Fiction by Rivka Galchen
In late August a baby was born, or, as it seemed to me, a puma moved into my apartment, a near-mute force…. I had imagined that I was going to meet, at birth, a very sophisticated form of plant life, a form that I would daily deliver to an offsite greenhouse; I would look forward to getting to know the life-form properly later, when she had moved into a sentient kingdom, maybe around age three.
In this enchanted literary miscellany, Rivka Galchen delivers many sparkling observations. That literature has more dogs than babies, and also more abortions. That the tally of children for many notable women writers—Hilary Mantel, Janet Frame, Willa Cather, Jane Bowles, Patricia Highsmith, Elizabeth Bishop, Hannah Arendt, Iris Murdoch, Djuna Barnes, Virginia Woolf, Mavis Gallant—is zero. That the Tale of Genji has no plot, but plenty on the ambiguity of paternity. That orange is the new baby pink. That in Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book there is no way of knowing that the empress Teishi is pregnant and ill. That a baby is an ideal vector for a revenge plot. That a baby is a goldmine.