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Little Labors

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Rivka Galchen’s Little Labors is a droll and dazzling compendium of observations, stories, lists, and brief essays about babies and literature

Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book—a key inspiration for Rivka Galchen’s new book—contains a list of “Things That Make One Nervous.” And wouldn’t the blessed event top almost anyone’s list?

Little Labors is a slanted, enchanted literary miscellany. Varying in length from just a sentence or paragraph to a several-page story or essay, Galchen’s puzzle pieces assemble into a shining, unpredictable, mordant picture of the ordinary-extraordinary nature of babies and literature. Anecdotal or analytic, each part opens up an odd and tender world of wonder. The 47 Ronin; the black magic of maternal love; babies morphing from pumas to chickens; the quasi-repellent concept of “women writers”; origami-ophilia in Oklahoma as a gateway drug to a lifelong obsession with Japan; discussions of favorite passages from the Heian masterpieces Genji and The Pillow Book; the frightening prevalence of orange as today’s new chic color for baby gifts; Frankenstein as a sort of baby; babies gold mines; babies as tiny Godzillas …

Little Labors–atomized and exploratory, conceptually byzantine and freshly forthright–delights.

From Publishers Weekly

Jan 25, 2016 – Galchen (Atmospheric Disturbances) brings both humor and serious inquiry to this collection of short vignettes about the curious nature of babies and the experience of becoming a mother. Her infant daughter, whom she nicknames "the puma," a "near mute force," imbues Galchen's life with renewed enchantment: "So that the world seemed ludicrously, suspiciously, adverbially sodden with meaning. Which is to say that the puma again made me more like a writer." Referencing the Japanese classic The Pillow Book, the musings of an 11th-century court lady, Galchen observes the prosaic everyday of her own life in order to uncover the wonder behind it. She also contemplates the limitations and assumptions forced on female writers of the past, such as Jane Bowles and Patricia Highsmith. Galchen includes a trove of cultural references, from television (Louie, I Love Lucy) to literature (Beloved, Anna Karenina), drawing observations from their varying representations of babies. Among her observations: Godzilla is "child-like," and paintings of the baby Jesus have seldom borne much resemblance to actual infants.She also deconstructs strangers' compliments on how nicely shaped her daughter's head is. Each literary morsel is imbued with Galchen's unique wit and charm. The book is an endearing compilation of social criticism, variously contentious, commonplace, funny, and incisive.
Little Labors
View in iTunes
  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Short Stories
  • Published: May 17, 2016
  • Publisher: New Directions
  • Seller: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
  • Print Length: 136 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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