BookBrowse has a new look! Learn more about the update here.

Reviews of Some Trick by Helen DeWitt

Some Trick by Helen DeWitt

Some Trick

Thirteen Stories

by Helen DeWitt
  • BookBrowse Review:
  • Critics' Consensus:
  • First Published:
  • May 29, 2018
  • Paperback:
  • Oct 2019
  • Rate this book

  • Buy This Book

About This Book

Book Summary

At last a new book: a baker's dozen of stories all with Helen DeWitt's razor-sharp genius.

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 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."

Below is the full text of this short story

The French Style of Mlle Matsumoto

He was a pianist. He was born on the island of Shikoku, where his father had some kind of post in the administration of the prefecture of Tokushima. His mother was from Tokyo. When she married his father she had her piano brought down on the ferry to her new home. He was taught from the age of two by his mother, and from the age of eight by a woman who had studied in Paris with Koslowski until the mid-40s, when she had cut short a promising career to keep house for her widowed father.

Koslowski had said

Of all my pupils the one who showed the finest sensibility in the interpretation of Chopin was Mlle Matsumoto. To praise her technique is to say nothing. The simplicity and ease with which she executed even the most difficult passages, the absence of any kind of affectation or showmanship in pieces where it is too common to see talent on display, while the pianist plays the virtuoso, all this gave one ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

In this erudite collection of 13 stories, Helen DeWitt explores the theme of stymied creativity, particularly as a result of financial and bureaucratic intrusions into the process of making art. The characters are unrelentingly charming and this is due to DeWitt's powers of description as well as her unconventional linguistic choices. Her quirky narrative choices and use of jargon may alienate some readers, however. There are somewhat random barrages of math, a few long descriptions of computer programming, extraneous footnotes, and mentions of obscure literary movements and authors...continued

Full Review (651 words)

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

New York Times
[B]rilliant, manic...a DeWitt short story is a thing crafted with unimpeachable skill, even genius, but as you marvel at the stitching you might also shudder at the sense of a cruel, even brutal, joke. The stitching falls between as well as within stories; the collection proceeds with fractal precision.

The Atlantic
One definition of a genius is that she is so dissatisfied with the way the world is that she compels it to adjust to her, rather than following the usual course of adjusting to it. How do you get a complacent world to stop talking and pay attention? Some Trick suggests that the answer involves stubbornness, oddity, and a great deal of talent.

The Huffington Post
An intellectual powerhouse, laugh-out-loud funny in unexpected ways.

The Paris Review
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.

Los Angeles Review of Books
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.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. DeWitt's wide-ranging intellect makes these stories, but it's her sense of humor and profound humanity that make them work...This collection has many delights, but it's worth picking up just for that.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book



Roland Barthes and "The Death of the Author"

In DeWitt's story "Famous Last Words," two characters argue over the interpretation of an essay by Roland Barthes called "The Death of the Author," and whether its message is still relevant for writers.

Roland Barthes was a French philosopher and literary critic. He was born in 1915 in Cherbourg, France and attended the Sorbonne where he studied literature, linguistics, and Greek tragedy. He went on to become a respected professor, teaching at the French Institute in Bucharest, the University of Alexandria in Egypt, and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, among others. He was also a celebrated author, penning texts on topics ranging from love to art to semiotics (the study of signs and meaning).

Some of Barthes' most influential ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Some Trick, try these:

We have 9 read-alikes for Some Trick, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start
discovering exceptional books!
Find Out More

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Bury Your Gays
    Bury Your Gays
    by Chuck Tingle
    Chuck Tingle, for those who don't know, is the pseudonym of an eccentric writer best known for his ...
  • Book Jacket: Blue Ruin
    Blue Ruin
    by Hari Kunzru
    Like Red Pill and White Tears, the first two novels in Hari Kunzru's loosely connected Three-...
  • Book Jacket: A Gentleman and a Thief
    A Gentleman and a Thief
    by Dean Jobb
    In the Roaring Twenties—an era known for its flash and glamour as well as its gangsters and ...
  • Book Jacket: Early Sobrieties
    Early Sobrieties
    by Michael Deagler
    Dennis Monk is sober now, and he expects some applause. Or at least some recognition that he's ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Lady Tan's Circle of Women
by Lisa See
Lisa See's latest historical novel, inspired by the true story of a woman physician from 15th-century China.
Book Jacket
The 1619 Project
by Nikole Hannah-Jones
An impactful expansion of groundbreaking journalism, The 1619 Project offers a revealing vision of America's past and present.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Very Long, Very Strange Life of Isaac Dahl
    by Bart Yates

    A saga spanning 12 significant days across nearly 100 years in the life of a single man.

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

L T C O of the B

and be entered to win..

Win This Book
Win Smothermoss

Smothermoss by Alisa Alering

A haunting, imaginative, and twisting tale of two sisters and the menacing, unexplained forces that threaten them and their rural mountain community.

Enter