The phenomenal reappearance and embrace of Lucia Berlin's remarkable short stories by readers across the U.S. and internationally this year is enormously gratifying to longtime admirers of her work, and eye opening to those newly encountering her writing. In mid-August, Farrar, Straus and Giroux released Berlin's A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories, edited by her friend Stephen Emerson, with a foreword by Lydia Davis. The book immediately shot to the top of the lists of critics' reviews and literary bestsellers, and the work is being translated and acclaimed across more than a dozen foreign editions. The event is free and open to the public.
Lucia Berlin (1936 – 2004) published 77 short stories during her lifetime. Most were collected in three volumes from Black Sparrow Press: Homesick (1991), So Long (1993) and Where I Live Now (1999). These gathered from previous collections of 1980, 1984 and 1987, and presented newer work. Early publication commenced when she was 24 in Saul Bellow’s journal The Noble Savage and in The New Strand. Later stories appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, New American Writing and countless smaller magazines. Homesick won an American Book Award. Berlin worked brilliantly but sporadically throughout the 1960s, 1970s and most of the 1980s. By the late ’80s, her four sons were grown and she had overcome a lifelong problem with alcoholism (her accounts of its horrors, its drunk tanks and deliria and occasional hilarity occupy a particular corner of her work). Thereafter she remained productive up to the time of her early death.
“In the field of short fiction, Lucia Berlin is one of America’s best-kept secrets. That’s it. Flat out. No mitigating conditions.” — Paul Metcalf
“Berlin’s style is unadorned, often telegraphic, rough-hewn. ... It is writing of a very high order.” — August Kleinzahler, London Review of Books
“I have always had faith that the best writers will rise to the top, like cream, sooner or later, and will become exactly as well known as they should be — their work talked about, quoted, taught, performed, filmed, set to music, anthologized. Perhaps, with the present collection, Lucia Berlin will begin to gain the attention she deserves.” — Lydia Davis, The New Yorker