Hailed a “Best Book of the Year” by NPR, Publishers Weekly, Vulture, and the New York Public Library, Some Trick is now in paperback
Finalist for the Saroyan Prize for Fiction
For sheer unpredictable brilliance, Gogol may come to mind, but no author alive today takes a reader as far as Helen DeWitt into the funniest, most far-reaching dimensions of possibility. Her jumping-off points might be statistics, romance, the art world’s piranha tank, games of chance and games of skill, the travails of publishing, or success. “Look,” a character begins to explain, laying out some gambit reasonably enough, even in the face of situations spinning out to their utmost logical extremes, where things prove “more complicated than they had first appeared” and “at 3 a.m. the circumstances seem to attenuate.” In various ways, each tale carries DeWitt’s signature poker-face lament regarding the near-impossibility of the life of the mind when one is made to pay to have the time for it, in a world so sadly “taken up with all sorts of paraphernalia superfluous, not to say impedimental, to ratiocination.”
DeWitt (The Last Samurai) reasserts herself as one of contemporary fiction's greatest minds in this dazzling collection of stories about misunderstood genius. In "My Heart Belongs to Bertie," a statistician flees from a lunch with his book agent, preferring instead an imagined conversation with a "robot, in which rationality carries no stigma." Literary agents come under fire again in "Climbers," about a group of Americans who seek to publish the work of a reclusive novelist. Heedless of the fact that he is a writer who "can feel his mind crackling" under social pressure, they secure an agent who decides his book may be "the next 2666." The writer's only response to the bombardment of emails that ensues is to close his laptop and go "off in search of a beer or maybe a Sachertorte." The suffering of a brilliant mind is made most accessible by "Famous Last Words," wherein DeWitt's narrator glumly accepts the degeneration of a stimulating conversation about Barthes into a seduction that leaves her and her suitor "stripped of language, indifferent featherless bipeds." DeWitt's disdain for those who seek to profit off of genius is sharp and refreshing, and her ability to deliver such astounding prose and thought-provoking stories constitutes a minor miracle. This is a gem of a collection.