Now along comes Lucia Berlin. Or here she always was, I guess, only I didn’t know it. Poor lady only had a couple of thousand readers, by one estimate. Deserved, deserves many more.
Wrote in short, snappy sentences. Black or bleak, take your pic. Zig zag. Bippity bump. Next sentence might be in the middle of next week or a few years gone by. But it all tallies up and makes you think: how much is needed?
Sad, funny. Funny-sad. These are not Park Avenue matrons who are getting their lives catalogued, or Hollywood stars or deep-dish lovers of sparkly ingénues. Rather they’re cleaning women, old Indians at laundromats, convent girls who are Protestant and yearn to become nuns but can’t catch a break—for what? Self-styled dentists in El Paso waiting impatiently for granddaughters to yank their teeth out, while blood runs down the chinny-chin-chin.
Prejudice, pathos, humor. El Paso, Mexico, New Mexico, Berkeley.
Fine, fine stuff. From a woman born in 1936 who died in 2004. But check out those pics of her as a young woman: Elizabeth Taylor, eat your heart out!
All this from reading Lucia Berlin’s recently published gathering of short stories, A Manual for Cleaning Women, a labor of love assembled from several prior collections.
But don’t take my word for it. Check it out. And be prepared to envy.