The Soul Thief the Soul Thief the Soul Thief
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The Soul Thief the Soul Thief the Soul Thief

2.87 of 5 stars 2.87  ·  rating details  ·  1,142 ratings  ·  284 reviews
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 isfickle 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 o...more
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Published February 12th 2008 by Vintage Books USA (first published January 1st 2007)
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Sally
Ooooooh, I liked this.

First of all, let me say that I fell in love with the font. The little twisted question marks, barely reaching halfway up the back of a 'd' and nearly squished into the size of a semicolon. The capitol letters have the look and feel of a 1940s diner menu.

Baxter's descriptions are uncannily sparse in their ability to convince. It took more than 70 pages to really get into this story, well into the first section, but when I did, it was hard to tear my eyes off of the page t...more
Renee
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 two girl friends and a man named 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.

In the novel's second half, decades after these events have occurred, Coolberg enters Nathaniel's life again for a final, dramatic confrontation. Ba...more
Empress
Apr 23, 2008 Empress rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nope, sorry! read Feast of Love instead.
VERY disappointed! Whatever I appreciated about this book was completely obliterated by the bullshit ending. Seriously, I liked it most of the way through, but now I can't remember why. Since the entire storyline was preparing for, and resting on some revelatory ending, the fact that the ending fell flat on its overly-schematic, overly(& poorly)-conceptualized face completely sabotaged whatever parts of the novel I had liked in the first place.
I'm still in shock.
O.K. I know I'm being harsh....more
RandomAnthony
The Soul Thief reads more like a short story or novella than a novel. There’s an unfinished quality that works well in the first person narrative; you could envision the narrator sitting in a coffee shop, focusing on the story, choosing his words carefully, but inevitably leaving our details and framing the narrative as he speaks.

Baxter’s novel on identity and psychological breakdown succeeds on the micro level. His description of Buffalo is beautiful (no, really, I’ve been to Buffalo maybe ten...more
Michael
Quite disappointing. This whole novel (perhaps more a novella) essentially breaks down to a story of one man screwing with another man's life, ostensibly to teach a lesson about identity. Fine, OK, it's not a hopeless premise, but Baxter fails to follow through, providing the readers only with undeveloped characters working within a weak framework. Indeed, the framework, which shapes the fundamental point of the book (people keep calling the framework "metaphysical," though this is a misuse of t...more
Loyola University Chicago Libraries
The Soul Thief begins the way all good books set in college do: with a party. And if you liked The Feast of Love, you are probably prepared (read: greedily ready), to follow Nathaniel Mason for 209 pages of nothing more than early 1970s college life: drinking too much; spontaneous, aimless road trips; and the kind of sex-by-arrangement or even sex-by-proximity arrangement that can happen when you are exploring the world of newfound adulthood and your sexual boundaries simultaneously. As common...more
Kyle
If you like Charles Baxter, read this book, but I hardly think it will turn any newcomers on to him, or entertain fans that much either.

As slight as it is, this book seems to not only stumble over it's own plot, but it's own vague metaphysics which, in the end, seem to be suspect anyway.

I'm not sure whether this novel is vaguely allegorical or autobiographical, if it's a critique of pseudo-intellectualism, if it's a trite spin on the current fear of "identity theft", or a tragic character study...more
Hilary
I didn't really like this book. The ending was supposed to be revelatory and creepy, but either it was really obvious to me or I just didn't get it. It says something that I liked the later part of the book (when the author supposedly has had his soul stolen, or etc.) more than the former part. Even in the introduction, I'm not sure which character is being discussed. Ugh. I wonder if it's worth trying to read The Feast of Love, which everyone seems to agree is better than this.
Carl
All right, this one's a toughie. The writing is definitely there, as you would expect from Baxter, though at times it drifts into sort of trivial name-dropping where richer details would be better (however, the characters here are academics, and show-offy academics to boot, so there is some contextual justification). Still, he has a knack for poetic passages and truly beautiful sentences and phrases, and he gives his characters distinctive views of the world.

What bothers me about the book is the...more
Heather
I listened to this on audiobook. I did not enjoy the manner in which the book was read, and it put me off the book for at least the first third - maybe half.

I was extremely annoyed by all of the characters during the entire first portion of the book. They were completely self-centered and overly-intellectual - although as that part closed, I found myself thinking that was entirely appropriate since they were graduate students. But then it started to seem to me that the book itself was irritatin...more
Kara
If ever there was a book I was meant to fall in love with, it was this book. I mean, it's called The Soul Thief people!!! If that's not perfection then I don't know what is. The Adele marathons I imagined this book would prompt! I could see myself not going to work trying to finish this book. Missing my bus stop. Forgetting to eat dinner. Putting my phone on silent. All that good stuff. Never have I swooned so hard over a title.

