Little Labors by Rivka Galchen

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The book may not be more than the sum of its parts – it is a light, ephemeral thing – but the parts themselves glisten and lodge in the memory.
-Guardian

Synopsis

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.

 

About Rivka Galchen

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Rivka Galchen recieved her MD from the Mount Sinai Shool of Medicine, having spent a year in South America working on public health issues. Galchen recently completed her MFA at Columbia University, where she was a Robert Bingham Fellow. Her essay on the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics was published in The Believer, and she is the recipient of a 2006 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. Galchen lives in New York City. This is her first novel.
 
Published May 17, 2016 by New Directions. 136 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Little Labors
All: 7 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Good
on Mar 08 2016

The author also traces the development of a feminist consciousness, as she describes herself as someone who mainly read books by men and had friends who were men, but finds that the years and personal circumstances have shifted her perspective. A talented writer delivers a miscellany about her maternal transformation.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Sarah Ruhl on May 12 2016

Given the tenderness of that situation (life’s richness or design flaw), how can we as writers, and as people, not pay attention? I am happy that Galchen did, and 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.

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NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Annalisa Quinn on May 19 2016

Galchen's implicit proposition — that babies can be the subject of serious art, that we may coo and think simultaneously — feels surprising, even radical, in a world where motherhood and intellectualism are still placed instinctively at odds. It may be a little book, but it is not a small one.

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Globe and Mail

Above average
Reviewed by Durga Chew-Bose on Jun 03 2016

...Little Labors is Galchen’s clever, plainspoken tiny-tome about mothers and babies. About writing and women who write; positioning babies as mystery, as myth, as “nothing,” as interruptions.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Barbara Ellen on May 28 2017

While it’s hardly original for a mother to love her child, Galchen succeeds in giving her transformative experiences an inventive twist. What emerges is a stimulating read, a curio, for any woman, mother or not, interested in a unique slant on new parenthood.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Sarah Crown on May 10 2017

The book may not be more than the sum of its parts – it is a light, ephemeral thing – but the parts themselves glisten and lodge in the memory.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Naomi Skwarna on May 04 2016

Her story is a surreptitious rejection of that invisibility, claiming her own power as mother by disappearing her partner completely. In doing so, she sends her own stark message of the way mothers are often deleted from the narrative, and the sense upon finishing this tiny tome is that it is indeed very small, but not in the least bit minor.

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Reader Rating for Little Labors
85%

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