Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests





Thursday, January 24, 2019

“Grafter” - An Original Short Story by John Duffy, author of "Death Road" and "One Day in London"











The first time I read a story by John Duffy it was during my read through of Abandoned Darlings, a collection of writings by the 2011 and 2012 MA in Creative Writing classes at the National University of Ireland at Galway. His story was about a very dangerous bus trip through the Andes in Bolivia.  (You can read my post on the story on the link above.). These words sum up how I felt about Duffy's really well done story, "Death Road".

You might have seen a National Geographic Channel program about the terribly dangerous road through the Andes in Bolivia that the narrator in this story crosses in a bus ride sure to scare anyone out of their wits who is not from there.   The first person speaker in this story is an Irishman out for an adventure in the wilds of South America and he happens to hook up with a beautiful and delightful sounding "French girl of Lebanese extraction".   Some cynics say the reason the English conquered India was because they could do things and have adventures there that they could never do at home.   I think that is part of the deeper theme of this very interesting marvelously cinematic story.    

Today I am very pleased and honoured that John Duffy has entrusted me to share another of his stories on The Reading Life, "The Grafter".





"Grafter" by John Duffy 

It was early afternoon when I cycled back to the office to collect payment after a short shift at Labour Ready. In no rush as the day was bright and sunny and I thought about the dispatcher in the office and how he could probably threaten me with another job if I arrived back too early. I spotted an opening in the bushes and there was something about this little path that looked enticing. I pulled the back brakes hard and skidded to a stop. It was early summer and there was overgrowth and briars in bloom. I made a way through, pushing back branches as I went. A tree lay across the path so I lifted the bicycle over it and kept going. Go on a little adventure there man. Seek some peace among the gentle sounds of the natural world and take a break away from all the commotion and traffic.

The air smelled fresh and it felt cooler among the trees and shade. At a clearing, such a lovely blue sky overhead and a few billowy clouds sailed past. Back in the dream time, ships, dinosaurs and dragons. I heard the sound of water running nearby so I continued to find it. Left the old Cherokee against a tree and climbed down an embankment. There were salmon berries, growing bright and red among the briars and light green leaves. I plucked a few and ate a handful, juicy salmon berries swirling around. Good choice there fellow. Let somebody else do the work for a change. How long have we even got here? At the sandy bank by the river an uprooted tree had fallen across the space and its branches dipped into the water. It could not have fallen in a better place.
There were a few diamonds in the rough alright, it was just a matter of skipping through the music player to find them. I opened a can of mango lemonade and took a swig. Across the river a single white butterfly flew by the reach of the trees. I marveled at this tiny creature for a while, this flutter of yellow- white glory as it climbed to the highest reaches of the tree tops. I thought about our baba at home. He’d be with his mother back in the city. They might be out buying fruit or formula or something. A wave of fulfilment and peace passed over me for a while. Follow the flow, away downstream, little waves of water and a fish with a strawberry sheen along its lateral line jumped and landed with a splash.

A small notice twirled on the breeze nearby. A memorial note, suspended by a string from a branch with a photograph of a young man. Back in time. We will never forget you. Family and loved ones. Remember the times. Maybe he liked it by the river as well.

Later, I packed up and made my way back up the path. It was still and quiet in the forest and the sound of the lively stream seemed distant now. The birds I heard earlier in the day neither chirped nor sang their sweet melodies. Everything felt a little too quiet and with the depth of the stillness a chilly, uneasy feeling passed over me. I climbed the embankment to the path and picked up the old Cherokee. There was a bear, looking straight at me, a black bear, his stout head of frizzy hair and shiny frame of fur filled the path. I couldn’t see past him. He stood there with his paws up. It was the first time I had ever seen a bear and I was gripped with fear.
Back in the old country a person might encounter a bunch of nettles or a swarm of bees for pain while out and about in the wild. I’ve seen the bull saunter behind a herd of cattle walk up the old boreen by the sea. Easy going animals. The fat brass ring lobbed through his nose and he licking his nostrils. To the dry stone walls of the western fields, carefully laid pieces of limestone, each a memory to some soul.

A lamb lay sleeping on his side, so you’d have to tip toe around him not to disturb his peace. It became clear in an instant I was dealing with a different pot of mackerel over here.