But much like everyone else that I have sworn I was destined to fall...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Charles Baxter's ability to play with his own identity consistently impresses reviewers. Author of the 2000 National Book Award finalist Feast of Love, he has proved adept as a novelist and short story writer, as well as an inventor of forms somewhere in between. The Soul Thief is one such example. It is almost short enough to be a novella, yet it spans 30 years. Its plot hinges on a short story kind of "twist," yet its characters are intriguing enough to have novels to themselves. Critics' reac

...more
William
The Soul Thief begins the way all good books set in college do: with a party. And if you liked The Feast of Love, you are probably prepared (read: greedily ready), to follow Nathaniel Mason for 209 pages of nothing more than early 1970s college life: drinking too much; spontaneous, aimless road trips; and the kind of sex-by-arrangement or even sex-by-proximity arrangement that can happen when you are exploring the world of newfound adulthood and your sexual boundaries simultaneously. As common...more
Kristen
More Charles Baxter. This is his newest work. It didn't disappoint. This book contains a lot of the same central themes prevalent in his other works--identity, discovery, loss, misguided love. At the heart of this book is a dysfunctional relationship between two grad school classmates. The book is very dark. I'm still not sure I "get it" even after I've finished it and spent a couple days processing it. I think it will be a book I re-read. But not now. You have to be in the right state of mind t...more
christa
whoa. this is like a mirror looking into a mirror looking into a mirror -- which is funny, because i forgot that there is a scene where this happens early in the book. i'm not sure what to think. the gist: nathanian mason becomes absorbed into a new group of friends, falls in love with two women and in the meantime is having his life story stripped away and claimed by the creepy jerome coolberg.

the end is a sort of punchline.

i'm not sure that plot will ever really matter in a charles baxter no...more
Lawrence
On one level this is an unsettling meditation on identity in modern America (even though that is specifically rejected in the story itself). The story centers on the question of what if your identity is not your own? what if it's stolen by another? Who are you and what do you become, both as an individual and in relation to others? On another - and perhaps, no less unsettling - level, the book is about the act of creating a story. Baxter plays with that notion from the opening of the novel to it...more
Ruth
If you had asked me to review this book about 100 pages into it, I would have given it high marks. When I read the last 100 pages, though, my opinion changed. Baxter's writing is beautiful -- I particularly like the descroption of Nathaniel's estate-planning father -- and he did a great job at setting up a sense of foreboding at the beginning of the book. In the end, though, the foreboding was for naught -- the novel never really delivered the creepiness that was promised, and the last part of t...more
Charlotte
Feb 15, 2008 Charlotte rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pirates
I hate these stars. I am a shameless overrater. Not of this book, necessarily, but of everything. Why do we have to rate everything in our lives, from restaurants to books and movies with this silly system?

I was captivated by this novel, for sure. It was good, but I need to talk about the ending with some smart people. I guess I was a little underwhelmed by it? The voice really carried the story and then...I don't think I can say anything else without giving too much information.
Peter Goodman

“The Soul Thief,” by Charles Baxter (Pantheon, 2008; audiobook read by Jefferson Mays.) The narrator, we think, is Nathaniel Mason, a graduate student in Buffalo. One rainy night, trying to find a party, he encounters Theresa, seductive and clever. They go to the party, he has a good time, they become lovers. Before we meet them, though, Mason tells us about Jerome Coolberg, a campus intellectual type, mysterious, patronizing, knows everyone and everything---cool, in fact. Then Nathaniel begins...more
Danika
I really don't have a lot to say about this book, I just didn't like it. The characters were thoroughly unlikeable, and I don't think I really 'got it'. 1st book I've ready by this author and I wasn't terribly impressed.
Charity
Not sure how I feel about this book. It honestly was one that I wanted to stop reading yet I continued to trudge trough it. Hoping for turning point or an aha moment. The writing was over detailed yet didn't seem to go anywhere. I'm not sure I grasped what the story was trying to tell. A nervous breakdown, a stolen identity, a confused young man trying to become an adult, a frightful past...I'm not sure but I'm left to ponder this book and it's probably one that I will think about and wonder if...more
E. Ilana Diamant
Seriously, I'm having a hard time believing this book. It's the most ridiculous, stupid, and preposterous load of garbage I've read that passes for literature. I mean, who published this? And who was dumb enough like me to read through the whole thing?
First things first: "Coolberg the SOUL THIEF?" Did any thought at all go into coming up with that name? And into the soul thief part itself? Is that anything beyond facile and cheap irony? I can only wonder what soul-wracking experience led Baxter...more
Doug Campbell
To say the novel “The Soul Thief” by Charles Baxter is a psychological thriller is like saying Robert Frost wrote poems: Both statements are true but fail to illustrate the impact of the authors’ work. Charles Baxter uses a unique style of involving the reader in his writing—a style that bleeds throughout “The Soul Thief”. The novel takes its readers on a rollercoaster ride through the mind of Nathaniel, a college student who struggles with love, lust, and more importantly, a seemingly-obsessive...more
Elizabeth
**VAGUE SPOILERS**

