The Stories of Lucia Berlin

Patricia Lockwood at the LRB:

It is worth noting how unerring Berlin’s taste was. She spoke of both Chekhov and William Carlos Williams as models. Her characters read Middlemarch the way other people read Flowers in the Attic: dangling from one hand. The editor of A Manual for Cleaning Women, Stephen Emerson, describes exchanging books with her. He gave her Dreiser once and she hated it, saying he wrote like a guy. I have a soft spot for Dreiser, but it’s because half his writing is made up of descriptions of girls’ trim waists in tight suits twinkling up the steps. The only reason to read Dreiser at age 11 is to become bisexual, and Lucia was far too straight to fall for that. Or perhaps I’m talking about keeping it classy. Do you read Racine when you’re drunk? No, I read a novelisation of One Tree Hill called A Heart So True and it’s awesome, and that’s the reason I’ll never have a story in the Atlantic Monthly.

There is less to say about writers who know what to leave out. Even Davis, in her introduction to A Manual for Cleaning Women, seems somewhat at a loss, though their affinity is a given: a woman who writes a story like Davis’s ‘Mown Lawn’ is going to like a woman who writes: ‘There are certain perfect particular sounds. A tennis ball, a golf ball hit just right. A fly ball in a leather glove. Lingering thud of a knockout. I get dizzy at the sound of a perfect pool break, a crisp bank shot followed by three or four muffled slides and consecutive clicks.

more here.

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