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The Soul Thief (Vintage Contemporaries)

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The Soul Thief (Vintage Contemporaries).pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Charles Baxter(Author)

    Book details

"Delicious.... Entirely original.... So craftily construcyed that to appreciate how liberally Baxter plants creepy hints of what's to come a reader should really savor this book twice." -- The Washington Post Book World

In this extraordinary novel of mischief and menace, we see a young man's very self vanishing before his eyes. As a graduate student in upstate New York, Nathaniel Mason 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 also to have appropriated parts of Nathaniel's past that Nathaniel cannot remember having told him about. 

From the bestselling author of The Feast of Love

Baxter's novel is an unusual comic work about a grad student whose life gets progressively stranger and stranger as he finds himself attracted to two women and discovers a fellow student is swiping bits and pieces of his life. Jefferson Mays reads with little hoopla or self-regard. He makes the book into a bedtime story, tucking us each into bed with his middle-register of a voice-no noticeable highs or lows. Baxter's book is funny in a deeply low-key fashion; without careful attention, much of the humor can zip by unnoticed. In that regard, Mays treats Baxter properly, trusting the author enough to maintain his tone throughout. Simultaneous release with the Pantheon hardcover (Reviews, Nov. 5). Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition. Opening in gritty, nineteen-seventies Buffalo, Baxter’s suspenseful fifth novel concerns a mildmannered graduate student, Nathaniel, who falls under the spell of a cerebral but affected outsider, the aptly named Coolberg. Drawn to Coolberg’s sneering persona (and to that of his girlfriend, Theresa, who relishes Coolberg’s performances), Nathaniel begins to unravel when he learns that Coolberg is appropriating his identity: a burglar steals clothes from Nathaniel that Coolberg ends up wearing, and Coolberg begins claiming Nathaniel’s history for his own. Baxter’s talent for creating uncanny settings and telling details and his inventive way with language (a similarly dressed couple are "umbilicaled") are both on display here, but the conceptual twist at the novel’s end feels unequal to the dramatic tension that precedes it. Copyright © 2008 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

4.2 (5782)
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Book details

  • PDF | 224 pages
  • Charles Baxter(Author)
  • Vintage; Reprint edition (February 10, 2009)
  • English
  • 9
  • Literature & Fiction

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Review Text

  • By Ethan Cooper on March 8, 2008

    Charles Baxter does have a flair for creating characters. In fact, there were paragraphs, early in THE SOUL THIEF, that were almost Bellow-like in their use of detail to build a character. For example:"He performed intellectual surgery using hairsplitting distinctions. At the age of nineteen, during spring break, he took up strolling through Prospect Park with a walking stick and a fedora. Even the pigeons stared at him. Not for him the beaches of Florida, or nudity in its physical form, or the vulgarity of job. He did not often change clothes, preferring to wear the same shirt until it had become ostentatiously threadbare. He carried around the old-fashioned odor of bohemia. He was homely. His teachers feared him. Sometimes, while thinking, he appeared to daven like an Orthodox Jew. He was adept at both classical and popular cultures..."So, THE SOUL THIEF does have some finely drawn characters. This quality will offer great pleasure to any reader, but especially to those who read Nathaniel's description of his two sons. With this subject, Baxter really brings his characters to life, almost the way Fitzgerald poeticizes the wealthy in The Great Gatsby. But in this novel, Baxter is the poet of the humdrum and the ordinary relationship, not Jazz Age fortunes.Nonetheless, a reader does have to ask: Can characters alone carry a novel? In this case, I'd say the answer is "almost", since THE SOUL THIEF holds together better on analysis than it does as a reading experience. Here, it's hard to explain this "almost" verdict without spoilers. So let me just say that the protagonist, Nathaniel, sometimes reacts to the events of this novel as if not a fully real character. In the end, Baxter explains why this is so. Still, this quality makes THE SOUL THIEF read like a flawed novel, where the protagonist's behavior doesn't always seem emotionally true.I'd like to make a few more observations. Nathaniel's dislike of LA seemed to go on for its own sake. The stuff about the sister reading Nathaniel out of his crisis and Coolberg creating a narrative for his characters--this seemed like Professor Baxter speaking, not Nathaniel. I'd reformat Part Two. And hasn't the passage of time made the emotional force of the ending a bit stale?Regardless, this is a good book, beautifully written in spots, and dead-on accurate in its portrayal of grad student life in the early seventies, as well as the crises and satisfactions of a loving and ordinary suburban family. Yes, Baxter is a pleasure to read. But in THE SOUL THIEF, the ending is, well, too clever.

  • By joyce dewitt on August 19, 2010

    I'm sorry, this book is a bunch of hooey. I was interested, I was hooked, I was ready for an exciting ending... and what I got was just very disappointing. Maybe I am just not cerebral or intellectual enough to understand what the heck has happened in this very confusing story, but I didn't get it. I love to read, and I enjoy a good mystery with twists, but I like for them to be understandable. This book just left me with lots of questions. The whole story is about a graduate student who has suffered the loss of his father, and the subsequent breakdown of his sister, who has become mute after her father's death. The student, Nathaniel, is a nice person who works in soup kitchens and is generally kind. He starts hanging out with a girl named Teresa and her friend Jerome, who spouts all kinds of nonsense. Jerome hires a thief to go to Nathaniel's apartment to steal his clothes and other belongings so that Jerome can "become" Nathaniel. Nathaniel is in love with a lesbian named Jamie and Jerome writes a story in which something bad happens to Jamie. When it does (she is gang raped and beaten), Nathaniel has a nervous breakdown. Eventually he recovers, marries, and has children. And then one day, Jerome comes back in his life and proceeds to take his life apart again. At the end, we are supposed to accept that Jerome has stolen Nathaniel's soul, Nathaniel has stolen Jamie's soul, and ... Nathaniel is not who he thinks he is. The whole story has supposedly been written by Jerome, or something like that. What? I just did not get it at all. It left me very irritated that I had wasted even the $3.99 that I paid for it at Garden Ridge. And it left me very frustrated that there was no real explanation, no closure, just a lot of questions. What in the heck is the author expecting us to understand here? There was just not that "aha!" moment. So..... actually, even though I was interested and read it in just one day, waiting for something awesome to happen... I ended up hating this book. Therefore, I will not be interested in reading anything else by Charles Baxter. This book pretends to be be so lofty and academic, so brainy and mysterious... and really, it's just a load of nonsense. Please, Mr. Baxter, explain what this book is about and what actually has happened to Nathaniel, Jerome, and Jamie.

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