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The Soul Thief: A Novel

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The Soul Thief: A Novel Cover

ISBN13: 9780375422522
ISBN10: 0375422528
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Review-A-Day

"In The Soul Thief, Baxter ups the metaphysical ante once again. There are doubles, dreams, impersonations and a climactic bit of trickery that turns the entire novel into a kind of narrative Möbius strip." James Marcus, Los Angeles Times (read the entire Los Angeles Times review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Here is an extraordinary new novel from one of our most admired and acclaimed writers, a creator of stunning, never predictable, glimmering fiction, full of mischief and insight (Los Angeles Times).

During Nathaniel Mason's first few months as a graduate student in upstate New York, he is drawn into a tangle of relationships with people who seem to hover just beyond his grasp. There's Theresa, alluring but elusive, and Jamie, who is fickle if not wholly unavailable. But Jerome Coolberg is the most mysterious and compelling. Not only cryptic about himself, he seems to have appropriated parts of Nathaniel's past that Nathaniel cannot remember having told him about. It is Jerome who seems to trigger the events that precipitate Nathaniel's total breakdown, and Jerome who shows up 30 years later — Nathaniel having finally reconstituted his life — to suggest, with the most staggering consequences, that Nathaniel's identity may in fact not be his own.

In The Soul Thief, Charles Baxter has given us one of his most beautifully wrought and unexpected works of fiction: at once lyrical and eerie, acutely observant in its sensual and emotional detail and audaciously metaphysical in its underpinnings. It is a brilliant novel — one that is certain to expand both his already-stellar reputation and his readership.

Review:

"The author of the National Book Award-nominated The Feast of Love, Baxter returns with this ninth book, an assay into the limits of character, fictional and otherwise. The first half of the novel follows the brief arc of Nathaniel Mason's graduate career in 1970s Buffalo, N.Y., which centers on his friendship with the sexy but self-dramatizing Teresa ('which she pronounces Teraysa, as if she were French') and her lover Jerome Coolberg, 'a virtuoso of cast-off ideas.' Coolberg, obsessed with Nathaniel, begins taking his shirts and notebooks, and claiming that episodes from Nathaniel's life happened to him. Coolberg drops a hint that something bad will happen to Jamie, Nathaniel's sometime lover; when it actually comes to pass, Nathaniel's world begins to collapse. In the novel's second half, decades after these events have occurred, Coolberg enters Nathaniel's life again for a final, dramatic confrontation. Baxter has a great, registering eye for the real pleasures and attritions of life, but the book gets hung up on metafictional questions of identity (the major one: who is writing this first-person narrative?). The results cheat readers out of identifying with any of the characters, perhaps intentionally." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Charles Baxter's delicious new novel, 'The Soul Thief,' is about identity theft — the old-fashioned kind sans credit cards and Internet con artistry. The evildoer of Baxter's tale lifts his victim's personal profile elegantly, rather than electronically, through hands-on psychological manipulation.

Does this gambit sound familiar? It should, at least to fans of the late Patricia... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"Threading his bluesy magic with traces of Calvino, Gertrude Stein, and Auster, Baxter creates a ravishing twilight tale of breakups and breakdowns, stories pilfered and reclaimed, souls stolen and liberated." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"Though the novel's menacing academic setting recalls Donna Tartt's brainy thriller, The Secret History, this is basically a lightweight doppelgnger tale infused with 1970s nostalgia. The real fun comes in decoding Baxter's cultural allusions." Library Journal

Review:

"[S]hrewd and mischievous....Whoever wrote The Soul Thief knows that we write about what keeps us up at night, that a writer gets to inhabit many lives, and that he who tells the story makes the meaning." The Boston Globe

Review:

"Very few writers excel at both novels and short stories, but Charles Baxter is one of the gifted few who have. From the start of his career, his accomplishments in each have been clear and stunning....His work is subtly political and emotionally precise, whether registering the moods and faces of strangers or the complex of fond and hateful ways ordinary Americans converse." Award of Merit, American Academy of Arts and Letters

Review:

"[I]t's exceedingly rare to come across writing as seamless and engrossing as Charles Baxter's." Cleveland Plain Dealer

Review:

"The Soul Thief, scene by scene and sentence by sentence, sparkles with a tender energy and a tongue-in-cheekiness, lending it a wry quality overall." Chicago Tribune

Review:

"[F]illed with references that those who love books will delight in finding....Baxter is a lyrical and gifted wordsmith, and many of his descriptions will haunt the reader long afterward." Seattle Times

Synopsis:

In his extraordinary new novel, Baxter delivers one of his most beautifully wrought and unexpected works of fiction: at once lyrical and eerie, acutely observant in its sensual and emotional detail and audaciously metaphysical in its underpinnings.

About the Author

Charles Baxter is the author of eight previous works of fiction, including Saul and Patsy, The Feast of Love (nominated for the National Book Award), Through the Safety Net, and Believers. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Grady Harp, March 19, 2008 (view all comments by Grady Harp)
A Novel Rich in Imagery and Style

Charles Baxter is mining new territory in his latest novel THE SOUL THIEF, and while his trademark keen character development ability remains in tact, he takes a step further into the realm of spiritual surrealism - and makes it work on every page!