I leaped onto the bicycle and pedaled away faster than I ever pedaled a part. There was no point turning around. I hit a few tree roots along the way and nearly went flying over the handle bars. Then I thought about other bears that could be nearby. A whole sleuth of them could move out from the growth at any moment, looking for something to eat. Not too hot, not too cold, just about right. There’s not a pick on me lads. You’d be wasting your time. It’s all muscle here. I thought of my wife and son and if I would ever see them again. Bollocks. The path turned a corner ahead and I thought about what might be around the bend. I jumped off and wheeled the bike down the embankment, then stepped out into the river. I was fortunate, the water was low and the current weak enough to allow such a manoeuver. I waded across, feeling the water flow hard, rising up to my knees, trying not to slip on the bigger rocks. I thought of our boy as an adolescent in his future life, wearing a school uniform, talking with his friends.
‘What happened to your old man?’
‘He was taken by a bear back in the day. He wasn’t long in the country.’
‘What?’
Not today. I felt a surge of power in my legs and pushed through the water.
There was a bridge ahead and a road to my great relief. I heard a rattling sound in the woods and voices. A man and a child cycled along the path.
‘Hey,’ I called to him but he made no reply. ‘Excuse me. Hey man.’ Still nothing. ‘There’s a bear.’
‘What?’
‘There’s a bear on the path.’ ‘Where?’
‘You’re cycling towards him.’ ‘OK. Thanks for letting me know.’
I climbed the fence and got back on the road and then into the cycle lane again. Lucky boy, made it to the highway, then over the bridge, racing the freight train east. Then he turned the key and pushed open the apartment door.
‘Hey. Look who’s here. Daddy’s home.’ I gave my wife an extra-long hug.
‘Are you ok?’
‘Yes.’


‘I can’t believe you cycled there. What was it like?’
‘Good. It’s a beautiful day out there.’
‘Oh it’s just gorgeous. We went to the farmers market.’
‘Perfect timing anyway. His diaper needs to be changed.’
‘I’ll take care of it. You lie down for a while if you want. This is an easy job for me.’ ‘There you are now buck o. Clean as a whistle.’
‘Da, Da. Vroom, vroom. Car, car.’
‘That’s right baba, that’s a car, car alright.’
The lovely smell of his baby head and then the milky, puke smell of his banana bib bringing you back to reality. Hold him there and take his little foot in your hand and tickle his toes. And you’re happy to give, because everything is worth it. And nothing beats being there. And you will hold him for as long as he needs to be held because it’s the best feeling in the world.

End 

John Duffy is from Ballina, County Mayo. He writes short fiction and poetry as a hobby.

He has a BA in English and History from NUI Galway and an MA in Writing. 
He has contributed to Abandoned Darlings, an anthology of fiction and poetry, The Georgia Straight and to The Reading Life

An electrician by trade, John lives in Vancouver, Canada.

I look forward to following John Duffy's work for many years.

Mel u





Wednesday, January 23, 2019

"The Elephant and its Keeper" -A Short Story by Akiyuki Nosaka. 2003. Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori








Works I Have So Far Read for The Japanese Literature Challenge 12



  1. “Insects” - a Short Story by Yuchi Seirai, a post Atomic Bomb work,2012
  2. The Great Passage by Shion Miura, 2011, a deeply moving work centered on the creation of a Japanese Language Dictionary 
  3. "The Whale That Fell in Love with a Submarine" A Short Story by  Akiyuki Nosaka- 2003- translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori - 2015
  4. “Bee Honey” - A Short Story by Banana Yoshimoto- 2000 - set in Argentina during the annual Mother’s March for Disappeared Children.
  5. Killing Commendatore: A Novel by Huruki Murakami- 2017
  6. The Master Key by Masako Togawa - 1962 - translated by Simon Grove
  7. "The Elephant and its Keeper" - A Short Story by Akiyuki Nasaka- 2003. translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemari


The Japanese Literature Challenge,  #jlc12, runs until March 31.  Everyone is invited to join us.  Maybe as happened to me by participating in JLC 3 back in 2009, ten years from now you will count numerous Japanese writers among your favorite writers.

"The Elephant and its Keeper" is the third story included in The Cake Tree in the Ruins, a collection of short stories by Akiyuki Nasaka, published by Pushkin Press I have now read.  Six of the twelve stories, for sure I will read them all, feature animals in the title.  All of the stories in the collection are set in the final days of World War Two. Much of the population of Japan is near starvation, much of the country, especially Tokyo, is in ruins.  There is no hope left of victory and nothing to look forward to but more misery.  Nasaka's stories focus on the most innocent victims, children, animals, and country people.  His amazing "The Whale Who Fell in Love with a Submarine" reads almost like fairy tale but cuts deeply.  

