundos, los entrecortados, los que parecen saltar caprichosamente de memoria en memoria, los que así destacan por esa forma tan característica en la que son narrados. Seguramente tenga toda razón la Davis
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tutto ciò che avevo eri tu

Uno dei grandi pregi di questo libro sta nella gioia di vivere che esprime, con un senso di grazia e opportunità tipiche di un talento singolare, segnato da una profonda esperienza introspettiva e insieme da una malinconia che spinge a sperimentare ogni cosa con spietato amore per il caso e l'avventura. Il materiale è amoroso e corporeo, pittorico e musicale; percorre sentieri eterni e indimenticabili che conducono in territori radicali, ingannevoli e accoglienti. Forme
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Las historias de Lucia Berlin son pequeñas píldoras de efectividad y potencia narrativa, deslumbrantes vistazos a una realidad que podríamos calificar de cotidiana o peregrina, pero que en realidad esconde un apasionante registro de experiencias extraordinarias. Si repasamos un poco la biografía de la autora, descubrimos a una mujer que llevó una vida fascinante y vertiginosa, no exenta de demoledores reveses, desplazamientos continuos, fracasos sentimentales e incluso una agonizante batalla con ...more
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: all-american
per favore, non consideriamola la miracolata della narrativa americana. ha avuto un discreto numero di sfighe, sì. ed è stata scarsamente considerata in vita (vero) per diventare oggetto di un piccolo culto appena dopo la morte (nel 2004 il giorno del suo 68mo compleanno, tanto per non farsi mancare nulla). in più era sfrontatamente bella e altrettanto sfortunata nelle relazioni, e ha sofferto quasi tutta la vita di una malattia, la scoliosi, che l'ha afflitta senza conferirle quell'aura nobilit ...more
João Carlos

Lucia Berlin (1936 – 2004)

A minha paixão pelos contos foi-me incutida, essencialmente, por dois escritores norte-americanos Raymond Carver com dois livros: De Que Falamos Quando Falamos de Amor e Queres fazer o favor de te calares? e Flannery OConnor com outros dois livros: Um Bom Homem é Difícil de Encontrar e Tudo o Que Sobe Deve Convergir. Ultimamente, Alice Munro , Lydia Davis e Richard Yates são as minhas preferências na área do conto, em leituras altamente recompe
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This collection of short stories was recommended to me by Glen David Gold (Sunnyside, Carter Beats the Devil) on a recent trip to City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. It had been on my book list here for a while, but as soon as I got it, I ate it up in a way I usually don’t a short story collection. This collection has been drawn from several of her books published by the legendary Santa Rosa, California publisher Black Sparrow Press (and it’s always an event discovering another Black Sparro ...more
Jan 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laysee by: Winston

"A Manual For Cleaning Women" is a collection of 43 stories about women in all kinds of demanding jobs: cleaning woman, laundry hand, teacher, doctor's assistant, ER nurse, ward clerk, and switchboard operator. Most of these stories are autobiographical. The lives of these women - broken, wretched, heart-breaking - are veiled versions of Berlin's own. This comes close to a 5-star read.

Berlin had a tumultuous childhood, dysfunctional parents and grandparents who drink, three failed marriages, fou
Paul Bryant
Apr 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Least likely to say : raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, these are a few of my favourite things. Tra la la, life is a blast. Fling open the windows and breathe in the scent of gladiolas and nightingales.

Most likely to say : one pint of Jim Beam, two pints of Jim Beam, three pints of Jim Beam. Those were a few of my favourite things. But now they're gone. And it's five in the morning, and the stores aren't open yet.
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quarenta e três histórias, episódios do quotidiano de uma vida atribulada, onde as vertentes autobiográfica e de ficção se misturam, contadas ora com crueza, ora com poesia, ora com algum humor, sempre com uma enorme autenticidade o que as torna extraordinariamente empáticas. Com locais, personagens e situações transversais a diferentes histórias, estas acabam por se interligar e este livro pode ler-se quase como se de um romance se tratasse e não tanto de uma compilação de contos independentes ...more
Wendy Greenberg
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
I am obviously missing something as, try as I might, I couldn't find the delight/wonder/magnificence in these stories that every other reviewer seems to have found. The hugely overlong introduction and foreword hugely distracted me as expectations were raised so high (for me) that the stories could not possibly deliver...Maybe I need to return to this at another time...but really not keen
Lucas Sierra
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Las sabias

