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This description may be from another edition of this product. Ferocious and funny, penetrating and exuberant, Theft is two-time Booker Prize-winner Peter Carey's master class on the things people will do for art, for love . . . and for money."I don't know if my...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

My Stolen Heart

The story is told in alternating chapters by two brothers - renown artist Michael Boone (aka 'Butcher Bones') and his idiot-savante brother, Hugh ('Slow Bones'). Recently released from prison where he was sent for trying to steal his own paintings from his ex-wife (and here is where the alimony whore comes in) he is installed in a country house by his 'sponsor' and begins to make some of the best art of his life. Across huge canvasses he splashes fire and brimstone texts remembered from his violent and abusive childhood, the full scale of which only gradually becomes apparent. And then one stormy night there walks into his life (in her Manolo Blahniks - important detail) a beautiful young woman who claims to have lost her way. Marlene is the wife of Oliver Leibovitz, son of one of the greatest artists of the century. She's also an accomplised art thief and con-woman. Both brothers fall in love with her ... which fits into her plans just nicely. And thus begins a rollicking tale of art theft and deception which moves from Australia to New York via Tokyo. Love-story, thriller, comedy ... the novel is all of these. But the greatest strength of the novel is the depiction of the complicated love-hate relationship between the brothers. The interplay of voices is excellent, and the way the two accounts give sometimes contradictory views of events, the "truth" of things falling somewhere between them. Hugh may not be the full shilling, but he is certainly astute and in many ways sees the world more clearly than his brother. I love the way his talk is peppered with phrases picked up from everyone else and is full of malapropisms. The research for the book seems authoratitive - I knew little beforehand about how the art world works, or how artists feel about their work becoming an item of commerce, or how painting might be forged ... and certainly now I feel interested to learn more. I love the energy and drive of the writing. One reviewer described the prose as "muscular" and I like that. But the language has a rugged poetry too, particularly during when describing the artist working. We can see the finished canvases and know why they are so brilliant, through the words. Theft reminds me of a couple of other novels I've enjoyed: Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men (the episode of the dead puppy, Hugh's capacity for sudden violence and the murder at the end - I'm certain this is a reference Carey means us to pick up!), and Headlong by Michael Frayn (also about shady dealings in the art world and very funny). And then of course Carey's there are echoes earlier novels, particularly My Life as a Fake which also tackled the theme of forgery, and True History of the Kelly Gang in the way that Carey recreates the voice of Ned Kelly so brilliantly. And there's Carey's siding all the way with the rascal, the fraudster, the thief, and making us love him too.

Robust, hilarious and dark; a true view of the human heart

In robust, antic prose which embodies the characters of his two narrators, Australian author Carey (winner of the Booker Prize for "Oscar and Lucinda" and "True History of the Kelly Gang") recounts a tale of two brothers, a girl and a valuable painting. The brothers are Michael "Butcher" Boone (nicknamed for his father's family business), a once famous and fashionable painter now down on his luck, and his big, brain-damaged brother Hugh, a man subject to passions even less comprehensible than Butcher's. Since the death of their parents, Butcher is Hugh's caretaker. "Sometimes he was so bloody smart, so coherent, at other times a wailing gibbering fool. Sometimes he adored me, loudly, passionately, like a whiskery bad-breathed child. But the next day or the next minute I would be the Leader of the Opposition and he would lay in wait amongst the wild lantana, pounce, wrestle me violently into the mud, or the river, or across the engorged, wet-season zucchini." Butcher and Hugh are in exile at a country estate lent by the painter's biggest collector. Butcher has just been released from prison after a bad divorce (he tried to rescue his paintings from the state of "marital assets") and reversal of fortune. This is his chance to regain his strength and paint, unencumbered by the distractions of the world - other than Hugh. And paint he does in manic scenes reminiscent of Irish writer Joyce Cary's Gulley Jimson at work on his masterpiece at another rich man's unwitting expense. But the world's distractions come to him in the person of Marlene, a slender young woman stranded in her Manolo Blahniks by a torrential storm. She quickly charms Hugh: "And there she was - a type - one of those rare, often unlucky people who `get on with Hugh.'" Butcher is equally charmed, or at least intrigued, especially when it turns out Marlene is the daughter-in-law of Jacques Leibovitz, the painter who inspired Butcher's own career. Turns out Butcher's neighbor owns a particularly valuable Leibovitz and Marlene has come to authenticate it. Or something. Three weeks later the "art police" show up at Butcher's studio, accusing him of having stolen the famous painting from his neighbor. Outraged when the police confiscate his new work to x-ray it in their search for the missing painting, he abandons his new studio and country retreat, returning to civilization to pursue his paintings, his career and eventually Marlene, with reckless abandon. The novel accelerates from Australia to Japan to New York as Carey breathes new life into the old saw "blind ambition." Butcher tricks Hugh into a home so he can have a show in Japan and ride his wave of success on to New York. But he can't quite abandon his brother and Hugh finds himself in New York where he impulsively rescues himself from Butcher's increasingly chaotic life, taking up with Marlene's now former husband, Olivier, the gentle son of Jacques Leibovitz. Hugh, however, has his own brand of guileless shrewdness. Oliv


I loved this completely. May be the best Peter Carey has done, and that's saying something. I just finished My Life as a Fake, which I liked well enough, but really didn't measure up to his best work. This explores some of the same themes of artists and art, but far surpasses his previous books. Most highly recommended.