"The Elephant and its Keeper" begins in Tokyo in 1945.  Government officials are worried that American bombs may free potentially dangerous Tokyo Zoo animals, lions, tigers, wolves etc.  The animals are closed to starving and might attack residents.  Plus it takes too many resources to feed them.  A machine is designed to strangle the animals.  All are killed but for the zoo's biggest resident, the elephant.  The machine does not work on him. The officials decide to stop feeding him and let him die of starvation.  They tell his keeper, of many years, not to come anymore.  It was so sad when the elephant heartbroken looks for his keeper.  The keeper did not just feed him but stayed with him nearly all the time.  The keeper cannot stand the thought of his friend starving.  Against regulations, he begins sneaking food to the elephant, enough so the officials wonder why he lives on.  The keeper discovered they plan to shot his friend.  He tells the elephant they will leave tommorow night and hide in the countryside, where the elephant can eat grass.  The keeper knows he will be in big trouble if they are found.  Under the cover of night they sneak out.  

I don't want to reveal much more of this very poignant story.  It is a love story on both sides as the elephant shows the depth of his returned love
when the keeper's darkest hour comes.

Akiyuki Nosaka was born in 1930 in Japan, and was a member of the yakeato generation, 'the generation of the ashes', who survived the devastating firebombing of their country during the Second World War. Nosaka lost both his parents and sister in the bombing and its aftermath, but went on to become an award-winning novelist, short-story writer, essayist, lyricist, singer and politician. His novel Grave of the Fireflies was turned into a hugely successful Studio Ghibli film and is forthcoming in a new translation from Pushkin Press.Nosaka died in 2015...from Pushkin Press

Ginny Tapley Takemori studied Japanese at the universities of SOAS (London), Waseda (Tokyo), and Sheffield, and now lives in rural Japan. She has translated a dozen or so early modern and contemporary Japanese authors, and her most recent publications include From the Fatherland with Love by Ryū Murakami (with cotranslators Ralph McCarthy and Charles de Wolf), Puppet Master by Miyuki Miyabe, and The Whale that Fell In Love with a Submarine by Akiyuki Nosaka... From Words Without Borders

Four short stories translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori can be read at Words Without Borders.


Mel u


Monday, January 21, 2019

The Master Key by Masako Togawa - 1962 -152 pages - translated by Simon Grove






My Introductory post for JLC12





Works I Have So Far Read for Japanese Literature



  1. “Insects” - a Short Story by Yuchi Seirai, a post Atomic Bomb work,2012
  2. The Great Passage by Shion Miura, 2011, a deeply moving work centered on the creation of a Japanese Language Dictionary 
  3. "The Whale That Fell in Love with a Submarine" A Short Story by  Akiyuki Nosaka- 2003- translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori - 2015
  4. “Bee Honey” - A Short Story by Banana Yoshimoto- 2000 - set in Argentina during the annual Mother’s March for Disappeared Children.
  5. Killing Commendatore: A Novel by Huruki Murakami- 2017
  6. The Master Key by Masako Togawa - 1962 - translated by Simon Grove

The Japanese Literature Challenge,  #jlc12, runs until March 31.  Everyone is invited to join us.  Maybe as happened to me by participating in JLC 3 back in 2009, ten years from now you will count numerous Japanese writers among your favorite writers.

The Master Key by Masako Togawa is a very interesting highly creative novel, set in Tokyo circa 1960 in an apartment complex for single women. The complex opened in 1951.  The rules are strict, all outside guests must register and overnight male visitors are not allowed.  The apartment building is to be moved soon.  This move sets the plot working.

There are chapters focusing on several residents, all single, mostly lonely and isolated.  There are three flashback segments from seven years ago.  In one a resident and a man dressed as a woman, to skirt the rules, bury a child under the communal bath.  His body could be revealed when the building is moved.

In another episode, we learn of the kidnapping of the four year old son of an American Army officer and a Japanese woman, who once lived in the building.  Marrying an American was slightly frowned upon.  

One of the residents was at one time a well known concert violinist.  I found the complex details involving her really intriguing. It includes a very strange fellow resident more than a little bit unbalanced.

The violinist decides to send letters to her former pupils.  She has a list of about  350 names and addresses, many from seven years ago.  Most go unanswered, some students moved. However, one of the students turns out to be the mother of the kidnapped boy.  This sets in motion a complicated series of events out of a detective story.

