Some Trick
July 4, 2018 2:13 PM - by Helen DeWitt - Subscribe

A collection of thirteen short stories, loosely linked together by the tension between artists, their interests, and the individuals who want to help/compel them into financial success. “Climbers” was previously published in Harper’s in 2014, and “On The Town” in Electric Literature in 2018.

Here Is Somewhere

If ever if ever a wiz there was
The Wizard of Oz was one because
Because because because because because

‘I have nothing to give you but that’s all right because
Knowledge of lack is possession
Recognised absence is presence
Perceived emptiness plenitude
To have not
And know it
Is to have.’

Some trick.

‘True wisdom is knowing you don’t know.’
The Scarecrow hadn’t the brain to see through it.
He bought it.
‘I don’t understand,’ he thought.
‘That’s my wisdom, that is.’

‘What would you do with a heart but try not to hurt?’
The Tin Man hadn’t the heart to disappoint him.
He thanked him.
‘I feel nothing,’ he thought.
‘But I wouldn’t hurt a Behaviourist.’

‘Courage is not being fearless, it’s facing your fear.’
The Lion hadn’t the nerve to say he was scared.
He roared.
‘I’m still terrified,’ he thought.
‘But you’ll laugh if I say it.’

Next time someone tells you desire
Is a trick of grammar
Tell him
If what I have is what I said I wanted
It’s not what I wanted
I know what I want
But I don’t know it’s name

Could you say that to a puzzled, hurt, frightened old wizard?
Of course not.
You’d say
‘Thanks very much then.’

Some trick.

But Dorothy? I don’t B E L I E V E Judy Garland could fake it.
I think she was glad Technicolor was only a dream.
Glad to find she had never left home
Glad to wake up in grey black and white.

Because because because because because
posted by Going To Maine (2 comments total)
Sometimes you’re halfway through a book and you know you’re going to have to read it again.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:43 PM on July 4, 2018

I have just finished the book a mere seven weeks after this was posted. Despite a couple of reservations & quibbles, I very much enjoyed it.

My favourite stories were probably the opening and closing ones: 'Brutto' with its art-world awfulness and the spiralling absurdities in 'Entourage'. I thought the three stories tagged "Oxford, 1985" were all impressive given their early date. "Needless to say, crowdsourcing a limitless supply of Marlboros was not an idea whose time had come" (from 'Climbers') was one of several lines that made me laugh. I thought 'The French Style of Mlle. Matsumoto' about the most conventional tale in the book, but a very skilfully-made one nevertheless. I liked the way that there were so many references to websites, software and programming languages: literary authors can be shy of acknowledging the digital world.

On the other hand, I didn't care for all the exclamation marks in clusters of sixes, sevens, nines or more. To my ear there were some duff notes in the slangier dialogue, especially in 'Stolen Luck'. For all DeWitt's impressive grasp of British colloquialisms there were a couple of slip-ups: on the first page of the first story, for example, amid "Top Shop", "poxy", "wally" and "bloke" we see "cheese doodles" where I think "cheesy Wotsits" ought to have been.

An author's note in one of the stories mentioned "I have more [...] in my portfolio"; the publisher's note at the end mentions an unpublished novella: tantalising!

Did you read it again, Going to Maine? If so, how was it the second time around?
posted by misteraitch at 12:33 PM on August 22, 2018

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