- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: New Directions; 1st edition (May 29, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780811227827
- ISBN-13: 978-0811227827
- ASIN: 0811227820
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Some Trick: Thirteen Stories Hardcover – May 29, 2018
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“DeWitt’s bracing experiments are risks worth taking.”
- Madeleine Schwartz, Dissent
“Brilliant and inimitable Helen DeWitt: patron saint of anyone in the world who has to deal with the crap of those in power who do a terrible job with their power, and who make those who are under their power utterly miserable. Certain stories have something in common with dreams: they’re expressions of the creator’s wish-fulfillment. Helen DeWitt’s wishes are distinct in American literature?―?in world literature, as far as I know.”
- Sheila Heti, Electric Literature
“If there's any author bookish types trust to take them down the twistiest of rabbit holes with humor and winking unpredictability, Helen DeWitt is it. Take the plunge with these 13 short stories.”
- Elle Magazine
“In this new collection, DeWitt maps a rangy and verbose urban landscape populated by couch surfers, VC bros, underpaid artists, a guitarist on a walkabout, mathematicians, two seemingly different guys named Gil, obscure European novelists and an itinerant heiress fluent in the tinkering grammars of probability, risk and global finance.”
- Andrew Durbin, Frieze
“DeWitt knows fourteen languages and is conversant in advanced math and computer code... she has harnessed her coder's brain to negative capability. Compulsive and very funny.”
“DeWitt’s wide-ranging intellect makes these stories, but it’s her sense of humor and profound humanity that make them work. She approaches her weirdos and screw-ups with keen-eyed honesty but also with sincere affection. And the first story, “Brutto,” has one of the most satisfying closing lines ever. This collection has many delights, but it’s worth picking up just for that.”
- Kirkus (starred review)
“DeWitt is the sort of artist that doesn’t back away from her vision, and she takes the reader with her. A polyglot with a PhD in Classics from Oxford, DeWitt wields an immense intellect that, in each of her books, she uses to cynically delight her readers.”
- LA Review of Books
“The picture this collection makes is one of a genius who is herself maddened by social niceties, and all the other tedious obstacles of the daily capitalist grind.”
“Her books assert (and often attest) that a work of fiction can encompass many kinds of knowledge―probability theory, scatterplots of data, tables of non-Roman alphabets―without compromising its form.”
- Lindsay Gail, Los Angeles Review of Books
“DeWitt’s manic, brilliant new collection...populated by geniuses and virtuosos, the stories are zanily cerebral and proceed with fractal precision.”
- New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Author of The Last Samurai and Lightning Rods, “Helen Dewitt knows, in descending order of proficiency, Latin, ancient Greek, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Arabic, Hebrew, and Japanese: ‘The self is a set of linguistic patterns,’ she said. ‘Reading and speaking in another language is like stepping into an alternate history of yourself where all the bad connotations are gone’ (New York Magazine).”
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Critical reaction has been uniformly positive - if a bit baffled - while some less illustrious critics on GoodReads felt that the stories were underdeveloped - simply fragments, or that characters were merely sketched. I'm with the 'work of genius' crowd .. but I can see why neurotypicals might get confused.
My favourite story was 'Famous Last Words', here's an extract (they're discussing Voltaire's last words):
"X has found Pomeau's analysis of the confession.
'Wouldn't take the sacrament - says he dies in the church, not a member of it - second statement the real Voltaire - Whew!
"Il était mort en théiste, non en chrétien." '
`Whereas Noyes,' say I, 'says Voltaire's early religious training gave him a strong sense of the sanctity of the host.'
X puts a hand on my knee.
'Boswell sounded Voltaire out on immortality,' I say, 'Boswell wore his flowered velvet at the interview. ...' "
Young men using intellectual chatter to advance their subtext; young ladies of a rationalist disposition who run with the text .. while observing their own subtext reactions at a puzzled distance. Yes, we've all been there.
I liked 'Some Trick'. I liked the sardonic, dry wit; I liked the acute observation; I like the celebration of the search for truth and the joy in the richness of ideas in the world and the dismay at the mass of people who just don't get it. And I admire the portrayal of the dismal fate her protagonists endure at the hands of ordinary folk: an NT meets a world of sensors.
I bought the book; I bought her a coffee.
Rating: Four-star (I like it)