Lucia Berlin died on 12 November 2004, her 68th birthday. Almost all of her short stories can be found in three volumes published by Black Sparrow Press: ‘Homesick: New and Selected Stories’ (1990), ‘So Long: Stories 1987-92’ (1993) and ‘Where I Live Now: Stories 1993-98’ (1999). The earliest of the stories dates from 1977. She was born in Alaska and raised in military camps in Idaho, Montana and Arizona, but most of her childhood was spent in Chile. As an adult she lived in New Mexico, Mexico, California and Colorado; she taught writing at the University of Colorado between 1994 and 2000. She retired early because of health problems and died in Los Angeles. The letters that follow were written to the poet August Kleinzahler between 1994 and 2002.
Vol. 27 No. 15
4 August 2005
Boulder itself getting on my nerves. It’s sickeningly sweet and rich and white and every single resident has a golden lab. I’m rigging up a pit on the corner. Clerks don’t say ‘enjoy’ anymore they say ‘thrive.’ My masseuse has really helped my back but she’s pregnant, which is great, except that she claims she knew the kid in another incarnation. The receptionist there is going through the change of life and while she talks on the phone she’s rubbing a sweet potato (oestrogen source) on her stomach, for hot flashes. Plus both of them [put] crystals up their private parts just like when the ladies in Candide used to hide their jewels.
You really should start to think of settling down. Serious. For later … Sometimes I wish that I lived with someone I had loved for a long time, had comfort with. Wake up with his hand on my ass etc.
I’m sorry your bartender is dying. This sounds rude to wonder about but [it] must make it difficult to just go have a drink . . .
I actually know fenestration. Not personally, but the first time I looked it up was reading a 19th-century English architect’s review of another architect, ‘Balsley has a particularly witty way with fenestration.’
Reason I don’t like teaching is same problem I had with marriage – I lose myself.
Where are you? I get disoriented when you go to Germany or Australia. I’m sad that you don’t go to New Jersey any more. Did acacia & plum trees bloom already? We haven’t had winter yet. Deer are confused. Six young bucks hang out in my backyard – scuffing the dead grass, slouching, smoking – sneering at labradors & joggers disaffected deer . . .
I have no news. I am boring old lady. Have to stop myself from talking to grocery clerks about my grandchildren or my cat.
One of my classes gave me a fabulous gift. It is a cup, with Denver skyline & a moon – When you pour hot coffee in it the pope appears in the sky!
So dear heart – my new address as of May 20 – will be . . .
Cioran & Hazlitt have lots to say about envy, writers’. It’s pretty scary. What makes it scarier is that often ‘They’ put you down & haven’t even read your work. Like Gide with little Marcel. Didn’t even open the ms. I think women are the worst.
His ex-girlfriend got millions of $ in palimony because she ‘gave him the best years of her life’. Hey, how about me – I gave him the worst of mine!