From the doctor who leaves his poop in the toilet (really!), his teenage children walking around in their underwear, to the broken couple who write scathing and sometimes heartbreaking notes to each other on the kitchen counter, Nancy Peacock, housecleaner extraordinaire, tells it all. But this book isn’t about the messes people make, it’s about writing, writing from the dirt up. For the aspiring writer teeming with illusions about the fabulous writer’s life, it might just be a slap in the face, but a slap, alas, that every butterfly catching, cloud hopping dreamer should read.
The Nitty Gritty
There’s a passage in Chapter Two: Diary of a Mad Housekeeper where Peacock is talking to a guy who’s read a book or two of hers. It made me howl, especially when first, he informs her he didn’t like them and second, he suggests she read Bridget Jones’ Diary for the learning experience, a book he thought was flipping great. She thinks (and of course as a nice, tongue-frozen-in-restraint writer doesn’t say) that he should read Miss Manners.
Some claim kids say the damndest things? No, adults do.
Being a writer, published or unpublished, provokes all sorts of comments. My recent personal favorite: “What’s the point of writing a book if it’s not gonna be published? You’re not gonna write a second one are you?” For the record, that was in regard to a conversation about my first book, shelved for the time being. It’s stewing for more flavors. Until it’s cooked, it’s going to stay there, maybe forever.
But back to the point, success doesn’t prevent a writer from catching a stinger now and then. As Peacock writes, being published does not provide a magic shield that separates your splendid self from money woes, from the daily grind of being human. From anything. Writing makes you vulnerable, publishing even more so.
Which leads me to my next favorite part: writing is “like living a double life.” Yes, I thought while reading this. Yes, yes, yes! This may be the one thing I fail to communicate to those closest to me. My characters are real to me. They bring me pain, joy, all the emotions a friend could elicit. And if I talk about them with as much passion as I feel, I sound crazy. I’m really not. I just live a double life. God, I love that.
Verdict: Buy it. A Broom of One’s Own is a short work on writing and life that is nothing short of honest, soul-tickling amazing. It has nudged itself on my cramped keeper shelf for all it says and everything it implies. Peacock’s words made me feel saner. Her story reminded me that publishing is not always (or perhaps not often) the life altering earthquake it’s cracked up to be. It’s a paycheck, a foot in the door, a badge of success, but it doesn’t make you something you’re not. It doesn’t change your work for the better and it doesn’t make you instantly fabulous or celebrated or free from life’s hassles. And I think that’s a good thing. Life needs to be real for writing to stay real. And really, what’s more real than cleaning up other people’s dirt?