‘On The Town’ by Helen de Witt

Out-of-towner moves to the big city and on his first day sees Harvey Keitel eating pancakes in a diner. “Dude!!!!!!!!! I saw Harvey Keitel eating pancakes!!!!!!!!!”, he says to his indifferent flatmate. This and many other delights awaits the reader of Helen de Witt’s story, which, like everything written by Helen de Witt (and there isn’t much, and it’s all excellent), slinks in and out of languages (the institutional, the technical, the corporate) to find previously unexplored areas of human dumbness and desire. Gil, the out-of-towner, wows feckless New Yorkers with his competence in DIY, speaker installation, PowerPoint, data visualisation. It is, as Sheila Heti says in her introduction, a parable that “one simple man might swoop in and make order out of the chaos and stupidity of the world”, which, if you think about it, is actually the greatest story ever told!!!!!!!!

First published in Electric Literature, June 2018 and available online here and in Some Trick: Thirteen Stories, New Directions, 2018