Hm .. what to say about this book. I bought it because I wanted Feast of Love but the bookstore didn't have it. So I got this one thinking it might be as good as I'd heard FOL is. I'm hoping FOL is better. The Soul Thief was just good. It's the story of a love triangle, in which one man takes on the identity of the other, Nathaniel. In the process, Nathaniel loses himself and his grip on reality. It's an interesting story, but the characters are hardly likeable; they're all so...more
David Gillis
"He was insufferable, one of those boy geniuses, all nerve and brain."

It's appropriate to start this review with a line that not only starts off Charles Baxter's The Soul Thief, a story about what it means to take on the identity of another in every possible way, but occurs again at one point towards the end. The Soul Thief a story about obsession, at its core, and how we human beings live out our lives as copycats - in that everything we learn is by copying what someone else has done - but take...more
Suze
The Soul Thief is postmodern fiction that portrays the dark and disturbing twists of identity theft taken to the extreme. Author Charles Baxter has an impressive vocabulary and displays much of it in the narrative. While this may have been appropriate -- particularly in the beginning of the book, when the characters are '70s-era graduate students who perceive themselves -- or at least are trying to pass themselves off as -- intellectuals, it doesn't carry through to the book's middle section, wh...more
Marjorie Cocjin
The experience of this book was exactly how I rated it. It was ok. It's a confusing book and my mind was muddled by the reflections of sad and empty individual, who turns out to be not as sad and empty as he starts out to be. I would have rated this higher if it wasn't for the ending, which in my opinion did not merit the time spent to reach its conclusion. I liked it well enough at the start, especially the (dark, dreary and exciting) description of a life spent far away from the sunny confines...more
Steve Betz
A few days ago, a friend posted the question: what do you do with a book where you don’t like any of the characters?

That question made me remember that I’d been meaning to review Charles Baxter’s book “The Soul Thief”. Why had I put the review off for several months? Well, mostly because I enjoy reviewing books that I like.

Charles Baxter writes some compelling prose and I was very interested in this tiny book with the intriguing title – you might even more appropriately call this book a novella....more
Daniel
Charles Baxter's latest work reads like literary Sudoku. It's the kind of book that is written solely for the purpose of analysis, its every clue and every blank meticulously arranged to provide a map of meaning. Sudoku, I've always found, operates with enough mathematical precision and deductive grace to keep from being inherently boring, but actually completing a Sudoku puzzle has always left me vaguely unsatisfied, the experience being rather clinical and benign.

THE SOUL THIEF is far more bea...more
Susanna
This book was sort of a mess. It's about a sort of empty main character, Nathaniel, who goes through a pretty traumatizing period in graduate school where some new friends, Theresa and Jerome, mess with his life. The book is split into four parts: 1) when he meets Jerome in grad school, 2) many years later when he has a family, 3) when he receives correspondence from Jerome and meets him in LA, and 4) when the ending is revealed. It was a very disappointing and unrevealing ending.

The writing has...more
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Charles Baxter was born in Minneapolis and graduated from Macalester College, in Saint Paul. After completing graduate work in English at the State University of New York at Buffalo, he taught for several years at Wayne State University in Detroit. In 1989, he moved to the Department of English at the University of Michigan--Ann Arbor and its MFA program. He now teaches at the University of Minnes...more
More about Charles Baxter...
The Feast of Love Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction Saul and Patsy Gryphon: New and Selected Stories The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot

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“The point is that although love may die, what is said on its behalf cannot be consumed by the passage of time, and forgiveness is everything.” 14 likes
“You know, there's something heartsick about parties like this. Look at us. We're all pretending to be smart, as if intelligence were the cure for our anguish.” 9 likes
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