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Thirteen Storiesav Helen DewittFor 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 yonder 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 if facing a world of boomeranging counterfactuals, situations spinning out to their utmost logical extremes, and Rube Goldberg-like moving parts, 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."
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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." -- Harper's "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." -- Longreads "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 "I like dry humor with a stick of dynamite strapped to it. The forthcoming collection Some Trick by Helen DeWitt, is probably the most recent example." -- New York Times Book Review "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 "There is much madness in DeWitt's method, a madness of pure logic. Hilarious." -- Hermione Hoby - New York Times Book Review "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 - NPR "The most radical, off-the-wall, completely astonishing pages you'll read in your lifetime.... A small-but-mighty tome." -- POPSUGAR "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 j
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.