I Can’t Wait to Get Started

If I wake up three hours before dawn, I have just enough time to attempt to begin this essay.

It is the beginning of a book that I hope will eventually allow me to quit my job and write for pleasure.

Until then, I must use the early morning to write at the same table where I also eat, send emails, and take phone calls. Right now, I’m feeling anxious and resentful.

Taking into account the data gathered over the past eighteen months, there is a three in ten chance of being contacted by my boss before I finish my set daily tasks.

Let us assume that I am writing an essay that needs to be submitted by the end of the week. If I require five early morning sessions to finish the essay, with each day having its own chance of being interrupted by my employer, then according to the binomial distribution, the likelihood of me not being able to complete the essay is 87%.

If I can manage to convince the editor to adhere to my requests as a non-writer, providing me with twelve weeks of morning hours to complete a longer article, then the chances of a deadly interference–meaning a disruption occurring on more than fifty-five of the sixty days–are minuscule, at only 0.00000000000000000019 percent, or 1.9 x 10-22.

It is evident that my emotional response to this altered scenario is not proportional to the amount of disruption it will cause. Therefore, I must work to modify my feelings so that they are in line with the objectives I am trying to achieve.

Given that I aspire to be a writer, it is likely that I will be working in publishing. In order to deal with the highs and lows of such a job, I should feel grateful for the writers I get to work with, be conscious of how difficult it is to get a job in the literary industry, and appreciate the luck I had in getting a job at all.

Additionally, I should be in awe of being so close to great talent and recall the financial struggles of the past, present and future. I should take notice of the miraculous construction of a sentence, and more importantly, the thought of being able to rent a place with more than two windows.

My boss recently phoned me with a peculiar request due to an article he had read in a magazine that is beloved by his peers. He wanted me to find someone “diverse” to create a project that is similar to the article he read. Although I wanted to point out his misunderstanding of the word, I kept my composure. I considered my financial struggles as I realized I had to write the email.

I opened the document with my unfinished essay and drafted the email to the potential collaborator. “Dear Joanne,” I wrote, “We are thrilled by your work.”

Fiction in Contrast to Falsehood

In Helen DeWitt’s 2018 collection, Some Trick: Thirteen Stories, the first story, “Brutto,” focuses on a financially strapped artist who is encouraged by an ambitious gallerist named Adalberto to remake a ghastly outfit (“Ma che brutto!”) she once crafted during an apprenticeship in dressmaking.

The suit is spotted in the studio where the artist is attempting to promote her paintings–the medium in which she’s devoted to gaining acclaim.

Adalberto is greatly enthusiastic about the suit, and he is “this really hot potato.” He is on the jury for the Venice Biennale, “so if Adalberto would favor her work it would be incredible.” Adalberto is asking this artist to make nineteen suits in two months for an exhibition in Italy, an almost outlandish and artistically worthless idea, according to the artist’s perspective.

Nevertheless, in the belief that Adalberto will otherwise direct his attention elsewhere, she can’t miss the opportunity.

With a performance set up for the artist in New York, Adalberto realized it was necessary to improve her exhibition. T

he Americans weren’t as familiar with highbrow culture, so he asked her for a sample of her urine. “It’s about the physical form,” he articulated. “A detestation of the body. Refusal of the body. The suspending [of the suits] requires the body.” He welcomed her to his gym as a visitor, advising her to wear three hoodies and two sets of sweatpants, and to use a treadmill.

 

“After about sixty minutes of collection, the sweat was acquired.

 

He proposed utilizing an onion to take the place of the tears.

 

He suggested if she was handed a cup she could spit into it.

 

He recommended that if she got really inebriated, they could get the vomit.

 

At the climax of the story, the artist residing in London is nominated for the Turner Prize which they find distasteful. As they explain, the Prize tends to pick out pieces that “are exciting for people who don’t know anything about art.” Despite this, they decide to be clever and submit a suit along with a jar of spermicidal jelly to their entry.

Helen DeWitt has no patience for those who sacrifice their creativity in order to please the demands of “the biz”. Such “sellouts” have allowed themselves to be rewritten by the biz’s agenda.

