Picks and Pans Review: Other People's Dirt

UPDATED 07/06/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/06/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Louise Rafkin

Other people's dwellings, like other people's marriages, are foreign countries where the rules are different and the casual tourist barely scratches the surface. There is, however, a whole class of explorers who regularly excavate and evaluate the shards of private lives—cleaning people. Fortunately, most of them are discreet, unlike Rafkin, who subsidized her writing by cleaning houses and now dishes the dirt on the people who hired her. This has been done before, notably by Truman Capote in Answered Prayers and hilariously by David Sedaris in Barrel Fever, but since homes are as individual as people, there's always room for more. Rafkin details her phobias (carpeted stairs are a nuisance, but a stash of nail clippings is the pits), interviews exotic exemplars of her profession (a nude house-cleaning service, a Japanese house-cleaning cult) and remembers horrid employers—like the one who fired her for leaving two Cheerios in the sink. (Algonquin, $17.95)—M.N.

Bottom Line: Bring the book into your house; keep the author out

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