Some Trick: Thirteen Stories

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New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publish Date
5.7 X 0.9 X 8.2 inches | 0.8 pounds
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About the Author

Helen DeWitt was born in a suburb of Washington, DC. Daughter of American diplomats, she grew up mainly in Latin America, living in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador. She went to Oxford to study classics for a BA and D.Phil. She left academia to try to write a novel, moving eventually to London and acquiring UK citizenship. She had some 100 fragments of novels when she began work in 1995 on the novel that was published as The Last Samurai in 2000. The book caused a sensation at the Frankfurt Bookfair 1999, going on to be translated in 20 languages (DeWitt reads some 15 languages to various degrees of fluency). On the reissue of The Last Samurai by New Directions in 2016 it was hailed by Vulture Magazine as The Best Book of the Century. She is also the author of Lightning Rods, a Mel Brooksian satire on sexual harassment, and Some Trick, a collection of stories. She has been based in Berlin since 2004, but also spends time at a cottage in the woods of Vermont improving her chainsaw skills.


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
An intellectual powerhouse, laugh-out-loud funny in unexpected ways.--Ilana Teitelbaum
DeWitt pushes against the limitations of the novel as a form; reading her, one wants to push against the limitations of one's own brain.--Miranda Popkey
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.
DeWitt reasserts herself as one of contemporary fiction's greatest minds in this dazzling collection of stories about misunderstood genius. 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.
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.
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
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.
The most radical, off-the-wall, completely astonishing pages you'll read in your lifetime.... A small-but-mighty tome.
A fascinating, expansively erudite thrill.
DeWitt's stories are comic and intricate, and cut against the grain of current American fiction in the best of ways
Thirteen ornery but self-aware stories about the vultures who tear apart our culture. There's some bitterness here but no sanctimony, because the author is almost as funny and self-deflating as she is smart -- which is saying a lot.-- (05/03/2018)
A mind-bending collection of short stories that span such heady topics as statistical computing, religion, and the essence of capital-A Art--what DeWitt summits in substance she also mirrors in readability.
"A brilliant, manic new collection. There is much madness in DeWitt's method, a madness of pure logic. Hilarious."-- (06/01/2018)
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
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.
DeWitt's manic, brilliant new collection...populated by geniuses and virtuosos, the stories are zanily cerebral and proceed with fractal precision.
Filled with visual artists, writers, and agents, DeWitt's layered, sneakily funny collection reads like it came together over years of tinkering. The stories precisely capture (and often skewer) a certain type of cultural elite. With references to Borges, Kafka, Adorno, and Benjamin, among others, stories feature artists who must navigate the "go-getters" necessary for promoting their work. Funny and packed with knowledge, DeWitt's book masterfully juxtaposes lofty ideals with the banality of everyday realities.--Seth Satterlee
There is much madness in DeWitt's method, a madness of pure logic. Hilarious.--Hermione Hoby
Ruthlessly honesty about the sausage making of literary production ... DeWitt's stories are devastatingly specific, and yet they serve as broad parables about the inevitability of being misunderstood, both as an artist and as a person.
These 13 tales, which push the boundaries of fiction, center on misunderstood geniuses and manage to combine complex mathematical theories with razor-sharp wit -- no easy achievement.
DeWitt's bracing experiments are risks worth taking.--Madeleine Schwartz
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.-- (07/11/2018)
At times I've thought of "geniuses" as those lucky individuals who turn out to have a destiny, one they can convince themselves and many others of at once. To me, DeWitt is an exception: No matter the vicissitudes of the publishing industry, she remains the real deal.--Hannah Gold
Some Trick seems less like a story collection and more like a series of notes from some vast, alien intelligence. DeWitt's characters are savants, weirdos, and artists, often trying to achieve their ends against the best efforts of the well-meaning and conventional people around them.--Annalisa Quinn
DeWitt applies her mordant virtuosity to territory ranging from statistics to publishing.--May Preview: Most Anticipated