In Some Trick, there are characters representing figures from the publishing, music, and art world, their mouths filled with a false enthusiasm. DeWitt told Vulture, “I don’t know how to deal with a world where there’s this language of infatuation that people use. ‘Infatuated! ‘Besotted!’ ‘Obsessed!'”. She believes this excitement is not in line with the biz’s approach to her work, as they usually take what they can get, using any means necessary to get a reaction out of their artists.

DeWitt’s tendency to be skeptical of overly emotive language may come as a surprise to those familiar with her work via the discussion generated around it. As an example, her first published novel, The Last Samurai (2000), is renowned for its enthusiasm. The story follows a mother-child duo whose pleasure in intricate topics like ancient linguistics, musicology and math is hard to keep within the confines of the book. DeWitt engaged in a battle with the typesetters to accurately depict the sheer volume of visual imagery she had included.

 

“TO WHAT EXTENT?

 

HOW EXTENSIVELY?

 

TO WHAT DEGREE?

 

The dispute between Helen DeWitt and the publishing industry is one of many, and is characterized by her hectic, interrupted thought processes and rhapsodic, diagrammatic meditations with Greek and Japanese scripts. At the center of her novel is the child, Ludo, who is raised by his mother Sibylla, and Akira Kurosawa’s classic film Seven Samurai.

Similar to John Stuart Mill, who began learning Greek when he was only three, Ludo reads The Odyssey while in his stroller and quickly surpasses his mother’s knowledge of Japanese from watching Kurosawa’s film.

Through multiple iterations of narrative digression, the reader becomes mesmerized by Ludo and Sibylla’s passionate interest in Homer, Schoenberg, Proust, and the distributive property of multiplication. “I’ve finished Odyssey 24!” he exclaims, with his mother responding with “That’s WONDERFUL!” followed by a “Wonderful marvellous wonderful marvellous cool.” Such extremes of stimulus have no doubt led to reviewers and essayists describing DeWitt as a writer with “perfervid” eclecticism, “exuberant” experimentation and “breathless” erudition.

In 2000, James Wood deemed the contemporary novels he was seeing to be “ambitious” yet, often, too “hysterical” and “fervid”. His criticism was that, while they seemed to have an abundance of stories, they were missing the essential qualities of “humanity” and “truth”.

This was seen in works such as David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest , which Wood thought was emblematic of this “excess of storytelling”. Similarly, Myla Goldberg wrote in The New York Times that Daniel DeWitt’s The Last Samurai was “exuberant” but “worshipped too long at the altar of the intellect”.

Daniel Mendelsohn, in The New York Review of Books , further noted that the characters in this novel lacked “psychological texture” and said that, in reading it, one felt as if they were “sitting next to a brilliant crank at a departmental social event”.

Wood perceives any form of literary overexcitement as inhumane, while DeWitt is more cautious when distinguishing between different levels of emotional intensity before assigning any moral judgement.

The protagonists of The Last Samurai exhibit overjoyed enthusiasm, which is not comparable to the jargon of deification in Some Trick.

Instead of the implausible pleasure in art experienced by Ludo and Sibylla, the fictional accomplices of DeWitt, and their actual equivalents in the music and literary worlds, are familiar with but despise the reality of the truth.

From Adalberto to the other players in the business, their admiration for art and literature is rendered without any insight or interest in it. Their loyalty lies not in beauty, humanity, or truth, but in the profitable results of the unchangeable rules of the game.

Throughout Some Trick, we are presented with various attachments that are not quite as expected.

In “My Heart Belongs to Bertie,” the author elucidates a preoccupation with the binomial distribution to his agent, only to get a less than encouraging reaction. The agent remarks “This is fascinating, but way beyond my understanding.” Meaning he did not comprehend it, but it was not essential for him to.

The agent then goes on to say, “What I can say is that many people are very excited by your work.” In “Climbers,” the agent inquires about the author’s interests, not to converse about the work he is working on, but to determine the author’s personal style. He explains, “All the best writers are obsessives,” before requesting to see some “pages” of the writer’s current project.

The protagonists in DeWitt’s work share one common feature: they are hawkers of “bullshit”. In 2008, DeWitt’s blog, paperpools , featured a quote from Harry G. Frankfurt’s book, On Bullshit , without any embellishment.

 

Lies are false, and so are not accurately representing the situation or the speaker’s beliefs. Bullshit, however, does not necessarily have to be false, and so differs from lies in its intent to misrepresent. The bullshitter does not necessarily intend to deceive us about the facts or what the facts are, but rather about their own aims. The one thing that can be said for sure about bullshitting is that it misrepresent what the bullshitter is doing.