There is a key that will open all of the apartments, the master key, when it is stolen, things begin to get really weird.  The two receptionists play a big part in the plot.

The descriptions of the lives of the residents are  masterful.  Perhaps the best part of the book for me.  There is even a religious cult involved, a stolen stradavarious violin, a hoarder, a resident who steals milk bottles, recalled one night romances.

I never saw the ending coming,in which all the mysterious issues are resolved.

I am quite glad to have read The Master Key.

Pushkin Press has published a translation of another of her novels, The Lady Killer, which sounds interesting.

Bio Data from Puskin Publishing

In 2016, beloved Japanese crime writer and LGBT activist Masako Togawa sadly passed away. We’re delighted to be able to bring you her prizewinning debut novel The Master Key, originally published in 1962, as the latest in the Pushkin Vertigo crime series.


Masako went on to publish over 30 books and was described by the Times Literary Supplement as “The P.D. James of Japan.” She was as gregarious as she was talented, finding success in many different careers over the course of her rich and varied life. Here are some of her highlights:
Singer/songwriter: She made her singing debut in the well-known nightclub ‘Gin-Pari’ in 1954. Music and performing remained a big part of her life and she released several records including “Lost Love” in 1975 and “Bon Voyage” with her son Nero in 2015.

Club owner: In 1967, she decided to turn her sister’s coffee shop into a live music hall, calling it Aoi Heya, or “Blue Room.” The intimate 150-person venue in Tokyo’s vibrant Shibuya district hosted artists and composers, simultaneously serving as a Chanson club and a lesbian night club.
LGBT icon: After years of encouraging LGBT artists at Aoi Heya, she came out as bisexual on television in 1999. In 2002, she was one of the first Japanese television personalities to take an active role in the Tokyo Lesbian and Gay Parade.

Actress: From 1969 to 1974, she played the lead character in a television show called Playgirl about a mystery writer who creates an all-female detective agency specialising in white collar crimes. She also starred in a film The Hunter’s Diary (1964), an adaptation of several stories she had co-written.
Music teacher: In 2012, she started teaching Chanson classes, calling the programme the “Blue Room Grand Cabaret.” They proved highly popular, taking place on the first and third Wednesdays of each month and broadcast via web channel “Scatch TV”.

I was given a review copy of this book by Pushkin Press 

Mel u



Friday, January 18, 2019

The Commendatore: A Novel by Huruki Murakami - 2017 - translated by Phillip Gabriel and Ted Gossen, 2018, 702 pages












Works I have so far read for Japanese Literature 12 


  1. “Insects” - a Short Story by Yuchi Seirai, a post Atomic Bomb work,2012
  2. The Great Passage by Shion Miura, 2011, a deeply moving work centered on the creation of a Japanese Language Dictionary 
  3. "The Whale That Fell in Love with a Submarine" A Short Story by  Akiyuki Nosaka- 2003- translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori - 2015
  4. “Bee Honey” - A Short Story by Banana Yoshimoto- 2000 - set in Argentina during the annual Mother’s March for Disappeared Children.
  5. Killing Commendatore: A Novel by Huruki Murakami- 2017

After Midnight by Huruki Murukami was my introduction to Japanese literature.  I read it in 2009 during JLC3.  As of today, I think I have read all his novels but Secret Library, plus several of his numerous short stories.

Killing Commendatore, his latest novel, has all the elements we have come to expect in his work.  The narrator, a 36 year  old recently divorced portrait painter, having given up his ambition to be a master artist to support his wife and himself.  When we meet him he has moved out of the apartment he shared with his wife.  He drives around at random for a while but soon settles in a house in the mountains owned by an old friend.  The friend's father, a famous artist, lived and worked in the house for a long time but is now in a nursing home.  The narrator, we never learn his name finds in the attic a painting the man left.  It is based on a scene from Mozart's Don Giovanni in which a character, Commendatore, is killed.  Thus the title of the book.  The narrator becomes obsessed with the painting.  He wonders why it was left hidden in an attic when it should be in a museum.  This becomes intregal to everything that follows.

The plot is involved, lots of unexpected things happen.  I don't want to layout thenplot, just make some observations.

