The first time Helen DeWitt disappeared was in 2000.
Her debut novel, The Last Samurai, was on the verge of becoming a publishing sensation. It would eventually sell more than 100,000 copies in English and be translated into 20 languages. People told Ms. DeWitt she was a star. Tina Brown, the owner of Talk Miramax Read More
Helen Dewitt’s new novel, Lightning Rods (New Directions, 192 pages, $24.95), takes place in an America outside time. This America is in some ways aggressively contemporary, a lawsuit-plagued land of the horny and the litigious. But it is also backward-looking, insofar as it’s a landscape roamed by door-to-door salesmen, a breed whose numbers have, in reality, probably dwindled to bison levels but who, in Ms. Dewitt’s novel, are as ready as ever to offer encyclopedias and Electrolux vacuum cleaners to the unsuspecting housewives of the Midwest. They receive home-baked pie, these salesmen.