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Some Trick: Thirteen Stories

3.33  ·  Rating details ·  695 ratings  ·  141 reviews
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 expl ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published May 29th 2018 by New Directions
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Average rating 3.33  · 
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Ian Scuffling
What happened? Were my expectations too high? Was I wanting this book to be something other than it was ever going to be? Whatever is going on, I felt like Helen DeWitt’s Some Trick: Thirteen Stories was a series of unfinished riffs on topics and themes rather than any kind of coherent collection of stories. The design may have been to have the book (and its stories) stand in as blank integers where the reader has to solve for X. But, even there, I’m not sure DeWitt’s project works because there ...more
Scott
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
From the outside, Helen DeWitt's stories always sound like the kind of conceptual art piece that have an interesting premise, but depend on flawless execution to actually live up to the promise. Fortunately, on the inside, her stories are flawlessly executed, filled with life, humor, character, and neatly rendered frequency plots. These stories may or may not be interconnected (but are related), featuring a group of people who may or may not know each other (but certainly know of each other), bu ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Really just not very good. Perhaps it's unfair to have read it between Orlovitz's poems and Divine Days.

Even so ::
1) ND did the right thing.
2) I'm going to buy DeWitt a coffee :: https://ko-fi.com/dewitt
3) I did the poli=correct thing and bought her Lightning Rods new at full=$$$ from The Independent Village Bookshop.
...more
Matt
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
[Thoughts from a little more than halfway through: ]

It's hard to explain what I love about Helen DeWitt's writing. It's partly her cast of mind: the best way I can put it is that she has the brain of a nerd and the soul of an artist. And while she's always taking the piss out of someone or something, she doesn't come across as smug, and there's an intense (even desperate) seriousness underlying even her relatively flippant passages. Her attitude toward the world (and many of the people in it) ra
...more
Elise
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Frenetic and incoherent. I'm glad to support the author of The Last Samurai and New Directions, but all except two of these stories were a huge waste of time.
Chris Via
Check out my review in Rain Taxi Review of Books: Volume 23, Number 4, Winter 2018 (#92).
Andrii Zakharov
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
A spontaneous purchase, this book kept surprising. The second story has R code in it and mentions Andrew Gelman (turns out the author has a blog where she writes quite a lot about statistics). Later in the book the marshmallow test comes up, Gerd Gigerenzer "of the Max-Planck-Institute" gets mentioned. As do Texas Hold'em, drums, Berlin... What an overlap. Some trick!

The stories themselves are quite diverse, loosely connected by a theme of extraordinary - art, perception, capacity. Some passages
...more
Ylenia
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019-reads, to-unhaul
I really liked the first story, Brutto, but I struggled to like the rest.
I always started with the best intentions but I inevitably felt quite lost after a certain point, barely able to find the will & finish the majority of these stories. I guess DeWitt is not for me (or, at least, her stories).
...more
David
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2018
Helen Dewitt is incredibly good. So, just read the dang book. I will admit that 2 or 3 of the middle stories did considerably less for me than the rest, but even those fit conceptually in this whole. (It's not *just* a short story collection. There's definitely some overarching themes and motifs here.)

Clever, funny, and carrying out, here, some of the task she set for herself in a great blog post. Speaking as a mathematician, she does a good job of capturing certain aspects of the mathematically
...more
Peter
Good short stories for academics, writers, and amateur intellectuals. Their wit is a bit too high-falutin’ for me, though. Perhaps if I had much leisure time to spend sipping aromatic tea in an oak paneled manor library in rural England, amid classic paintings and highly manicured lawns, I would find them quietly amusing. But for reading on the Tokyo subway, they just don’t have sufficient satiric lift.
Jaclyn Crupi
Aug 29, 2018 rated it liked it
DeWitt is a ‘read anything and everything she writes’ author for me and even at her worst she’s better than most. Her worst is pretty darn good actually. But that said this was a mixed read for me. I loved DeWitt’s obsession with statistical modelling in fiction but found some stories hard work and others just baffling. The stories are related without being interconnected and I just wish this packed more punch.
Alison Hardtmann
Sep 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-book
Some Trick: Thirteen Stories by Helen DeWitt is a collection of short stories all focusing on people who are very intelligent in one way or another. They struggle with money, compulsions or simply with everyday life. The academics value quick, erudite conversations, peppered with untranslated French, German and Latin. Each story, taken alone, comes across as clever and unusual, taken as a whole, the stories become variations on the same thing.

The first story, Brutto, is about a young struggling
...more
Lee Klein
One loud LOL at this line: "the rationalist is socialised to mug for the camera, trotting out recondite facts, objecting to logical fallacies, using polysyllabic words in sentences with a high number of dependent clauses, with the quizzical air of one who knows he is amusing the interlocutor by conforming to a fondly held stereotype."

Loved the first half of "On the Town" with Gil from Iowa in NYC excited to see famous European art movies, living with the bitter, alcoholic son of a famous YA nov
...more
Regina
Jul 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
Some Trick, indeed. This book left me confused and tired - so much unnecessary language for such little meat. The stories were could hardly be called as such - no plots, no discernible characters, no flow, no understanding. I honestly could not tell you what a single story was actually about, save for one, but even that one was spotty at best. It was grueling trying to get through the stories, and and in end, I gave up.
Kate Mcphail
Feb 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Hard to know how to rate this. 3.5?
It's refreshing because it's different but it's a little too cerebral and stubbornly obscure to be enjoyable. I appreciate it but I don't really like it that much.
Philipp
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Unsure what to make of it, I definitely liked it, but it's hard to find out what I liked - many of these stories' themes are extensions already touched on in the extremely brilliant The Last Samurai: a love of knowledge for knowledge's sake.

