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Attention: there’s a new Helen DeWitt novel(la) coming in 2022.

Dan Sheehan

November 8, 2021, 11:16am

This cold Monday morning brings glad tidings for all you DeWittians out there: in just over seven short months you’ll be able to read a brand new novella by Helen DeWitt, her first book-length work of fiction in more than a decade.

The celebrated author of Lightning Rods and The Last Samurai (considered by many, including myself, to be one of the greatest novels of this still-young century) casually mentioned on Twitter yesterday that her new book will be out in the world next July.

Some internet sleuthing reveals that the SHORT novella in question is titled The English Understand Wool, and will be released by New Directions on July 5, 2022. While there is no mention of the book on the New Directions website, there does exist a bare-bones Amazon page which describes the novella thusly:

A modern amorality play about a 17-year-old girl, the wilder shores of connoisseurship, and the power of false friends

Maman was exigeante―there is no English word–and I had the benefit of her training. Others may not be so fortunate. If some other young girl, with two million dollars at stake, finds this of use I shall count myself justified.

Raised in Marrakech by a French mother and English father, a 17-year-old girl has learned above all to avoid mauvais ton (“bad taste” loses something in the translation). One should not ask servants to wait on one during Ramadan: they must have paid leave while one spends the holy month abroad. One must play the piano; if staying at Claridge’s, one must regrettably install a Clavinova in the suite, so that the necessary hours of practice will not be inflicted on fellow guests. One should cultivate weavers of tweed in the Outer Hebrides but have the cloth made up in London; one should buy linen in Ireland but have it made up by a Thai seamstress in Paris (whose genius has been supported by purchase of suitable premises). All this and much more she has learned, governed by a parent of ferociously lofty standards. But at 17, during the annual Ramadan travels, she finds all assumptions overturned. Will she be able to fend for herself? Will the dictates of good taste suffice when she must deal, singlehanded, with the sharks of New York?

Intrigued? Of course we are.

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