In DeWitt’s opinion, the decisions publishers make are generally not conducive to artistic production or rational thinking.

Peter, the protagonist of “My Heart Belongs to Bertie,” tries hard to explain to his agent the concept of the binomial distribution and its significance in terms of probability. While the agent does not understand, Peter recognizes that the distribution has implications for the traditional family structure.

He believes that by increasing the number of trials, it is possible to reduce the stakes of each “draw” and, as a result, challenge conventional methods.

He proposes that, just as it is impossible to choose one’s parents or the editor of a book, in the world of fiction there is an opportunity to think beyond these limits. Ludo in The Last Samurai and Peter in “My Heart Belongs to Bertie” use this concept to create new ways of approaching their respective situations.

The art world in “Brutto” that Ludo and Peter imagine is one full of “woulds”: “he would not find a way around the problem”; “he would just lose interest.” Adalberto’s expertise is in knowing what “people who know nothing” “would” desire.

DeWitt takes the would in a hypothetical conditional clause and applies it to both the parts of the sentence: “If Charles Saatchi would walk into the gallery… you would not have to worry any more”; “If you would go to Greece…”; “If you would pour cold water on the idea of someone like Adalberto…” This creates an effect of both inevitability and contingency–a peek into the gap between “must” as a logical necessity and “must” as simply following the rules. The narrator of “Brutto” remarks that in all countries, “people are always building that cage of words.” Art is there to challenge this cage.

DeWitt’s stories often pose the question: What happens when the expected “if” clauses that form our pre-conceived notions are altered?

DeWitt’s use of fictitious overexcitement can be read as a poetics of the hypothetical, each story presenting alternatives to our usual laws and ways of seeing.

The thrilling experiences of Sibylla and Ludo in Some Trick are models of unusual, deeply genuine emotions that could come from more rational ways of thinking. Sibylla’s imagination of a new upbringing for Ludo is an attempt to imagine freeing a child from the confines of a disingenuous father.

In a more civilized society, children would not be bound to the whims of the adults they have been placed in the care of. They would be compensated appropriately for attending school.

Unfortunately, in our present culture, adults, especially parents, have a great deal of power over children. As I considered giving this power to a person who sometimes expressed admiration for ignorance, I could not bring myself to do it. I even picked up the phone once, but in the end, I just couldn’t.

Young Sibylla thought that Oxford University would be an escape from the language barriers of her hometown, and the fact that it was only just getting its first motel.

She had assumed that in Oxford she wouldn’t need to fake excitement and enthusiasm just to demonstrate her care for something.

Unusual Expressions of Emotion

If I had gone to Oxford, like Sibylla and Helen DeWitt, and still retained my own individuality, it would be highly regrettable that I was involved in the biz. It would be presumed that Oxford was a school for producing extraordinary thinkers, those who could think rationally and were thus unlikely to propagate lies.

However, Oxford is still exposed to the detrimental effects of dishonesty, something that the protagonist of The Last Samurai, Raymond Decker, suffers from. He realises that being away from society’s untruths doesn’t come from attending Oxford, but instead escaping its strict conventions.

At the Oxford entrance exam in the 1960s, Raymond Decker and Hugh Carey became legendary classicists. RD was nineteen and HC only fifteen when they first encountered each other. This was mentioned by Sibylla in one of the extended conversations in The Last Samurai.

 

Before he even entered University, RD had already studied Plato’s Gorgias. Being a person who takes everything seriously, he had taken it to heart. In Phaedrus, Gorgias is depicted as boasting about being able to give a long or short answer to any question, and in Gorgias he says that he is unbeatable when it comes to giving concise answers.

 

On the other hand, Socrates only has one way of responding to questions: some may be answered with a single word while others may need five thousand, and the philosopher, in contrast to the rhetorician or the politician, will take as long as necessary. T

 

his leaves RD in a difficult position.

 

RD is struggling with the idea of having to pass an entrance exam in a mere three hours to gain admission to an institution that claims to promote logical thinking. HC attempts to show RD the necessity of merely playing the game, and initially succeeds. However, when facing the final exam, known as Greats, RD can no longer justify his approach.

