Helen DeWitt

Helen DeWitt

Author of The Last Samurai and Lightning Rods, “Helen Dewitt knows, in descending order of proficiency, Latin, ancient Greek, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Arabic, Hebrew, and Japanese: ‘The self is a set of linguistic patterns,’ she said. ‘Reading and speaking in another language is like stepping into an alternate history of yourself where all the bad connotations are gone’ (New York Magazine).”

Some Trick

Fiction by Helen DeWitt

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.…
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The Last Samurai

Fiction by Helen DeWitt

Helen DeWitt’s 2000 debut, The Last Samurai, was “destined to become a cult classic” (Miramax). The enterprising publisher sold the rights in twenty countries, so “Why not just, ‘destined to become a classic?’” (Garth Risk Hallberg) And why must cultists tell the uninitiated it has nothing to do with Tom Cruise? Sibylla, an American-at-Oxford turned loose on London, finds herself trapped as a single mother after a misguided one-night stand. High-minded principles of child-rearing work disastrously well.…
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Lightning Rods

Fiction by Helen DeWitt

Helen DeWitt’s follow-up to her critically accalimed debut novel The Last Samurai arrives with a bang, ready to take on the complex issues surrounding sexual tension in the workplace with a wicked dose of satire and humor. Joe is a down-and-out salesman who spends most of his time sitting around his trailer in Florida fantasizing about women. But one afternoon a particularly strange fantasy turns into a life-changing epiphany. Suddenly he knows how to curtail sexual harassment in the office and increase productivity.…
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At times I’ve thought of “geniuses” as those lucky individuals who turn out to have a destiny, one they can convince themselves and many others of at once. To me, DeWitt is an exception: No matter the vicissitudes of the publishing industry, she remains the real deal.

—Hannah Gold, Village Voice

The picture this collection makes is one of a genius who is herself maddened by social niceties, and all the other tedious obstacles of the daily capitalist grind.


DeWitt’s bracing experiments are risks worth taking.

—Madeleine Schwartz, Dissent

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. The 13 stories in Some Trick are full of this kind of figure, so much so that the book comes to read like a disguised confession. 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.

—Adam Kirsch, The Atlantic

DeWitt’s style is brilliantly heartless, and cork-dry; original herself, she is a witty examiner of human and cultural eccentricity. She can take a recognizable social situation or fact and steadily twist it into a surrealist skein. In Some Trick there are passages and pages that had me laughing out loud—imagine a Bertie Wooster who is not a straightforward dimwit but an eccentrically clever and hermetically erudite dimwit.

—James Wood, The New Yorker

Some Trick seems less like a story collection and more like a series of notes from some vast, alien intelligence. DeWitt’s characters are savants, weirdos, and artists, often trying to achieve their ends against the best efforts of the well-meaning and conventional people around them.

—Annalisa Quinn, NPR

Brilliant and inimitable Helen DeWitt: patron saint of anyone in the world who has to deal with the crap of those in power who do a terrible job with their power, and who make those who are under their power utterly miserable. Certain stories have something in common with dreams: they’re expressions of the creator’s wish-fulfillment. Helen DeWitt’s wishes are distinct in American literature — in world literature, as far as I know.

—Sheila Heti, Electric Literature

DeWitt’s manic, brilliant new collection…populated by geniuses and virtuosos, the stories are zanily cerebral and proceed with fractal precision.

New York Times Book Review “8 Books We Recommend This Week”

There is much madness in DeWitt’s method, a madness of pure logic. Hilarious.

—Hermione Hoby, The New York Times Book Review

Filled with visual artists, writers, and agents, DeWitt’s layered, sneakily funny collection reads like it came together over years of tinkering. The stories precisely capture (and often skewer) a certain type of cultural elite. With references to Borges, Kafka, Adorno, and Benjamin, among others, stories feature artists who must navigate the “go-getters” necessary for promoting their work. Funny and packed with knowledge, DeWitt’s book masterfully juxtaposes lofty ideals with the banality of everyday realities.

—Seth Satterlee, Publishers Weekly “Best Books”

Ruthlessly honesty about the sausage making of literary production … DeWitt’s stories are devastatingly specific, and yet they serve as broad parables about the inevitability of being misunderstood, both as an artist and as a person.