There is lots of magic realism, characters out of the painting come to life, all are little people.  There is a mysterious wealthy neighbor.  Lots of great classical music references, jazz also, plus modern rock music.  There are plenty of literary allusions.  The narrator teaches art and is having an affair with one of his students, a married woman a bit older than him.  He meets his neighbor who commissions him to paint his portrait, offering him a very generous fee.  The neighbor asks him to do a portrait of a thirteen year old girl, one of his students.  The wealthy man thinks the girl might be his daughter.  From here things begin to get very weird so I won't go on.

I am preplexed by the constant references, sometimes two a page, to the breasts of the female characters. The thirteen year old girl is obsessed with worry over her lack of development and talks about it with the narrator as he paints her.  There are also numerous descriptions of nipples.  Every female character has her breasts judged, the bigger the better.  Just seems odd to me.

There are lots of great descriptions of the mountains, of food, of clothing, and much more.  There is a very suspenseful plot starting about halfway in that kept me wanting to know what will happen next.

I really enjoyed this book.  The characters are all very well developed.  There are literary tropes to ponder.  Murakami fans like me will smile through the little people, the magic realism.  As to all the constant breast references, well maybe Murakami just has a fixation or perhaps there are deep symbolic meanings.

What do you think?

Somethings are subject to cultural relativism.   I checked and the age of consent for sex is 13 in Japan.  In the Philippines it is 18 as it is in most of the USA and UK.   The Los Angeles Review of Books reviewer said Marukami's obsession with breasts seems a bit "pervy".     Does it seem that way to you?













Thursday, January 17, 2019

Bee Honey - A Short Story by Banana Yoshimoto - 2000 - Translated by Michael Emmerich






My Introductory Post to The Japanese Literature 12 Challenge 


Gateway to Banana Yoshimoto on The Reading Life




Works I have so far read for Japanese Literature 12


  1. “Insects” - a Short Story by Yuchi Seirai, a post Atomic Bomb work,2012
  2. The Great Passage by Shion Miura, 2011, a deeply moving work centered on the creation of a Japanese Language Dictionary 
  3. "The Whale That Fell in Love with a Submarine" A Short Story by  Akiyuki Nosaka- 2003- translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori - 2015
  4. “Bee Honey” - A Short Story by Banana Yoshimoto- 2000 - set in Argentina during the annual Mother’s March for Disappeared Children.

I first read a work by Banana Yoshimoto, Goodbye Tsugumi, during Japanese Literature 3, in August of 2009.  I was so taken with this wonderful novel that I went on to read three more of her novels, Moshi Moshi, Lake, and Asleep.  I also have posted on several of her short stories.  She is just one of the numerous writers that the JLC has made an important part of my reading life.

The story is set in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The narrator is a Japanese Women.  She is sitting on a bench in front of La Casa de Gobierno, the main government office. (The building is pink, the narrator makes the intriguing to me observation that the pink color was obtained by mixing ox blood with the paint.)  From 1976 to 1983 Argentina was controlled by a fascistic military group of generals called “The Junta”.  Students were in the forefront of protests and many were horribly brutalized or simply disappeared. (Mothers seeking information on their lost children helped Argentina to find the will to over throw the Junta.  About thirty thousand people, mostly young, simply disappeared, all government records of their existence vanished.). Now every year on January 26 the mothers of the disappeared assemble in front of the government headquarters. As the Japanese narrator watches, she buys a commemorative T-Shirt and watches the pigeons, another Japanese woman approaches her.  She talks of the terrible times under the Junta. Our narrator has just broken up with her husband.  When she calls her mother back in Japan to tell her she thinks of her own pampered childhood.  She stays with a Japanese friend, married to an Argentine tango instructor, who is a tour guide for visiting Japanese.  We never learn in this five page story how the Japanese wound up in Argentina.

I read this  story in The Penguin Book of Japanese short stories.  It was as good as I hoped it would be.



Banana Yoshimoto (よしもと ばなな or 吉本 ばなな) is the pen name of Mahoko Yoshimoto (吉本 真秀子), a Japanese contemporary writer. She writes her name in hiragana. (See also 吉本芭娜娜 (Chinese).)

Along with having a famous father, poet Takaaki Yoshimoto, Banana's sister, Haruno Yoiko, is a well-known cartoonist in Japan. Growing up in a liberal family, she learned the value of independence from a young age.

She graduated from Nihon University's Art College, majoring in Literature. During that time, she took the pseudonym "Banana" after her love of banana flowers, a name she recognizes as both "cute" and "purposefully androgynous."