Upon seeing a question about Republic X, a Platonic text his invigilator has been working on for twenty years, RD realizes what he must do.

He contemplates writing “I am not so presumptuous as to attempt in 40 minutes what Mr. JH has not achieved in 20 years”, but then decides against it in fear of offending someone and abandons the exam altogether.

RD firmly believes that telling the truth or refraining from speaking at all are the only morally acceptable options when presented with a false choice. Thus, he refuses to gain a certification of his academic accomplishments through a grade. This puts him in a difficult position, forgoing any of the benefits associated with having a degree. HC, perturbed that his own best efforts now seem to be fruitless and illogical, predicts that:

 

No one was willing to hire RD, no one wanted to employ him as an educator, ultimately he was forced to labor on a dictionary or an Oxford Companion, punctuality was not his strong suit and he was dismissed from the job, he attempted to grade A-level exams and was dismissed from that task as well, and he eventually found himself teaching English as a second language.

 

For Sibylla, RD was the true winner of this story, she explains to Ludo. While HC may have obtained a fellowship at All Souls at nineteen, the joy had been snuffed out due to RD’s refusal to accept the university’s beliefs.

RD’s disregard for authority is rewarded, if not by Oxford or the public, in the context of DeWittean fiction.

His fervor is portrayed as the byproduct of an analytical type of thinking that is completely different from the regulations. Sibylla, on the other hand, confronts the fear of her coworkers being rendered jobless because of an acquisition executed by the publishing firm she works for.

Both Sibylla and RD strive to sustain the honor of genius, and therefore, they dread the possibility of their feelings no longer being rational.

In an interview for this magazine in 2012, DeWitt offered her opinion that philosophy is the means to maintain integrity and avoid unthinking conformity to social standards. This view is mirrored in her writing, in which Sibylla and her son Ludo live on the outskirts of culture, yet she is still determined to create Ludo as an artwork.

However, in her world, those who have freed themselves from the centres of the industrial world and yet still manage to create art that is actually art are those who DeWitt finds the most admirable, such as musicians, mathematicians, writers and other untraditional minds.

The protagonist of “Climbers,” Peter Dijkstra, has a talent so remarkable it produces a reaction from people like Sibylla, who usually only marvels at masters such as Bernini and Cezanne. One admirer even dreams of the joy they would feel if Dijkstra took away all of their possessions.

Despite this, he hides behind credit cards and a history of time in a psychiatric hospital. He is polite in response to emails and offers of representation, but finds it difficult to express the kind of enthusiasm expected of him. He can’t bring himself to say something like, “Dear Ralph, this is very exciting,” and instead his work speaks for itself, demonstrating a level of insight that cannot be faked.

One should feel sorry for the standard, the person who is content to exist in the center of their field, to whom the concept of destitution appears too much. Sympathy should be extended to those who work in culture yet choose to earn a living rather than pursue the truth: authors who take up a job as a publishing assistant; creators who give in to the dull allure of working in a gallery; performers who accept a life in a suit; researchers whose likely revelations are destroyed by professionalization. DeWitt, similar to RD, completed her degrees at Oxford University, yet, just like RD, she then chose to avoid the university and the bureaucracy. As Lorentzen reports, DeWitt was unwilling to focus on a particular field to get an academic position and understood that she “didn’t want to write about writers writing about writers writing about Euripides. She wanted to be Euripides.”

The Antithesis of an Artist

By disregarding the customs that shape our behaviour and attitude, can we, as DeWitt’s stories seem to point out, surpass the systemic nonsense? DeWitt related to Lorentzen her struggles in her literary career, likening the irrationality of editors to Plato’s Thrasymachus, Callicles and Gorgias, who “react with annoyance when Socrates defeats their traditional beliefs”. If customs are by their nature capricious, and reason is logically consistent, it could be said that convention is an obstacle to reason.

If rationality is the only way to establish the truth, then it may be argued that convention obstructs accuracy. Every now and then I do ponder if my yearning for the convention of financial safety compromises and makes my assertions, grounded in customs, that my work is “all very exhilarating”, irrational. If I have followed the convention of climbing the ladder of employment, a benefit in exchange for which my intellect has to dive into nonsense, does this make me unavoidably irrational? Does it make me an enemy of truth?

When I state that I take pleasure in my job, I am expressing a conviction that this belief is accurate.

