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The Trick of It
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The Trick of It

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  160 ratings  ·  21 reviews
He knows everything about her before they meet: the make of pen she writes with, her exact height, the various honorary degrees she holds. He knows more about her nine novels and 27 short stories than she does herself. Naturally—he has devoted his life to studying and teaching them, and he reveres them. Also, he is four times as clever as she is.

The Trick of It is a comic
Paperback, 176 pages
Published December 16th 2002 by Picador (first published 1989)
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Michael Frayn has this trick of making me see something about myself I didn't understand. In this case I was quite taken aback to see written in black and white the explanation of why I can't write fiction.

Oh, thanks, Michael Frayn, I say somewhat doubtfully.

Frayn does make a habit of inducing me to break my principles never to read a book twice. Compared with A Landing on the Sun I'm not sure I could explain why it is so with this book. Maybe an example? This book is a monologue by a man obses
Robert Wechsler
A tragicomedy about a relationship between a literary academic and the principal author he studies. This isn’t your typical satire of the literary world, but it does touch, mostly humorously, on many of the aspects and elements of that world, especially the emotions, from curiosity to adoration to jealousy to postpartum depression. It’s a first-person, epistolary narrative, all letters from the academic to another academic (a friend of sorts). The story is told alternatingly (and eccentrically) ...more
Michael Frayn is so eloquent and so funny that he sometimes seems to get by without very much effort. This novel which concerns itself with the mystery of creativity and the relationship of fiction to reality is by turns hilarious, glib, and a bit of a bore. I think the reason must be that the narrative, in the form of a string of letters from one academic to another, is more or less a stream of consciousness (SoC, as the narrator would probably be the first to abbreviate). And the problem with ...more
A dull and dreary novel about a literary critic who marries the lady whose books he worships. Ultimately, the marriage backfires due to the obvious reasons - envy and loss of a deity on his part, loss of intellectual freedom and the contempt of living with an unequal on hers. But Frayn doesn't tell us the story straight: his very own literary ambitions force him to use literary devices that don't work. He tells a story where nothing really happens, and what does happen he doesn't quite capture i ...more
This book reminds me of The Remains of the Day; it, too, is about a man who does not fully understand himself, who reveals more about himself than he realizes. Unlike Stevens, though, this narrator is a nasty piece of work, though by the end I did manage to scrounge up a small amount of pity for him.

For me the high point of the book is the moment quoted below (don't read it if you don't want to be spoiled), a moment when, after hearing about his lady author obsession without a break for the enti
Mary Overton
An English Lit professor invites an author - the author who is the subject of his scholarship - to come visit his classes, to talk about her novels and her writing process. The encounter changes his life and his career.
A one-sided epistolary novel about the creative process as viewed from the outside. I wonder if Frayn was settling some scores in this excruciatingly painful read about literary hangers-on.

The narrator writes about his anxieties as he anticipates his first meeting with the author
Suad Shamma
A book no more than 150-170 pages long, would take you about 5-6 hours to read in total (with the usual distractions), not the most outstanding of story lines, but will leave you breathless at the end just the same.

Written in the form of letters to a colleague in Australia, The Trick of It tells the story of an academic working in English Literature who specializes in the teaching of a famous woman writer's work. When she comes to visit his college, he finds himself infatuated and fascinated by
I wanted to read this book because Nick Hornby talked about it in The Complete Polysyllabic Spree. Hornby didn't think the book was funny (though it seems to have been billed as such). However, he described it as "witty, smart, readable and engaging." What it lacks, according to Hornby, are Jackass: The Movie-type gags, which is really just fine with me. Hornby was concerned that Anthony Burgess apparently referred to The Trick of It as "one of the few books I have read in the last year that has ...more
I read this in a couple of hours. It had been highly recommended by one source or other - I cannot remember for the life of me what source it was. However, it was a credible enough source for me to hunt it down one day as I was browsing one of my favorite local-to-work (I am a commuter) used bookshops.
Now, for the life of me, I cannot fathom why it was that highly recommended.
Now, don't get me wrong. I did not loathe it.
I devoured it in a morning's read of less than 2-3 hours.
It left me thin
A tragicomic epistolary novel about literary hero-worship. How can you go wrong with that, right? Often quite funny, e.g.:

What? Are my underpants aubergine? Of course they're not aubergine! Don't you know anything about my taste at all? But she may be saying they're aubergine! That's what they do, these people. They embroider, they improve on the truth - they tell lies.

