I am delighted to report that Helen DeWitt’s new novel, Lightning Rods, will be published by New Directions in October (as reported by Helen here); you can preorder it at that Amazon link, or wherever you like, or simply wait for it to appear at your local bookstore (if such things still exist by then). If you’re not familiar with the author, I refer you to my 2003 rave about her first novel (which has nothing to do with the Tom Cruise movie of the same name). Huzzah for her and for New Directions, which has been doing its damnedest to save American literature for many decades now (note the list of forthcoming publications provided in the second parenthetical paragraph of this post—my, I do seem to be addicted to parentheses).


  1. my, I do seem to be addicted to parentheses
    The habit can be broken, using a technique known as willpower. When composing my comments here I spend a lot of time eliminating parentheses, in favor of commas.

  2. dearieme says

    Good. But how do you get rid of surplus commas? They infect my efforts, I know.

  3. Snip longer sentences into smaller ones. You then see that many parenthetical expressions can be turned into comma-separated clauses. Others can be detached and expanded into new sentences.
    Once you have trimmed and hemmed the short sentences, they can be quilted into a pleasing pattern. Lacan recommends the additional use of points de capiton or “upholstery buttons” where needed.

  4. Bathrobe says

    I had a look at Helen Dewitt’s website. I notice she had approaches back in 2005 to make a film of The Last Samurai. (The page on the proposed film has a moderately interesting link to Arabic Typography, which doesn’t totally live up to its promise).
    In rerereads she talks of the reading style of goats (for the benefit of AJP): “goat: studies the contents list carefully, also the index, tables, and typographic indications of the structure, questioning everything – it reads and understands the book thoroughly or else rejects it quickly if initial scrutiny shows it to be worthless (or is foreign to its own ideas).”
    Apart from goats there are also sheep and rabbits.

  5. Today our goats were in the kitchen – the gate and the front door had been left open by accident – and that’s an accurate description of a goat’s m.o. She knows her goats.

  6. At her website, DeWitt put up a copy of the option contract for a film of The Last Samurai. I wonder if its phrasing is typical of Hollywood over-the-topness – see the following (bold type added by me):

    For the sum of $17,000 (the “Initial Option Payment”), payable within 10 business days following Owner’s signature and delivery of this Agreement (and all exhibits attached hereto) to Purchaser, Owner hereby grants to Purchaser the exclusive and irrevocable option (“Option”) to acquire exclusively, throughout the universe, and in perpetuity, the “Rights” (as defined in Paragraph 7 below).

    Now that Hollywood has control over time and space, what next ? I am reminded of the Grimm fable The Old Fisherman and His Wife.

  7. Here is an annotated version of the tale. The translation starts irritatingly, describing the couple as living in a “miserable hovel”, and ends annoyingly, describing their return to the “dirty hovel”. The standard German edition says simply Pisspott, id est a chamberpot, in both places. Or Hollywood, in the present case.
    It won’t hurt to skip the annotations altogether, which are themselves pretty miserable. For example, “by the sea” has the gloss: “The sea is the transitional agent between life and death”.

  8. J. W. Brewer says

    Grumbly, that’s not Hollywoodese, it’s lawyerese. It’s not uncommon in settlement agreements, for example, to release all claims against the other side that may have arisen since “the beginning of the world” or “the beginning of time.” See (some reformer whining about this practice). Hollywood lawyers in the past have been burned by using inadequately gran