Book Club Kits
The Soul Thief
by Baxter, Charles
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1. Is The Soul Thief a work of "metafiction"? What aspects of its narrative structure-and of the narrators themselves-might be considered metafictional? How does it differ from more conventional, naturalistic novels?
2. A fellow grad student, Bob Rimjky, says of Jerome Coolberg: " Really, all her wants to do is acquire everyone's inner life" (p. 15). Why would Coolberg want to possess other people's inner lives? In what ways is this kind of appropriation similar to what novelists do?
3. Coolberg accuses nathaniel of "Willful incomprehension. And convenient amnesia. You're just like this country...a champion of startegic forgetting" (p. 193). Is this true of Nathaniel? In what ways is America a champion of "Strategic forgetting"?
4. The Soul Thief exhibits a sharp satirical wit. What are Baxter's chief satirical targets in the novel? What does his satire reveal about these subjects?
5. In his role as host of the radio show, American Evenings, Collberg guides his guests to a revelatory moment that uncovers "the story's secret heart" (p. 156). What is the secret heart of The Soul Thief? How is it revealed?
6. In what ways does the act of telling stories save both Nathaniel and his sister?
7. Why does Nathaniel fall in love with Theresa and Jamie? In what ways is his love for Jamie more real, even though she is a lesbian, than his love for Theresa?
8. Coolberg asserts that we're all copycats and that what he's done is really no different than what everyone does. Is he right? Are we all adopting other people's personalities or identities? How should Coolberg finally be judged?
9. nathaniel wonders why Gertrude Stein keeps intruding on his consciousness. Why won't Stein leave him alone? In what ways is Stein relevant to The Soul Thief?
10. Why does Baxter end the novel with Nathaniel offering "blessings on everybody. Blessings without limit"? What has brought him to this sense of gratitude, forgiveness, and all-inclusive love?