Some of the essays in this volume resonate more than others — some feel more like amuse-bouches — but they all made me want to keep reading, to keep listening to the subtle quality of the author’s voice: her irony, smarts, unexpected associations...I adore Galchen’s quiet, and the bravery of this book’s fragments. You get the sly sense reading this book that you are not seeing the whole writer; there is a sleight of hand — something only partially revealed — so that the fragments glow more.
Indeed, the voice of the memoir is muted, reflective. Sentences unspool slowly, following the shape of a thought. The spare prose is punctured by cheeky humor and by the occasional, lovely simile..Wrestling with contradiction is a hallmark of the writing process—Little Labors suggests it is also a feature of modern parenthood. Perhaps this isn’t something to fear or reject but to recognize, accept, and, simply, express.
And as I read, at first I felt wrapped up in Galchen’s prose, comforted by her self-awareness of her place in the 'bohemian-brooklyn-bourgeoisie,' her acknowledgment of the complicated layers of emotion and experience babies bring about ('boredom, or hostility, or love'), how she was someone who had not before been interested in babies. There was, I’ll even say, an almost swaddled feeling. And yet, as the sections accumulate, the swaddling begins to feel tighter, constricting, in moments suffocating, reflecting, again, the pendulum swing of the baby-presence experience.