Nevertheless, according to Frankfurt’s definition of bullshit, this faith is still antagonistic to the truth. The underlying cause of my belief is primarily ulterior, having little to do with the job itself and more to do with a craving for financial security, which means I have misled myself and others about what I am up to when I take pleasure in it–which is the very act of bullshitting.

Frankfurt explains that bullshit may not be false, but it erodes the capacity for truthfulness by demonstrating that truth has no relevance to whatever the bullshitter claims. Additionally, my pleasure in my job may be classified as irrational due to the fact that we have logically established that my anxiety and bitterness are unfounded.

My fear of my employer interfering with the writing of this essay is much more likely to be unfounded than my instinct tells me. Thus, my enjoyment of my job is based on a false assumption and I am guilty of both exaggeration and illogical reasoning.

It does not take much intelligence to spot the problems associated with utilizing the binomial distribution to make predictions about situations it was never meant to address.

For instance, are the chances of my employer ringing on Tuesday morning truly independent of the chances of him having phoned on Monday? Additionally, was the eighteen months of data from which our “one-in-three” chance was derived enough to validly use it again? The concept of an objective probability relationship between propositions and bodies of evidence is more plausible when it comes to something like rolling dice compared to human behaviour. My use of the binomial example is not any more rational than Peter’s in “My Heart Belongs to Bertie” – the narrative where he believes parent-child assignment is akin to a lottery.

Despite the fact that these examples could be modeled by statistical curves, implying that the chances of disruption are valid, why does this lead to the conclusion that my emotions in the situation are appropriate? Regardless if my employer is unlikely to steal away writing minutes to ruin my essay, why should this be the only thing that dictates my emotional response to the persistent, disrespectful, and draining requests for my attention? In the industry I work in (publishing, in this example), there are plenty of reasons why the need for my free labor might be wearing me down.

It’s common knowledge that “labor of love” extracted from industry workers can be a source of emotional distress. It’s possible that the emotional labor I contribute exceeds my wages, or my desire to live. Maybe, for every minute and calorie I spend satisfying the vanity of those I depend on for work, I’m spending multiple hours despising myself and plotting my exit.

So why should it be my responsibility to adjust my negative emotions instead of all involved taking action to level the power imbalance? Why should we rely on the government to redistribute the offspring of addicts rather than assisting addicts to lead healthier lives? Why should we assume that Peter’s option A, whether or not they are a drug abuser, would be a worse parent than B, their other option, whose idea of a narcotic is Earl Grey tea?

In DeWitt’s explanation for “My Heart Belongs to Bertie,” she emphasizes the significance of recognizing why statistical odds are so influential; how such comprehension is “essential to the most basic moral questions”. To illustrate this idea, she points to the example of the heroin addict, which demonstrates the disparity between how we instinctively feel and what probability dictates. DeWitt believes that by making evident the risks of leaving parenthood to chance, but also illustrating that the variables in probability equations can be manipulated, readers will comprehend that the fate of a child or the selection of a book’s editor is more hazardous than anticipated, yet more controllable than luck. By submerging us in the peculiar workings of a hyper-rational mindset, she has shown us the potential to break free of the prison of illogic that surrounds us.

It is not necessarily true that what is reasoned is objectively true or ethically sound. It is inaccurate to view publishing in terms of binomial distribution and it is unreasonable to suggest that the selection of an editor is the result of a random, independent trial.

The notion that this is a value-free decision fails to recognize that following the money is an ideology. If we look at the author’s choice of analytic tools through a subjective lens, rather than an objective one, it is clear that DeWitt’s ethical propositions are not necessarily correct just because they resulted from a process of induction.

Prior to completing her first book, DeWitt had reservations about publishing. She was introduced to an agent in 1995 by a colleague and they sent chapters of The Last Samurai, which was still being written, to editors. These editors, DeWitt pointed out in a 2011 interview with The Los Angeles Review of Books, halted the book’s progress for 18 months with their unsolicited advice. When the manuscript was accepted to be published in 1999, she was yet again met with unwanted interference in the form of an editor who she felt was overstepping the boundaries. This resulted in her having to spend time recovering her original thoughts, which could have instead been used for writing more books. According to a 2007 paperpools post, DeWitt believes that a writer should be able to live a life which generates experience.

