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'Thief' Delivers An Unfiltered Depiction

'Thief' Delivers An Unfiltered Depiction Of Life In Lagos Let's get the negative stuff out of the way first. Teju Cole's Every Day Is For The Thief is not much of a novel. Forget plot or character development: This is a piece of writing that's all about setting. If you take what Cole is offering here and value it on its own terms, you'll probably appreciate the curious magic at work in this slim not-quite-a-novel. In chapters that stand as separate, short vignettes, Every Day Is For The Thief describes a young New York doctor's visit back to his hometown of Lagos, Nigeria. It's a Clockwork Orange world where policemen routinely stop traffic to collect bribes, where the electricity sputters out at nightly intervals and where 11-year-old thieves are necklaced with kerosene-soaked tires and burned to death. Amidst all the corruption and misery, Cole also makes readers understand the narrator's longing for a Nigeria he thinks he remembers from childhood. Every Day Is For The Thief technically predates Cole's celebrated 2011 debut novel, Open City, and bookends it. Open City followed a Nigerian doctor — a psychiatric resident named Julius — as he worked off stress and stoked his alienation by walking all over the island of Manhattan at night. Open City was a fresh meditation on what E.B. White, another walker in the city, called "the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy. " The narrator of Every Day Is For The Thief isn't given to contemplation like Julius, and he wouldn't dare walk alone through Lagos at night; but this guy is also very much the outsider, separated from his home city by the many years he's spent living in New York. Maybe that's why the format here of short disconnected chapters doesn't bother me so much: This guy is so overwhelmed by the strangeness of life in his old hometown, he's not capable of piecing together a coherent narrative that makes sense of what he's experiencing. So, instead, we get entries that read like a travel journal. To add to that Lonely Planet Guide effect, Cole includes moody black and white photographs he's actually taken of sites in Lagos: a black goat standing alone in a rubble strewn building lot, a swampy deserted outdoor market, a concrete cityscape as seen from behind the grimy windshield of a car. #FullPodcastAvailable #Podcasts


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