What's added here is a wonderful celebration of Kauzigkeit (I prefer the rarer/non-existent(?) Kauztum), a good German word. It comes from the old word for owl (Kauz), and is a kind word used to describe someone who has devoted their life to something 99.99%
...more
Tom
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
UMLAUTS UP THE GAZOO

Some excellent stories, tho nothing as good as the sexual codes of the europeans

Most of the stories are in the recent HdW manner - content and style. Content: obsessional application of theoretical if not mathematical models to creative or artistic problems, and the absurdity of progressing from a reasonable point via reason to an eccentric point. Style: dry, laconic authorial control, generally indirect free speech, that is to say third person heavily laced with the express
...more
Judith
Dec 03, 2018 rated it did not like it
Who's idea was it to tell authors it was okay to write rambling slice of life essays and market them as short stories? Do you remember real short stories like Shirley Jackson's " The Lottery", O'Henry's "The Gift of the Magi", Guy De Maupassant's "The Necklace"? Now, can you think of any modern short story that you can actually remember? I'll tell you who can write a modern short story: Elizabeth Strout, author of "Olive Kittridge." End of rant. Remind me not to read any more collections of shor ...more
Matthew
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Though critical in origin the phrase “takes one to know one” can also be complimentary. At least for the sake of this review, that is. After all, the eccentric obsessives and misunderstood geniuses that make up Some Trick couldn’t have possibly come from someone who wasn’t an eccentric obsessive misunderstood genius herself. And Helen Dewitt is most certainly that.

She’s also a supremely gifted writer who manages to transform abundantly challenging themes and topics into, well, precisely the opp
...more
Owen Townend
This collection started out quirky then quickly devolved into frustrating. I have never read the works of Helen DeWitt before but, if this is a strong example, I won't be coming back.

Some Trick has a focus on the mind of those deemed 'genius', showing considerable research into subjects such as statistics and the music industry. However the stories themselves feel half-finished, even necessitating urgent editing. While I realise this is more often than not a deliberate choice of the author, it d
...more
Emily | Literary Edits
Helen DeWitt's Some Trick is a curious book. Each story offers various comments on the publishing industry, DeWitt using the mode of the short story to convey frustrations derived from her own experiences. These frustrations consider the inconsistency of agents, who always seem to be abandoning their clients; the inability of writers to focus on their own work (because they are always being distracted); and the industry's unwavering fixation with money.

I really enjoyed analysing these stories fr
...more
Patricia
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Despite feeling like a good portion of the writing went right over my head, I really liked this book. I'm normally not a short stories person—I enjoy deep dives into characters—but I think a full book from this author would intimidate me. I love the use of language of all sorts in this book, and I could relate to the subject of art in all its forms here: writing, painting, garment making, music, etc.
Mack Hayden
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lit
I really liked Lightning Rods by her and still plan to read The Last Samurai but good God, this was a slog. There were definitely moments of the wit and insight that drew me to her work initially but they’re obscured in this case by mountains of pretension and willful obscurity. I just couldn’t connect with it.
Zack Clemmons
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Language is interesting. The world is interesting. The world language creates is interesting. People and industries and industry cultures which make their proverbial bread from the world language creates (e.g. publishing, the ‘art world,’ the academy) are not interesting. DeWitt is interesting tho.

My favorites were the “Oxford, 1985” stories.
Eve
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
There's no denying Helen DeWitt is brilliant - cleverness is in every story in this collection. Some of the passages are funny and eviscerating and illuminating all at once. I enjoyed reading this book very much. I liked taking it on walks and reading it on park benches, or in the subway, or in bed. It's one of those books you want to hold in your hands and flip the pages of, not have in ebook form. It's also not the type of book, I think, that should be rushed through, but rather savored in sma ...more
Geoff
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Funny, satirical, literary stories that reference binomial probability, Andrew Gelman, signaling theory, R, Hadley Wickham, Gerd Gigerenzer, experimental design, the three laws of robotics, dinosaur comics, and xkcd? It’s like this was written specifically for me...
Zach
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
DeWitt's novels are some of my favorites. Her stories take more work. There's nothing wrong with more work. Took me six months to finish these. Mostly because I was savoring.
Victor Sonkin
I firmly believe that The Last Samurai is one of the absolutely best novels of the last decades. It's hard to imagine (though it must be true) that for a time it was out of print; it's like imagning Don Quixote or something out of print. DeWitt's later attempts, including this one, were very much in the same vein — always flopping for some reason. I don't know what kind of je ne sais quois made TLS a masterpiece and everything else, well, not, and it seems increasingly possible that it will stay ...more
Carmen Petaccio
Jul 25, 2018 rated it liked it
1st story is excellent, as are the last three or so. read them then last samurai.
M
Jun 29, 2018 rated it did not like it
Helen DeWitt offers a collection of language, mathematics, science, and theory presented as storytelling. The titular thirteen stories contained in this collection act ramble through unfinished potential in hopes of proving the author’s genius rather than actual tales. The premises are intriguing enough: Brutto tackles art and criticism, My Heart Belongs to Bertie explores probability, Remember Me highlights religion, and Climbers focuses on literary expression. Yet nearly all of the atories bec ...more
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Helen DeWitt (born 1957 in Takoma Park, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.) is a novelist.

DeWitt grew up primarily in South America (Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador), as her parents worked in the United States diplomatic service. After a year at Northfield Mount Hermon School and two short periods at Smith College, DeWitt studied classics at the University of Oxford, first at Lady Margare
...more

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