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The English Understand Wool

The English Understand Wool

"Let's suppose you are a serious person. You listen to not only Bartok & Archie Shepp but Black Midi & Yasuaki Shimizu. You know which pockets can be picked. You find it easy to convince yourself that other writers are good when you are not reading Helen DeWitt. Let's stop saying you. I'm saying: there are no substitutes. Her books are chainsaws for the frozen seas within us."  

Liam B.

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Author Helen DeWitt
Publisher New Directions
Publication Date 2022-09
Section New Hardcover - Fiction / All Staff Suggestions / Fiction Suggestions / Liam B.
Type New
Format Hardcover
ISBN 9780811230070

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?

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