Other People's Dirt: A Housecleaner's Curious Adventures

( 2 )

Overview

Louise Rafkin takes us on an intimate tour of people's lives and reveals just how much she knows about a person based on what she finds in the house. She knows who's on a diet (Weight Watchers in the freezer), who's having marital problems (sheets on the sofa), and who' having sex (items on the nightstand). In Other People's Dirt, Rafkin dispenses her own kind of household hints with an altogether original point of view.
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Overview

Louise Rafkin takes us on an intimate tour of people's lives and reveals just how much she knows about a person based on what she finds in the house. She knows who's on a diet (Weight Watchers in the freezer), who's having marital problems (sheets on the sofa), and who' having sex (items on the nightstand). In Other People's Dirt, Rafkin dispenses her own kind of household hints with an altogether original point of view.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Into this life a chance for liberating creativity fell, when Rafkin narrowly escaped a straight-on march into the literary world of academia and headed into the trenches of "other people's dirt." This book documents her experiences as seen from the underbelly of day-to-day life through anecdote and wry observation: dust balls and food stains, what laundry reveals and conceals, the nature of the need to clean, and the strange idiosyncrasies of those who will pay others to put order in their disorderly lives. Brief chapters cover stints in the homes of hoarders, the simply overworked, the impersonal nit-pickers, perverts, and even a suicide. In a final chapter, Rafkin travels to Japan to live with the Ittoen community, a group of homeless individuals committed to cleaning up the immediate world. Her thoughts on the need for order hint at the author's underlying belief: She would like to share the Ittoen "nonattachment to worldly goods." But her comments on Japan are banal, and her search for any philosophy in what a house cleaner knows remains lifeless as long as she poses questions such as, þIf a forest is swept and no one sees it, was it ever really swept? would I ever stop trying to achieve Home-Ec Student of the Year?" Rafkin's breezy matter-of-factness only barely obscures a lot of cynical ranting about people, places, and things. Only at the very end does she confide her personal take on what her meanderings have meant in a final homeward gaze, the long-lost San Francisco girl at last getting real: "It was time to clean house." More adventure than memoir, this book is odd and not all that entertaining. (Author tour)
The Wall Street Journal - Lisa Gubernick
"Ms. Rafkin's stories of her own employers have humor--as well as quiet poignancy.... [She] is a wonderful storyteller...."
The Washington Post - Jonathan Yardley
"This amiable book does have its serious moments, but it is mostly a good-humored glimpse inside the housecleaning trade...."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641790461
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/1/1999
  • Pages: 195
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


While cleaning houses, Louise Rafkin earned her BA in English from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and her MA in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1981. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including Ladies' Home Journal, New York Times Magazine, Boston Phoenix, Out, Women's Review of Books, Whole Earth Review, and Poets & Writers. And in recent years, she has received awards and recognition for her writing: the San Francisco Cable Car Award for Best Local Writing in 1989; first place in the San Francisco Bay Guardian fiction competition in 1989; and a Lambda Literary Award in 1991. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Zimtbaum Foundation Fine Arts Work Center, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and a grant from the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation. Rafkin recently moved from New York to Berkeley, California.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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