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Other People's Dirt: A Housecleaner's Curious Adventures Hardcover – January 5, 1998
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Housecleaner extraordinaire Louise Rafkin reads her own work as efficiently as she cleans bathtubs and snoops through the letter pile. Rafkin's voice is pleasantly modulated and well suited to her dry humor in Other People's Dirt, a parallel tale of her cleaning habits and socio-spiritual explorations. Vacuum-cleaner sound effects demarcate chapters in this nearly unabridged version, whose brief chapters are punchy and well suited to audio. (Running time: three hours, two cassettes) --Barrie Trinkle --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
From 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, If 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) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
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I know nothing about house cleaning in the States except that an American friend told us that she had people in her well-to-do San Diego neighbourhood put her on the "do not speak to" list because she wanted to pay her Mexican cleaner a decent wage rather than the pittance paid by her neighbours. I am going against the directions of my high school English teacher who told me not to draw conclusions about an entire group of people. However, in this case I am quite willing to assume that the rich will try to screw their Mexican employees for every cent.
Rafkin lifts the carpet (sorry, for the metaphor but it seemed to fit) and shows the dirt lying in their salubrious digs that these rich people feel is their right to collect because of their status. I found her book very entertaining and insightful and simply confirmed all that I had previously thought about her employers; people with more money than brains.
This book is partially a memoir of her experiences as a cleaner, and partially an exploration of the world of cleaning. Not only does she dish the dirt about her own work and the lives of those for whom she cleans, but she also investigates the wider (and sometimes weirder) industry that works to make the world more tidy. From the sweatshop conditions of a corporate cleaning franchise to a Japanese cult that cleans as a religious practice, Rafkin travels far and wide to see how other people take on the job of cleaning up after others. She also checks out the strange niche of nude cleaning and investigates those who clean up crime scenes.
The result is a fascinating glimpse at what the world looks like to those whose job it is to clean up after the rest of us. The stories here are conveyed with wit and humor, and actually make for a compelling read.