From Publishers Weekly
From her debut Satan Says (1980) through Blood, Tin, Straw (1999), Olds has tackled child sexual abuse and grownup women's sexuality on a post-Freudian (some said post-feminist) canvas of love, hate, revenge. This seventh volume of verse offers Olds's regulars all they have come to expect: "blood skin and tongue," "glass, bone metal, flesh, and the family." Olds describes "the day my folks/ sashed me to a chair"; the day her speaker "slowly cut off [her] eyelashes"; her desire "to work off/ my father's and my sins"; a father's cross-dressing; the Virgin Mary's vulva ("the beauty of her lily"); birth-control practices and pro-choice politics; menopause (at 491/2); and memories of parturition: "there came that faint, almost sexual wail, and her/ whole body flushed rose." All these moments appear, as usual, in confidently effective free verse that leaves no reader behind. Olds's followers may be delighted, or simply surprised, as they find, midway through the volume, an increasing focus on happiness: poems such as "The Hour After" and "If, Someday" portray the great sex and the commitment the speaker shares with her male partner: "I love/ to not know/ what is my beloved/ and what is I." Another group of moving poems consider her pleasures as an empty-nest parent, sharing space or conversation with "nearly-grown children." Olds has never been thought technically innovative, and this collection will not convert detractors. It will, however, offer her many fans new work to chew on, presented with her usual intense honesty, along with "some fancies of crumbs/ from under love's table."
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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From Library Journal
Olds returns here with a stronger, cleaner effort than she offered in her last collection, Blood, Tin, Straw. With the upheaval in her personal life somewhat sorted out, she now strives to clean out her proverbial closet, perhaps completing the chore suggested in the title. Organized like her previous works, this work begins with poems about her early life and then moves on to grade school, her marriage, and up to the present day. Throughout, Olds re-creates her life, building a scrapbook through words. Although many of her subjects (family, love, sex) stay the same, her tone has shifted from an angry questioning of fate to a passionate acceptance of her own mortality and the experiences she has had. Yet she also offers a darker world, previously hinted at in poems about her parents and more fully explored in her last work. Here she refines the effect, noting in the opening piece: "But I know/ that the dead, at the moment of death, do not go/ somewhere else, as if on vacation/ showing up in bathing suits,/ unwounded." Even as she strives for an understanding that has of yet alluded her, Olds seems to have found some peace as she ages: "The older I get, the more I feel/ almost beautiful." The same can be said for her words.Rachel Collins, "Library Journal"
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.