Despite her success, Yoshimoto remains a down-to-earth and obscure figure. Whenever she appears in public she eschews make-up and dresses simply. She keeps her personal life guarded, and reveals little about her certified Rolfing practitioner, Hiroyoshi Tahata and son (born in 2003). Instead, she talks about her writing. Each day she takes half an hour to write at her computer, and she says, "I tend to feel guilty because I write these stories almost for fun." - from Goodreads 

Mel u








Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A Little Boy’s Question - A Short Story By Avrom Reyzen - Translated By Curt Leviant





A Little Boy’s Question - A Short Story By Avrom Reyzen - Translated By Curt Leviant, 2014, first published in translation in Pakn Treger - The Magazine of the Yiddish Book Center -(I don't have first publication information on this story, if you know it please contact me).

Born - April 10, 1876 - Koidanov, Belorussia

Moved to New York City - 1911


He begins a very prolific literary career with thousands of published works, for many years he contributed a weekly short story to the Forvert, the leading Yiddish language publication in America

Dies - March 31, 1953 in New York City


As I read today's story, only five pages, I was brought to mind a very old proverb from the Philippines.

"When there are five family members at the table and only four pieces of chicken, a mother decides she doesn't like chicken" - 

"A Little Boy's Question" by Avrom Reyzen is a heart warming story told from the point of view of a young boy.  He has never seen his mother eat.  He knows from his teaching that angels don't eat.  He decides he will keep watching his mother until he sees her eating.  When he asks her one morning she tells him she eats after her work is done.  We see the father eats after he says the morning prayers, after which he goes to the synagogue while his wife works very hard. 

In this story we get a glimpse of life in a eastern European shtetl family, seeing the way family support work is mostly "women's work"

Maybe this story was a bit smaltzy but if I had been a Forward reader circa 1950 I would have been happy to see more  contributions of Avrom Reyzen.


Bio data from the Yivo Encyclopedia of Eastern European Jews


Mel u




Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Manual for Cleaning Women - Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin 2015







A Manual for Cleaning Women Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin - edited and introduced by Stephen Emerson with a forward by Lydia Davis- 2015 (The 43 stories in the  collection were published in her prior collections and literary journals from 1977 to 1999.



Born November 12, 1936. Juneau, Alaska

Died November 12, 2004. Marina del Rey, California.  

Eleven years after her death Lucia Berlin has become a literary sensation, proclaimed as a genius.  During her life time she did influence other writers but she had very little commercial success. 

As I was reading the stories in the collection, read about one a day for six weeks or so, blitz reading her work would be a major brain scramble, just for fun I pondered who her literary grandparents might be. She spent quite a bit of time in Chile so given this and her admiration for the writer, one set would be Roberto Bolano and Katherine Mansfield.  For other set I decided on Clarice Lispector and Anton Chekhov.  

Berlin had a very varied life experience and she for sure drew upon this in her stories. Among other things, she was a cleaning woman. Her father was a very well paid manager for American mining interests in Chile and there are very interesting Santiago based stories.  

Everyone who writes on her stories focuses on the stories centering on a drug addicted, heroin when possible, alcholic single mother of four sons, which as her Life for years.  There is tremendous pain in these stories.  Written from Desolation Row, these stories show the reality of drug addicted poverty in America.  I was very disturbed by her depiction of an abortion in an illegal mass abortion clinic in El Peso.

Lydia Davis has contributed a very well done highly educational forward, a panegyric to a writer she loved.

These are stories to ponder slowly. 

I bought this collection as a Kindle Edition in a flash sale for $1.95, it is back up to $9.95 now.

A second collection of twenty two more stories has recently been published, I hope to read it but not right away, I might overdose.

From The Paris Review 

Lucia Berlin (1936–2004) worked brilliantly but sporadically throughout the sixties, seventies, and eighties. Her stories are inspired by her early childhood in various Western mining towns; her glamorous teenage years in Santiago, Chile; three failed marriages; a lifelong problem with alcoholism; her years spent in Berkeley, New Mexico, and Mexico City; and the various jobs she held to support her writing and her four sons. Sober and writing steadily by the nineties, she took a visiting-writer post at the University of Colorado Boulder in 1994 and was soon promoted to associate professor. Her books include Welcome Home, Evening in Paradise, and A Manual for Cleaning Women, which was named one of the New York Times Book Review’s ten best books of 2015. In 2001, in failing health, she moved to Southern California to be near her sons. She died in 2004 in Marina del Rey