After Birth


In the current literary animal kingdom, where every new release is ruthlessly defined by its taxonomic rank, the most outstanding compliment might be What the heck kind of book is this? The ever-brilliant Rivka Galchen delivers just that with her lean but in no way slim Little Labors (New Directions). No training wheels, no banisters, no practice breaths, Galchen dives right in to a fantastical series of meditations, observations, mysterious epiphanies, and failures of belief brought on in a mother, presumably Galchen, caring for her infant daughter, often called “the puma.” Movie posters, neighborly showdowns in elevators, photos for a baby passport, and unflinchingly honest responses, such as “When I heard about babies dying there was a part of myself that thought, At least it’s not a child!” fill these pages. Galchen does something more profound than tackle motherhood; she utterly reinvents and reanimates the subject. Little Labors should be required reading for anyone who wonders what they’d think if there were suddenly a new tiny human living in the next room. -Christopher Bollen