"Artists are used to humiliation. We start with it and we are always ready to return to real failur

Two-time Booker Prize winner Peter Carey writes his most dazzling novel yet, a send-up of the art world, filled with satire about dealers, auction houses, compulsive collectors, forgers, conservators and technicians, art researchers, catalogue writers, and even the artists themselves. At the same time, he also creates two splendid characters through whose limited vision this world is viewed--Michael "Butcher" Boone, a formerly successful Australian avant-garde artist, now experiencing hard times, and his "slow" brother Hugh, a 220-pound giant with little control over his emotions and a penchant for breaking the little fingers of annoying people. Butcher, recently released from prison after trying to steal back his own paintings, which were declared "marital assets" during a nasty divorce, is now living in northern New South Wales, as caretaker for the property of his biggest collector. He is also the full-time caretaker of his brother, "Hugh the Poet and Hugh the Murderer, Hugh the Idiot Savant." When Butcher rescues Marlene Leibovitz from her partially submerged car during a flood, the "chance" meeting has long-range consequences. Marlene is the wife of Olivier Leibovitz, son of Jacques Leibovitz, a world-class artist whose paintings are nearly priceless. She has the power to authenticate Leibovitz paintings (the "droit moral") and effectively controls the Liebovitz market as undocumented paintings surface. She has arrived to document the "Leibovitz" belonging to Butcher's next door neighbor, a painting which promptly disappears. The involvement of Butcher in a complex scheme to defraud is told in alternating chapters by Butcher and Hugh, whose limited "take" on the characters and action leads to hilarious commentary, which is often more astute and realistic than that of his brother. Butcher, devoted to his artwork, and eventually to Marlene, is a brawling innocent, totally over his head in the international art circles in which he moves in Tokyo and New York, following a sellout show of his work arranged by Marlene. Butcher's narrative reveals his obvious ignorance of the details of the Leibovitz art fraud, increasing the irony and humor and developing suspense about Marlene's intentions. When the increased financial stakes lead to murder, the complexity of the art fraud is revealed to the reader--and to Butcher. The final chapter, almost an Afterword, gives new meaning to the word "irony." Theft is brilliantly constructed, and in Butcher and Hugh, Carey creates two characters the reader cares about. The art world and its rarified atmosphere are subjected to Carey's rapier wit, and the humor and satire are non-stop. Well known for his word play and sense of the absurd, Carey has outdone himself with this novel, a continuation of the themes he began in My Life as a Fake--and a new comic masterpiece. n Mary Whipple

Can't We Claim Mr. Carey As One Of Our Own?

Peter Carey continues his theme of artistic fraud and deception that he wrote about in his last novel MY LIFE AS A FAKE in THEFT: A LOVE STORY, his latest tour de force. Michael (Butcher) Boone, a once successful Australian painter, is recently divorced and down and out when he meets the magical and beautiful Marlene Lieboviz, who is married to the son of he famous painter Jacques Liebovitz. What follows is a page-turner that is at once the account of a passionate obsession-- Michael and Marlene's-- familial loyalty-- Michael and his "damaged" brother Hugh's-- as well as a tale of intrigue that spans Australia, Japan, the United States and Germany. Mr. Carey tells his story from the alternating viewpoints of Butcher and his brother Hugh in language that is dense, accurate and often beautiful beyond description. Anyone who has ever ridden in a New York cab will recognize this truth: "The taxis in New York are a total nightmare. I don't know how anybody tolerates them, and I am not complaining about the eviscerated seats, the s----- shock absorbers, the suicidal lefthand turns, but rather the common faith of all those Malaysian Sikhs, Bengali Hindus, Harlem Muslims, Lebanese Christians, Coney Island Russians, Brooklyn Jews, Buddhists, Zarathustrians-- who knows what?--all of them with rock-solid conviction that if you honk your bloody horn the sea will part before you." (p. 194.)Australian petty law enforcement types are described as "midgets of officialdom" who swarm "like a white-ant hatch." Finally Mr. Carey through the voice of Michael, piles paragraph upon paragraph, much as the artist applies layers of paint on his canvases, of beautiful descriptions of Marlene, often in terms of color as you would expect from a painter: "Her eyes. They were what is called baby blue, that is the precise colour of a baby's eyes before the melanin arrives and here was a pleasure even greater than her taut young skin, a clear view of her naked soul-- a deep kind of transparency without a single speck or flaw or smut." Mr. Carey is one of a handful of writers whose next novel I eagerly await. To read him is to experience the sheer joy of language. After the horrific events of 9/11, Mr. Carey, who now lives in New York City, wrote an eloquent essay about both that city and the U. S. Can't we just claim him as one of our own?
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