Farrar Straus Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374280475, 175pp.
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
A brilliant new collection of short stories from “the conspicuously talented” (Time) Rivka Galchen
In one of the intensely imaginative stories in Rivka’s Galchen’s American Innovations, a young woman’s furniture walks out on her. In another, the narrator feels compelled to promise to deliver a takeout order that has incorrectly been phoned in to her. In a third, the petty details of a property transaction illuminate the complicated pains and loves of a family.
The tales in this groundbreaking collection are secretly in conversation with canonical stories, reimagined from the perspective of female characters. Just as Wallace Stevens’s “Anecdote of the Jar” responds to John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” Galchen’s “The Lost Order” covertly recapitulates James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” while “The Region of Unlikeness” is a smoky and playful mirror to Jorge Luis Borges’s “The Aleph.” The title story, “American Innovations,” revisits Nikolai Gogol’s “The Nose.”
By turns realistic, fantastical, witty, and lyrical, these marvelously uneasy stories are deeply emotional and written in exuberant, pitch-perfect prose. Whether exploring the tensions in a mother-daughter relationship or the finer points of time travel, Galchen is a writer like none other today.
Praise for American Innovations“Rivka Galchen’s second book—a series of playful, irreverent short stories—showcases her surrealist imagination, while also riffing on canonical tales.” —Wall Street Journal“Spectral, demanding stories from a brilliant young writer.” —Elle Magazine“American Innovations marks a sharp step forward for American short stories . . . Galchen writes with a glorious and gentle lyricism, her sentences clear and sharp in their tracings of the world's complexity. Her stories shine a light on hidden thoughts and desires, offering up unimagined possibilites for grace as her characters spin through their quiet lives.” —Jonathan Shia, The Last Magazine
“Galchen’s stories feel remarkably believable, despite their suggestion of alternate worlds and lives. This is a collection to read and keep on the bookshelf. It will stand the test of time.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“With her second book, Galchen continues to secure a place for herself among today’s great prose stylists.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[F]or readers who appreciate the absurd, her stories are exercises of uncommon poetry….The stories are odd and unsettling but burst with brilliant moments of dialogue and observation.” —Booklist“The stories in American Innovations proceed through indirection, association, and surprise, making a world in which daily life becomes a dream of life. Their narrators go in search of emotional resolution, but instead find that the furniture is getting up and leaving the house. Galchen’s stories can read almost as meditations on themselves, and their gift to the reader is the sudden and pleasurable awareness of the things we understand the least—the deaths of parents, breakdowns in love, and the hopeful pursuit of joy.” —Donald Antrim, author of The Verificationist“I am always declaiming to whoever will listen that Rivka Galchen is one of the best things going. She writes for the joy of it and so artfully, and conforms to no one else's standards. Joy and artfulness: why are these so rare? But they are. Galchen is a stand-alone talent.” —Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers
“Rivka Galchen writes about the strangeness of being alive--not that anyone has any other state to compare being alive to, which doesn’t make it any less strange. She writes with intelligence, wit, and great originality. These stories are amazing.”—Roz Chast“Rivka Galchen is like the pinball wizard of American letters, with a narrative voice that can ricochet from wonder to terror to hilarity in the breadth of a breath. These ten stories of profound loss and profound joy give the Kantian sublime a Key Lime twist, and reveal what happily haunted space cadets we all are in the echo chamber of our ‘ordinary’ American lives. You'll feel compelled to read Galchen’s sentences to strangers on buses. The delicacy and brilliance of what she is doing doesn't yet have a name.” —Karen Russell
Alan Cheuse reviews American Innovations, a new collection of short stories by Rivka Galchen. More at NPR.org
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