Paris Review Daily

I like dry humor with a stick of dynamite strapped to it. The forthcoming collection Some Trick by Helen DeWitt, is probably the most recent example.

—Sloane Crosley, New York Times Book Review “By the Book”

DeWitt is the sort of artist that doesn’t back away from her vision, and she takes the reader with her. A polyglot with a PhD in Classics from Oxford, DeWitt wields an immense intellect that, in each of her books, she uses to cynically delight her readers.

Los Angeles Review of Books

The artist-characters in Some Trick, Helen DeWitt’s new collection of bitingly hilarious stories, discover that integrity and commercial success are incompatible, or at most a fluke that can’t be replicated without sacrificing one’s sanity and/or soul.

San Francisco Chronicle

I adored this crazy, fabulous, lovable book…This really does deserve to be a modern classic.

The Pool

A tremendous novel. DeWitt is one of the most interesting writers working in the English language today.

—David Flusfeder

A bold, brilliant book…original both in content and form… DeWitt’s zeal cannot fail to enchant.

The Guardian

Fiercely intelligent, very funny and unlike anything else I’ve ever read.

—Mark Haddon

DeWitt’s stories are comic and intricate, and cut against the grain of current American fiction in the best of ways.

—Christian Lorentzen, Vulture

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.

—Miranda Popkey, The Paris Review

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

—Ilana Teitelbaum, The Huffington Post

Her books assert (and often attest) that a work of fiction can encompass many kind of knowledge - probability theory, scatterplots of data, tables of non-Roman alphabets - without compromising its form.

—Lindsay Gail, Los Angeles Review of Books

DeWitt’s fiction is lethal, limitless, and economical. She has more fun on the page than most.

The Rumpus

A rare work of knowledge porn that actually conveys knowledge.

The Millions

An elegant—and newly useful—meditation…As much as The Last Samurai is a novel about a mother’s struggle to raise a son on her own, it is also a novel about art—not making art, but consuming it and engaging with it in a million informal, inappropriate, but profoundly meaningful ways.


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.

The Paris Review

The book has been a great source of motivation for me. I must outdo Ludo, because he is younger than I am but smarter than I am. My father says that this is ridiculous, as Ludo is a fictional character. But this is precisely my point: how can I let a character who isn’t even real outdo me?

—Daniel (Age 14)

The Last Samurai is an original work of brilliance about, in part, the limits of brilliance.


A triumph—a genuinely new story, a genuinely new form.

—A. S. Byatt, The New Yorker

The most well-executed literary sex comedy in ages.


An absurdist comedy of the American workplace and the indignities faced by employees in today’s turbo-capitalism, a quietly seething feminist critique of pornography and the commodification of women, and a category-defying fable about the meaninglessness of success.

—David Annand, The Telegraph

Dewitt maintains a strong, clear, narrative voice throughout, pitch-perfectly parodying management speak, corporate culture and self-help bibles.

—The Independent

A razor-sharp comic masterpiece.

The Financial Times

A tightly disciplined and extremely funny satire on office politics, sexual politics, American politics, and the art of positive thinking.

The Guardian

[Helen DeWitt] tunes into the contemporary American idiom and its corporate-speak with perfect pitch.

The Rumpus

This is excellent: cold and crazy…The jokes are like hammers.

The New Yorker

DeWitt is a brutal humorist…uproariously funny.

The Wall Street Journal

Lightning Rods is an exercise in novel as extrapolation. It’s an appealingly practical way to think about writing fiction, and one that ignores any distinction between realism and fantasy.

—The New York Observer

The basic premise for Lightning Rods is so audacious that it might be hard to get past its general conceit, but its true brilliance lies in DeWitt’s careful deployment of language so common that we no longer see it. As any million-dollar litigation lawyer or two-cent literary critic will tell you, the devil is in the details.

—Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times Book Review

It so emphatically aces the tasks it sets for itself, and delivers such a jolt of pleasure along the way, that it reminds me of just how major a minor work can be… At any rate, as one of her endearingly flummoxed characters might say, I literally cannot wait to see what she does next.

—Garth Risk Hallberg, The Millions

DeWitt’s wickedly smart satire deserves to be a classic.

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