She stated that young writers often mention wanting to be published, but want to also “take the Trans-Siberian Railway/write another book/learn Mongolian, drink mares’ milk, live in a yurt/write another book/go to the Cabaret & explore totalitarianism & sexual perversion/write another book/spend a year at the monastery on Mt Athos/write another book.” Based on her opinion that an editor’s involvement in a book is just self-indulgence, DeWitt concludes that an editor who wastes an author’s time and prevents them from living, can cause “incalculable damage to the book’s successors,” something which is irrational.

What does DeWitt mean by “damage to a book’s successors”? It is the diminishing of quality in future books that is caused by the lack of adventure for their author.

Even though the creative process can be enriched by inspiration, her argument that her books are dependent on the amount of leisure time she has is based on a single factor. Her view that an editor is merely a printer with literary goals is not totally wrong, but it is an oversimplification. In reality, editors are a part of the creative process, connecting the author’s ideas and the act of composing to the way it is interpreted by readers.

An editor’s job is to keep conventions in place to make sure the audience can understand the work and to make sure that when rules are broken, it is done in a way that benefits the author and the reader.

Maybe, however, the “damage” DeWitt talks about is simply a matter of economics, the time and money she has put into “dealing with the publishing industry.” But, if we accept that the making of a book is a shared work, and the publishing house is a key factor, then we must concede someone’s investment of time is needed to properly complete the task. DeWitt asserted that if an editor moves the book in a direction the author does not agree with, then the author “should have the right to walk away and do other things” while still expecting some kind of publicity and royalties. (Unlike the editor or agent who would not be granted such courtesy.)

Her second novel, Lightning Rods, became a satire in which female office workers are covertly appointed to provide comfort to male workers needing a break in the middle of the week — a metaphor that DeWitt clarified as similar to what it can feel like to work in the business. She questioned why this kind of deference isn’t mutual: “Writers don’t even live in a world where agents or, indeed, the lowliest intern, will do anything to keep writers happy.” Hence, she concluded that “the odds are heavily stacked against [authors’] doing their best work.”

In her effort to challenge the status quo and establish a new ethical code, DeWitt dips into the logic of commerce. In one of her blog posts, “wie immer” (a German phrase for hospitality), she imagines the writer as a restaurant-goer. She references a comment from The New York Times to back her up:

 

Restaurants are now noting if patrons have been there before, are located in the vicinity or are connected to the proprietor or supervisor.

 

They register the favored seat of guests, when special events are being celebrated and whether butter is wanted soft or firm, Pepsi over Coke or sparkling water instead of the still kind. In many cases, they can look back at customers’ past experiences; the quantity ordered, how much was tipped and if they would remain in their seats for a long period after having dessert.

 

DeWitt inquires of her readers, “What would be so terrible about a publication system where people were eager to uncover your inclinations?” Assuming that what is beneficial for business (an understanding of customer habits) is also advantageous for the individual, DeWitt portrays a view of the author not as a partner in the industry – potentially an associate or a contributor in the production of literary works – but as an extraordinary form of customer entitled to both customer service and remuneration. An individual as unique as the instruments of surveillance capitalism would have its users feel special without the burden of paying for any consumption.

The issue with publishing is not that it is irrational, but that it follows the logic of capital. The individuals most exploited in this system are not just those who give up their personal data, but also those whose feelings are used to make consumers happy.

DeWitt’s reasons for what would be beneficial to the business are often based on a limited point of view. What she fails to realize is that the individuals most affected by this industry are not the authors who are made to edit their work, but the lowest-level intern. These individuals often mourn the works of art they are unable to create as they are tasked with creating hype around other people’s works.

DeWitt’s strength is in demonstrating that something other than the standard is possible, yet her weakness is in looking for improvements within the system that underpins the norm. As she expressed during an interview with BOMB magazine, “The means of making something occur are similar regardless of what is being exchanged.” Even her creative mind cannot envision an alternative to unrestricted commodification.

To illustrate a world in which language education is more important, she suggested, “We may have language restaurants, language gyms – locations where you can just walk in off the street.” However, she believes this is too far-fetched for people to comprehend, and that “The simplest thing is always to attempt to piggyback on an extant institution.” The family institution may be “barbarous,” but her alternate scenarios take the shape of gimmicky variations or augmentations – robotic companions, the rolling of dice, the auditioning of potential fathers. In her writing, she neglects to examine alternative systems of judgment, alternative means of dividing the industry into classes.