Nathaniel Mason is the character with the 'available soul', a graduate student whose life is operating on a subsistence level, partially due to circumstances beyond his control (loss from his father's death, and his sister's accident that has left her isolated and mute), and partially due to his misjudgment of relationships. He encounters the beautiful Theresa on a rainy Buffalo, NY night, is enchanted by her beauty and her presence, but also conflicted by the fact that she openly admits to being in a relationship with the bizarre Jerome Coolberg, a strange lad whose writing is as bizarre as his interaction with those around him. It is Coolberg who sets about hiring a thief (Ben) to enter Nathaniel's humble apartment to rob him of anything pertinent to Nathaniel's character -clothes, personal items, and anything that will allow Jerome to appear as Nathaniel, including his writings, his ideas, and his style. Oddly, caught in the act of the aborted robbery, Ben and Nathaniel become 'friends' - Ben hangs out at a soup kitchen where Nathaniel cooks and serves the indigent. Also working at the soup kitchen is lesbian artist Jamie with whom Nathaniel forms a somewhat symbiotic relationship and soon the players - Nathaniel, Theresa, Jamie, and Jerome - become involved in the gradual 'theft' of Nathaniel's soul. Nathaniel is not a stable personality and Jerome's very personal 'robbery' drives him into a state of psychological dissolve.

The story jumps forward in time to a Nathaniel who has survived his breakdown (due largely to his sister's regaining her voice to read to him when he is in his near comatose state). Nathaniel has married, has children, and subsequently re-encounters Jerome Coolberg, his soul thief, and the changes in the two men's personalities and lives bring the story to an end.

Yes, there are moments almost supernatural that test the reader's ability to stay with the story, and the concept of stealing (or selling!) a soul is not a new one: Goethe comes to mind throughout the narrative. But the strangeness of the story allows Baxter the freedom to rise above the pure narrative and wax philosophical, a technique that feels new to his work in comparison to previous novels. 'No one knows who we are here, in this country, because we're all actors, we've got the most fluid cards of identity in the world, we've got disguises on top of disguises, we're the best on earth at what we do, which is illusion. We're all pretenders.'

Toward the end of the novel there is a statement that seems to echo the experience most sensitive readers will experience after reading THE SOUL THIEF: 'Is there anything more restorative than the act of one person reading a beloved book to another person, also beloved?' Reading Charles Baxter's latest novel is enriching and wholly satisfying.

Grady Harp
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(13 of 18 readers found this comment helpful)
Laurie Blum, March 7, 2008 (view all comments by Laurie Blum)
As a major fan of author, Charles Baxter, I was mesmerized & glued to his latest novel, "The Soul Thief." His unique characters Nathaniel Mason & family, Theresa, Jamie and most of all, Jerome Coolberg plus intriguing story line had me into an all night read.
I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Baxter speak at Univeristy of Michigan, Ann Arbor campus, Hopwood Award Ceremony and only wish he was still on faculty to enlighten and teach the English Literature students. Bravo!
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(11 of 17 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780375422522
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Baxter, Charles
Publisher:
Pantheon
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Graduate students
Subject:
Buffalo (n.y.)
Copyright:
Publication Date:
February 12, 2008
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
8.70x5.36x.91 in. .74 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Soul Thief: A Novel Used Hardcover
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$6.95 In Stock
Product details 224 pages Pantheon Books - English 9780375422522 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The author of the National Book Award-nominated The Feast of Love, Baxter returns with this ninth book, an assay into the limits of character, fictional and otherwise. The first half of the novel follows the brief arc of Nathaniel Mason's graduate career in 1970s Buffalo, N.Y., which centers on his friendship with the sexy but self-dramatizing Teresa ('which she pronounces Teraysa, as if she were French') and her lover Jerome Coolberg, 'a virtuoso of cast-off ideas.' Coolberg, obsessed with Nathaniel, begins taking his shirts and notebooks, and claiming that episodes from Nathaniel's life happened to him. Coolberg drops a hint that something bad will happen to Jamie, Nathaniel's sometime lover; when it actually comes to pass, Nathaniel's world begins to collapse. In the novel's second half, decades after these events have occurred, Coolberg enters Nathaniel's life again for a final, dramatic confrontation. Baxter has a great, registering eye for the real pleasures and attritions of life, but the book gets hung up on metafictional questions of identity (the major one: who is writing this first-person narrative?). The results cheat readers out of identifying with any of the characters, perhaps intentionally." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "In The Soul Thief, Baxter ups the metaphysical ante once again. There are doubles, dreams, impersonations and a climactic bit of trickery that turns the entire novel into a kind of narrative Möbius strip." (read the entire Los Angeles Times review)
"Review" by , "Threading his bluesy magic with traces of Calvino, Gertrude Stein, and Auster, Baxter creates a ravishing twilight tale of breakups and breakdowns, stories pilfered and reclaimed, souls stolen and liberated."
"Review" by , "Though the novel's menacing academic setting recalls Donna Tartt's brainy thriller, The Secret History, this is basically a lightweight doppelgnger tale infused with 1970s nostalgia. The real fun comes in decoding Baxter's cultural allusions."
"Review" by , "[S]hrewd and mischievous....Whoever wrote The Soul Thief knows that we write about what keeps us up at night, that a writer gets to inhabit many lives, and that he who tells the story makes the meaning."
"Review" by , "Very few writers excel at both novels and short stories, but Charles Baxter is one of the gifted few who have. From the start of his career, his accomplishments in each have been clear and stunning....His work is subtly political and emotionally precise, whether registering the moods and faces of strangers or the complex of fond and hateful ways ordinary Americans converse."
"Review" by , "[I]t's exceedingly rare to come across writing as seamless and engrossing as Charles Baxter's."
"Review" by , "The Soul Thief, scene by scene and sentence by sentence, sparkles with a tender energy and a tongue-in-cheekiness, lending it a wry quality overall."
"Review" by , "[F]illed with references that those who love books will delight in finding....Baxter is a lyrical and gifted wordsmith, and many of his descriptions will haunt the reader long afterward."
"Synopsis" by , In his extraordinary new novel, Baxter delivers one of his most beautifully wrought and unexpected works of fiction: at once lyrical and eerie, acutely observant in its sensual and emotional detail and audaciously metaphysical in its underpinnings.
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