He starts out as a baby. He gets snatched by a professional beggar who uses him as a prop to gain sympathy from tourists. Then he gets adopted by a pedophile priest who rapes him. And so on, and so forth. This book doesn’t really do subtlety.
Thief is written at the level of a 12 year old with a fanfiction.net account. Ben Jonjak takes apart the fourth wall with a wrecking ball, interrupting his story literally every few pages to rant about Americans and white people and Christians and whatever. Thief reads as a long series of heavy-handed stage directions, with the author telling us what to think and feel rather than allowing those feelings to naturally arise in response to the text .
Nobody edited this book. He may as well have written it in a country where red pens are illegal. Points of interest include how the main character’s name suddenly changes from “Junior” to “Patch” with no explanation, punctuation both missing and superfluous, countless orphan clauses (appropriate, I guess), and lapses into outright subliteracy. (“Take it! Seize it! Warship every day as a Devine blessing to mold yourself into a keen, perfect thing.” Calm down, Tony Robbins.) Train yourself to ignore the book’s problems, as there are more than a few of them.
If this book sounds like a giant box of cat crap, well, it should be, but it’s not. I would put the book down and then, a few minutes later, return to it. It’s awkward and poorly written, but it’s strangely interesting and even compelling.
For one thing, the author lives in Peru, and the book sounds very convincing (I don’t say realistic, I say convincing). Even the self-indulgent parts – by way of a foreword, he spends a few pages complaining about how someone stole his wallet – add to the lived-in quality.
For another, the story is fairly strong, particularly in the final section the thief finally starts getting proactive about changing his situation. Unfortunately, he doesn’t do anything in a positive sense, but it’s nice to see him fighting back, and surprising to find that I cared.
Thief is as obscure as small press books can get without being published in an enclosed bomb shelter, and the author seems to have taken it upon himself to review his book under fake names on Amazon. Whether this is deserved is not for me to judge, but Thief treated me reasonably well. Small press books can be shit, but they can also be interesting, and this book combines a bit of both.