Friday 10 May 2024

Angel's Laundromat by Lucia Berlin



Compared to some of the other excellent stories by Lucia Berlin that I have encountered so far in the "Manual for Cleaning Woman" collection, "Angel's Laundromat" is probably the least memorable. It is unclear to me if the editors organized these stories chronologically based on publication date but this is the first story to appear in the anthology and feels like it could be one of her earlier works. She seems to be standing right on the cusp of refining her distinctive minimalist style, characterized by quaint, succinct sentences, rapid storytelling, and witty humor. 

She is also known for incorporating autobiographical details, which is particularly evident here with the narrator being named Lucia. Presumably drawing upon these real-life experiences, she recounts her time spent at this establishment, washing clothes and interacting with some of the regular patrons. She is fascinated by an Indigenous gentleman named Tony, who is an alcoholic and has this strange obsession with staring at her hands. Many readers are bound to find the author's depiction of Tony and indigeneity as racist, relying heavily upon stereotypes. Similar to other Berlin stories, the narrator jumps from one vignette to the next in rapid succession while sprinkling in some background history during the process. Unfortunately, this story is missing the magical spark, finesse and emotional resonance one expects from Lucia Berlin's exceptional writing.

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