She rather entices us to reflect on what are already noxious divisions: artist vs. hack, genius vs. dolt, prodigy vs. troglodyte. In the end, the status of the artist as a profoundly reasonable individual connects to nothing more than an idea of his mind as unusual. His status as morally good attaches to nothing more than his obvious wish to be Euripides.

Even Euripides, if he were alive in a saturated market, may have been prone to adopting its ways of thinking.

DeWitt, while waiting for her next advance, considered the sixty thousand word, Lotteryland passage from her novel, Your Name Here, as a possible entity to sell. She writes in her interview with Cutter that she thought about whether the publisher would be willing to take it out and put something else in its place.

DeWitt is unable to avoid the system like Peter, RD, or Sibylla do as a real writer can’t so easily turn their back on their livelihood. She cannot have the Circle Line continuously looping back around, and if she chooses to stay in the industry than to heat her home she must persistently catch the Edgware Road line and deal with the Transport Police. With these realities, DeWitt has no choice but to turn her work into “pages”; unwillingly, we could say, fucking herself from behind.

The critiques of DeWitt’s fiction might not have been true representations of her writing. DeWitt, unaware of the impact of the publishing system on her own opinions and frustrations, thought the excitement of agents and editors towards her work was genuine. She said that it was readers, agents and editors who would have a pleasant relationship with texts and be constantly enthusiastic.

In reality, the genuine feelings and thoughts of agents and editors are overshadowed by the constant stream of unimportant, trivial matters they must process. At work, they will normally be attracted to what they feel will keep them afloat.

A picture is featured here that displays a view of a city skyline. The image is filled with tall buildings and other urban features, all in a single frame. It is a breathtaking sight, and it offers a glimpse of the urban beauty that can be found.

Expressing Emotions in a Realistic Way

Readers of Helen DeWitt’s fiction can find something for any type of person, whether they identify with Sibylla’s pure artistic standards or can relate to the more mundane language of “bullshit.” Even Sibylla is not immune to the need to lower standards in certain situations. After an unfortunate encounter with a valued author, Sibylla finds it impossible to leave a note that is both polite and accurate.

To avoid the issue, she opts to send a passage of Greek with translation, transliteration, vocabulary and grammatical comments, which will be a much more bearable task than the “five-hour unwritable note” and will likely ensure that the man will not want to see her again.

DeWitt’s use of caricature may give the impression that bullshit comes from bad personalities, but the reality of the situations she places her characters in makes this more complicated. Bullshit is a product of the difficult circumstances that people face, and it is exactly this that DeWitt is so good at portraying in her writing.

Bullshit is everywhere, from work to relationships, and it is especially noticeable in the words of women. In “Improvisation Is the Heart of Music” from Some Trick, Edward and Maria are a couple. Edward loves to tell stories, but Maria resorts to her bullshit “playbook” whenever he starts a retelling of his shipwreck tale.

Maybe her reaction to the last tale hadn’t been satisfactory, making Edward feel like the storytelling and listening hadn’t gone as expected. She then realized this could be her opportunity to make up for it. The idea made her anxious, as if she didn’t do well she knew the story would be repeated until she got it just right. “What an amazing story!” she blurted out quickly. “I have always been a big fan of The Count of Monte Cristo …”

I may be tempted to pacify my manager in order to limit our interaction, but Maria only turns to fabrication when she is in a dire situation. She will still ask for further accounts of an event (“Have you ever told them about the beauty you experienced during your shipwreck, beloved?”) regardless of whether it is a boss, customer, or a tedious fiancé that takes her hostage.

I can’t say that the concept of more windows thrills me either, but even if I had complete control over my life, I would not be able to express my emotions like I had written the plot of my life. This is true for all of us, no matter if we are agents, editors, mothers, wives, authors, artists, or musicians.

DeWitt revealed to The Los Angeles Review of Books that the Oxford of her dreams was not the Oxford of reality, and that Ludo’s life of the mind is something not accessible to ordinary people.

Nevertheless, she admits that attending Oxford did transform her intellectually in that it opened up to her the possibility of envisioning something better. She has come to the conclusion that the Oxford of her imagination was more powerful than the actual university. Her protagonists’ unaltered pleasure can only motivate us to imagine our own better futures.

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