Monday, January 13, 2014

Sweeping away the past

Debra Gwartney's excellent piece about anger, the past and housework:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

100 words on the subject of Dirt, by Jill Lipton:

A Mold Spore Grows in Jericho

 Growing up, our house was a paramilitary operation – as if Mussolini and Leona Helmsley had set up suburban housekeeping.

 School books needed to be under your bed when not in use.  You were allotted one stuffed animal, kept in your closet by day. We three daughters were soldiers, ever clean, pressed, and lined up in descending order when in public.

  A happy childhood memory was my second grade assignment to grow mold on bread in my bedroom closet.  Respecting authority, my mother allowed it, but she didn’t sleep a wink until the offending slice was ultimately bagged, tagged and extradited.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

DIRT joins Filth in The Economist

Dirt anthology is cited in the holiday issue of The Economist along with other fascinating facts about filth:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Song Dong's "Waste Not Want Not" on view at MOMA is an installation of the artist's mother's possessions accrued in her home over 50 years:
Beijing-based artist Song Dong (b. 1966) explores notions of transience and impermanence with installations that combine aspects of performance, video, photography, and sculpture. Projects 90, his first solo U.S. museum show, presents his recent work Waste Not. A collaboration first conceived of with the artist's mother, the installation consists of the complete contents of her home, amassed over fifty years during which the Chinese concept of wu jin qi yong, or "waste not," was a prerequisite for survival. The assembled materials, ranging from pots and basins to blankets, oil flasks, and legless dolls, form a miniature cityscape that viewers can navigate around and through.


Saturday Sept 12th, 3PM
Fort Washington Public Library
535 W. 179th Street
New York, NY 10033
Janice Eidus and Mindy Greenstein read essays about motherhood and housekeeping

Sun, September 13th, 4-6PM
Sunday Best Reading Series
The Lounge at Hudson View Gardens
Pinehurst Avenue and 183rd Street
Readings by Kathleen Crisci, Laura Shaine Cunningham, and Ann Hood; introduced by Mindy Lewis
$7 admission, free refreshments; reception & book signing

DIRT reviewed in BITCH Fall Issue, p.62

Good review...but Jessica Jernigan may miss the point a bit at the end that this is an anthology of personal essays by writers, not professional housekeepers (though we do include two writers who worked as professional cleaners: Louise Rafkin and Nancy Peacock).

DIRT-worthy news!

In the past week, there have been 3 articles in the NY Times directly related to our topic:
Today's Sunday Magazine article on storage units, "The Self Storage Self"
| September 03, 2009 At Home With E. L. Doctorow: Writing About the Stuff of Legend <>
E. L. Doctorow's new novel is a fictionalized account of the lives of the Collyer brothers, the legendary New York City hoarders, but his own home is as serene as its quiet setting.

Lorrie Moore's new novel deals specifically with housecleaning, as described in 9/1 review:

MADISON, Wis. — Lorrie Moore had just begun working on what would become her new novel, “A Gate at the Stairs,” when she told one interviewer that she was writing a book “about hate.” Later she recalled telling someone else that it was a novel about chores.

Monday, March 9, 2009

DIRT: The Quirks, Habits, and Passions of Keeping House

Seal Press, Spring 2009 ISBN 1-58005-261-4
Available for pre-order from

This thought-provoking collection of personal essays by 38 contemporary writers offers a multidimensional look at the universal challenge of keeping our stuff, our dwellings, and our personal space clean and uncluttered. How we feel about keeping house speaks volumes about our roots, relationships, and our outlook on life.

Who would guess that revelations about cleaning house would be so intimate and revealing? More constant than love, sex or money, DIRT makes for a compelling and compulsively readable topic.
- Kathy Matthews, author of sixteen books including The Trouble with Perfect and SuperFoods Rx

Drop the broom. Stash the dust rag. Leave the mess on your desk. Read Dirt instead of cleaning house – you'll enjoy the company of wonderful writers who share your own habits, passions and quirks.
- Ellen Sussman, Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex and Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave

As a former compulsive handwasher, I enjoyed the plethora of intelligent and amusing insights which this gorgeous compilation afforded me.
- Lady Macbeth aka Simon Doonan author of Eccentric Glamour

Essays by Sally Koslow, Joyce Maynard, Lisa Selin Davis, Rebecca Walker, Brian Gerber, Mindy Greenstein, Patty Dann, Kathleen Crisci, Ann Hood, Kyoko Mori, Karen Salyer McElmurray, Markie Robson-Scott, Lisa Solod Warren, Alissa Quart, Sonya Huber, Thaddeus Rutkowski, Teena Apeles, Nancy Stiefel, Mindy Lewis, Rand Richards Cooper, Louise DeSalvo, Mimi Schwartz, Katy Brennan, Mira Bartók, Branka Ruzak, Janice Eidus, Kayla Cagan, Jessica Shines, Julianne Malveaux, Michael Hill, Louise Rafkin, Nancy Peacock, Richard Goodman, Laura Shaine Cunningham, Juliet Eastland, Pamela Paul, Krista Lyons, Rebecca McClanahan;
Foreword by Penelope Green

Post your own DIRT-y stories here or email them to
Publisher's Weekly review 3/9/2009
Inspired in part by “the prime cleaner,” her mother, essayist Lewis (Life Inside: A Memoir) brings Malveaux together with an impressive range of opinions and related issues regarding keeping house in the 21st century. In “Cleaning Ambivalence,” Julianne Malveaux calls keeping house “a dreaded chore for some, a cheerful obsession for others, and a fact of life for most of us.” Other standouts include Joyce Maynard, who traces the correlation between housekeeping arguments and the dissolution of her marriage; and Rebecca Walker, who imagines the efforts her grandparents, sharecroppers who “could be evicted without as much as a week’s notice,” put into creating a stable environment: “They must have grasped at whatever rituals they could...keeping clothes and linens sparkling clean and freshly ironed, displaying fresh fruit... to ease a pervasive feeling of powerlessness.” It seems significant attention was paid to finding not just a talented collection of writers (also including Louise DeSalvo, Kyoko Morri, Richard Goodman and Louise Rafkin) but a diverse set of perspectives, keeping this collection fresh despite narrow subject matter. (Apr.)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The City Visible - Mr. Clean

OF all the collectors ferreting around flea markets and antique shops, Paul Swedlow may be among the most dedicated.

For more than 40 years, Mr. Swedlow, a resident of Greenwich Village, has searched the back racks for vintage cleaning gear to add to his collection. He was at it again one recent morning, picking up a rattan rug beater ($10) from Angel Street, a Chelsea thrift shop.

“I’m grabbing it before it ends up in the garbage,” said Mr. Swedlow, a gentlemanly 77-year-old of the old-school persuasion.

He began in 1966 with a rug beater ($1) and a Bissell carpet sweeper ($1.50) found at a Long Island flea market, and he has consulted the yard sale classifieds practically every Saturday since. “It’s like opening a new book,” he said. “You never know what’s going to be in there.”

The City Visible - Mr. Clean - By MICHAEL CANNELL
The New York Times, January 30, 2009
DIRTY TRIVIA: “[Virginia] Woolf frequently pondered the “servant question,” but her concern for those she employed was tinged with distaste. “I am sick of the timid spiteful servant mind,” she wrote of Nellie Boxall, her cook for eighteen years. Though Woolf professed a desire for a time when masters and servants might be “fellow beings,” and argued in her work for space and autonomy for women, her life was one of dependence; she did not learn to cook until she was forty-seven.” - from a review of “Mrs. Woolf and the Servants,” by Alison Light (Bloomsbury) in The New Yorker, September 15, 2008