cover image Some Trick

Some Trick

Helen DeWitt. New Directions, $22.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2782-7

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. (May)