He knows everything about her before they meet: the make of pen she writes with, her exact height, the various honorary degrees she holds. He knows more about her nine novels and 27 short stories than she does herself. Naturally—he has devoted his life to studying and teaching them, and he reveres them. Also, he is four times as clever as she is.

The Trick of It is a comic and painful voyage of exploration into the creative process and the feelings it arouses in others. The humble academic disciple finds himself admitted to his subject’s life, and off to this oldest friend go a series of dispatches—by turns awed and patronizing, reverential and jealous, disingenuous and appallingly frank.