Soñé. Atravesaba una versión de mi barrio con casas abandonadas. Nada tras las puertas. Nada tras las ventanas, y un silencio ardiente en pleno medio día. Nunca me pregunté por la suerte de mis vecinos, o de mi familia. Tenía claro a dónde debía ir. Dejé atrás el parque, la tienda de doña Angélica, la librería de usados junto a la canalización. Fui guiado por la ciudad desierta hasta llegar a la casa de mi abuela materna. La puerta estaba abierta, dentro olía a humedad. Entré. Cada par
Foram três coisas que me fizeram olhar para este livro:
- o título que para além de causar uma certa estranheza também causa impacto e aguça a curiosidade;
- a capa com uma mulher, neste caso a própria Lucia Berlin, a fumar. Algo raro nos dias de hoje;
- a autora, de quem nunca tinha ouvido falar.

“Conheci” Lucia Berlin através dos 43 contos que aqui estão reproduzidos dos cerca de 70 que ela escreveu.
São contos que têm um carácter autobiográfico em que a escrita é simples, sem floreados, sincera, m
Jason Diamond
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There are so many stereotypical things I could say about this collection like the stories "popped" off the pages and "I couldn't put it down," and all of them would be true. I felt like she was right in front of me telling me her story, that's how real these stories felt. Funny and biting, at times gritty and dark. I absolutely loved this.
Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
La donna che visse più volte.

«Il mondo continua ad andare avanti. Alla fine non c'è molto altro che conti. Che conti davvero, voglio dire. Ma poi qualche volta ti capita, per un secondo, di essere toccato da questa grazia, dalla certezza che invece ci sia qualcosa che conta, che conta davvero.»

Per comprendere il titolo del mio commento, e per avere qualche cenno biografico sulla vita avventurosa, sulle tante vite, vissute da Lucia (si pronuncia Lu-see-a) Berlin (e per vedere anche quanto sia bel
May 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Berlin writes as if she is telling the reader the stories of her life. The stories are quirky and messy and don't have easy conclusions. They feel true. She writes about everyday life; good times, hard times, mis-adventures and detours. The same characters keep showing up in these semi-autobiographical stories - Grandpa, Uncle John, her mother, her sister Sally, her husbands, her children - but the perspective keeps changing. You never know what to expect. The cumulative effect is --- expansive. ...more
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I can’t overstate the importance of this book to my own writing. It strikes a perfect balance between precise language and thrilling thought. And it has so much life; the result of a woman who spent much of it cleaning houses, working in trauma wards, getting drunk and getting sober. Lucia Berlin goes up with Denis Johnson, Lydia Davis, and Barry Hannah in my short story dream team.
Sep 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Time stops when someone dies. Of course it stops for them, maybe, but for the mourners time runs amok. Death comes too soon. It forgets the tides, the days growing longer and shorter, the moon. It rips up the calendar.

Why isn’t this already on your to-read list? It’s the real deal, guys. Check out what that ‘, maybe,’ does.

I traveled through the southwest in the 1950s, I lived in Berkely in the 1970s, and she’s got those places and times nailed here. Thank God I didn’t live in a family like the
Rafa Sánchez
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favoritos
Este libro me ha parecido una maravilla inesperada. No soy muy amante de los relatos, es decir, que trato de escoger siempre historias convenientemente largas que me permitan zambullirme durante horas en otros mundos, pero "Manual para mujeres..." por su selección de relatos, compagina todos los gustos y satisface plenamente cualquier tipo de lector. Nuestra fortuna es que un buen editor tenga tal cantidad de relatos semiautobiográficos (donde no se sabe donde está la frontera entre la autobiogr ...more
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Description in one sentence or less:

A collection of stories about the rest of us.

Review Haiku:

Compared to the stars
We are so, so very small
And nearly as bright

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Flytterengøring København Service 1 1 Dec 14, 2018 06:21AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Add synopsis 4 27 Jun 17, 2016 12:13AM  
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Berlin began publishing relatively late in life, under the encouragement and sometimes tutelage of poet Ed Dorn. Her first small collection, Angels Laundromat was published in 1981, but her published stories were written as early as 1960. Several of her stories appeared in magazines such as The Atlantic and Saul Bellow’s little magazine The Noble Savage.

Berlin published six collections of short st
“I’m having a hard time writing about Sunday. Getting the long hollow feeling of Sundays. No mail and faraway lawn mowers, the hopelessness.” 37 likes
“Poor people wait a lot. Welfare, unemployment lines, laundromats, phone booths, emergency rooms, jails, etc.” 36 likes
More quotes…