Short and a very great deal more than

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - GABRIELLA SW­ER­LING RE­VIEWED BY MADELEINE KINGS­LEY

AMER­I­CAN IN­NO­VA­TIONS

4th Es­tate, £14.99

Tof Rivka Galchen, Ok­la­homa-raised daugh­ter of Is­raeli im­mi­grants, are as orig­i­nal, par­tic­u­lar and di­gres­sive as her prove­nance. They deliver a de­li­cious blend of des­o­la­tion and dead­pan, laugh­aloud drollery. “I’m wrong­ing a hun­gry man” frets the out-of-work wife in The Lost Or­der, more con­cerned with the mis­di­alling caller de­mand­ing HIS COLLECTION of s h o r t s t o r i e s wi l l shake your ex­pec­ta­tions of the lit­tle-gem fic­tional form. The Amer­i­can In­no­va­tions de­liv­ery of his Chi­nese take-away than with find­ing a lost wed­ding ring.

Th­e­se­talesleavey­ouwith­a­light­touch of some re­al­ity you half-know but pre­fer to for­get. Once an Em­pire re­minds you, for in­stance, that you could, in ex­tremis, drop out of adult­hood for a while to go home and have Mum put your hair in braids. The ti­tle story sug­gests that, if your body lets you down in some “anatom­i­cally anoma­lous” way (her li­brar­ian pro­tag­o­nist has grown a su­per­nu­mer­ary dor­sal breast) the prob­lem is at least partly solved by shop­ping for a shift dress.

Other sto­ries spook the reader with post-mod­ern ghost­li­ness — a thir­tysome­thing woman in Once an Em­pire looks on help­lessly as her house con­tents stage a col­lec­tive walk-out, right down to her rick­ety old iron­ing board and sou­venir Colorado Rock­ies fork. The Re­gion of Un­like­li­ness riffs on the time-travel “Grand­fa­ther Para­dox”, invit­ing you to won­der if one of the two philoso­pher boys with whom the hero­ine hangs out is ac­tu­ally the other’s son vis­it­ing from the fu­ture.

Thissto­ryal­soseem­sa­homageto Jules et Jim, and that’s an­other hall­mark Galchen lit-trick — amus­ing, pass­ing trib­utes to other writ­ers, in­clud­ing Gogol, Borges, James Thurber, Ralph El­li­son even to ac­tor Gene Hackman’s thriller nov­els. Physics and nat­u­ral phe­nom­ena are also en pas­sant in a mix that tes­ti­fies to an im­pres­sive in­tel­lec­tual range.

Be­sides qual­i­fy­ing as a psy­chi­a­trist Galchen has pro­duced a de­but novel, At­mo­spheric Dis­tur­bances (about a psy­chi­a­trist who be­lieves a dop­pel-ganger has re­placed his much-younger wife) that has el­e­vated her to the New Yorker list of top Amer­i­can au­thors un­der 40.

From a Jewish per­spec­tive, Amer­i­can In­no­va­tions res­onates warmly with its re­curr i ng pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with food, pos­ses­sions and the par­ent-daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship. St i c ker Shock pre­sents the shift­ing af­fec­tions of a mother and daugh­ter in the

Galchen: a true orig­i­nal

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