Part of a series of New Directions 'storybooks' meant to be read in a single sitting, The English Understand Wool is a little gift to DeWitt’s (often ardent) readers and an inviting primer for readers new to her. DeWitt is one of our most ingenious writers, a master of the witty fable, and she pulls off her trick here through marvelous specificity of voice and a plot that hums like German machinery.
The latest from Helen DeWitt, an eccentric genius of our own day and age, is a delicious novella entitled The English Understand Wool ... With an impeccably straight face, Ms. DeWitt renders Marguerite’s prim, refined voice, in the process landing superb satirical shots at the publishing industry and the hypocrisies of the current marketplace for trauma narratives ... But no novelty attaches to this work, another of Ms. DeWitt’s classically understated comic jewels.
Brilliant ... DeWitt has a knack for delivering acutely eccentric ideas with such intense frequency and in a no-nonsense tone that readers become almost persuaded of their unarguable logic ... While DeWitt’s unapologetically cerebral narrative style might leave some readers cold, those looking for a change from today’s overload of self-obsessed confessional poetry will find her refreshing.