One August day, a baby was born, or as it seemed to Rivka Galchen, a puma moved into her apartment. Her arrival felt supernatural, she seemed to come from another world. And suddenly, the world seemed ludicrously, suspiciously, adverbially sodden with meaning.
But Galchen didn’t want to write about the puma. She had never been interested in babies, or in mothers before. Now everything seemed directly related to them and she specifically wanted to write about other things because it might mean she was really, covertly, learning something about babies, or about being near babies.
The result is Little Labours, a slanted enchanted miscellany. Galchen writes about babies in art (with wrongly shaped head) and babies in literature (rarer than dogs or abortions, often monstrous); about the effort of taking a passport photo for a baby not yet able to hold up her head and the frightening prevalence of orange as today’s chic colour for baby gifts; about Frankenstein as a sort of baby and a baby as a sort of Godzillas. In doing so she opens up an odd and tender world of wonder.
Reviews of Little Labours
‘Little Labours triumphantly breaks the silent embargo, demonstrating how these little ‘bundles of joy’ can transcend cloying cliché to spark fantastic flights of the imagination and critical introspection’ Financial Times
‘Odd, witty, nimble … A stimulating read, a curio, for any woman, mother or not, interested in a unique slant on new parenthood’ Observer
‘The fragmentary nature of Little Labours perfectly evokes the state of new motherhood, in which moments of reflection are fleeting; bright flashes that are chased away almost as soon as they arrive. The parts themselves glisten and lodge in the memory. They are “small as opposed to minor”’ Guardian
‘Galchen does something more profound than tackle motherhood; she utterly reinvents and reanimates the subject’ Interview Magazine
‘A book of extraordinary savour, with nearly every sentence calling for an emphatic underline … The sense upon finishing this tiny tome is that it is indeed very small, but not in the least bit minor’ The National Post
‘Galchen is, for my money, one of the most gifted stylists writing in American English today. Her funniness is otherworldly. Preternaturally deft, Galchen can do almost anything with next to nothing.’ Los Angeles Review of Books
‘A highly original book of essays and observations … I adore Galchen’s quiet, and the bravery of this book’s fragments … Motherhood is an undiscovered country in the literary sense, one we must venture into lest our experience goes unrecorded, or recorded only by men … I am confident that many mothers (and other sleepless readers) will pick up this book and feel that they have found an unexpectedly intimate friend.’ The New York Times Book Review
‘To read Rivka Galchen is to enter a wonderland where the bizarre and the mundane march in unlikely lockstep.’ The Washington Post