Not at all aubergine, my pants, not faintly aubergine. Nor tartan, for that matter, nor spotted, nor leopard-skin, nor Union Jac
Wiebke (1book1review)
What a surprise! This was a quick read about a rather despicable character.
The whole novel is written in letters and we only see the perspective of the letter writer.
The character appears self-consumed and egocentric. He is the center of the world and often ignorant or uncaring of others.
What made me enjoy the novel despite such a protagonist is the writing and the story in general. The writing is so hilarious at times and clever at others, it is hard to stop reading. Also the length of the nove
May 12, 2009 Kate added it
My response to Michael Frayn's The Trick of It is ambivalent. The premise was irresistible to me: a young scholar/critic who meets and marries the author whose work has thus far been the central focus of his academic career. But I'm not sure that the novel ever transcended that premise to became something more than a clever exercise. But then maybe it didn't need to. As it was, it grappled with questions of the process of fiction writing and of the relationship between fiction writers and schola ...more
Mike Jensen
Dec 09, 2010 Mike Jensen marked it as books-abandoned  ·  review of another edition
This novel is narrated as a series of letters by an English professor about his obsession with a writer who he meets, beds, and beyond. I do not know what happens beyond since I tossed the book at p 39. His letters grow contentious as he imagines what his friend might think, and petulantly replies. Frayn does this far too much. There is nothing to like about the protagonist, and his is the sole voice in the novel. Granted, English professors are always dislikable in novels, but the epistolary na ...more
This is the best satirical farce I've ever read--I'm just shocked that it took me 20 years to find it. Frayn's protagonist is the most hysterically funny narcissist to walk the earth, and there is no theme from '80s literary criticism that Frayn doesn't work in to this juicy character. It made me want to reread Fay Weldon's "Lives and Loves of a She Devil" from a decade earlier --another great farce about obsession with a famous female writer, but with a much more evil twist. The two books make ...more
Ayelet Waldman
I liked this book very much, although I think that fact that it's an epistolary novel puts a sort of layer between the reader and the story. But still, so much is gained by that in terms of what we learn about the narrator through his own letters.
Booth Babcock
Short, funny, bittersweet...the brief tale of a romance between a literary critic and the object of his criticism, told through letters to a distant friend. Funny and occasionally exasperating like other things I've read by Frayn.
This book isn't laugh-out-loud funny, but it's definitely amusing. And it has something to say, as well, about the relationship between writers and their critics. I didn't find it emotionally engaging, but it was fun to read.
Derek Bridge
This short novel is as perfect as it gets. Like a fabulous meal, it is simply delicious, and no dry re-counting of the courses consumed (or the chapter contents) can convey this. Witty, charming, clever: read it!
A book about a creepy obsessive little man, not my cup of tea
Hanan Zhi
i love reading this book :)
Ed added it
Jan 20, 2015
Paul Shodimu
Paul Shodimu is currently reading it
Jan 13, 2015
Blanca Wäldchen
Blanca Wäldchen marked it as to-read
Dec 30, 2014
Nynaevealmeera marked it as to-read
Dec 01, 2014
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Michael Frayn is an English playwright and novelist. He is best known as the author of the farce Noises Off and the dramas Copenhagen and Democracy. His novels, such as Towards the End of the Morning, Headlong and Spies, have also been critical and commercial successes, making him one of the handful of writers in the English language to succeed in both drama and prose fiction. His works often rais ...more
More about Michael Frayn...
Noises Off Copenhagen Spies Headlong Skios

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