Augustus Rose became a full-time lecturer in Creative Writing in 2017—around the time of the release of his debut novel, The Readymade Thief (Viking, 2017). Featuring a secret society, a teenage heroine, and the art of Marcel Duchamp, The Readymade Thief, which came out in paperback in August, was described by Publishers Weekly as “a richly detailed intellectual thriller.” Tableau presents an excerpt of the book here.

At first she thought it was a random, possibly accidental, blip of a highlighter pen: someone had highlighted the word hello halfway through the book she was reading. The book was a bloated paperback historical novel that Allison had plucked from her bookshelf for Lee to keep herself occupied with, and Lee was burning through it. A half-dozen pages past the highlighted greeting was another word, lee, highlighted in that sickly neon yellow, extracted from the word “bleep.” Lee flipped forward, finding what highlighted a few pages in, do on the page after that. The word you was highlighted a few pages later, followed by see on the same page. She flipped forward until the word through jumped out at her, followed by your a few pages after. Lee couldn’t find another highlighted word until nearly the end of the book, when she landed on the word windows. A bit down the page was a highlighted question mark. Then there were no more highlighted words.

Lee shut the book and sat there, listening to the hum of the silent apartment. It was three in the morning and everyone was asleep. “Hello Lee what do you see through your windows?” Was this Tomi’s doing? It seemed the kind of coy, oblique game he might play. But what did it mean? It could have been someone else. Allison could be playful like that. Derrick had been agitating to kick her out since the beginning; maybe this was just him trying to f— with her head. She had been out earlier that day, without the book. It could have been any of them. Lee scanned the living room, landing on the windows. She got off the couch, dragging the blanket with her, and pulled up the shade.

All she saw was her own face staring back at her in reflection. It took her a moment to realize that she was seeing, beyond that, her face again. Lee turned off the light. A picture was taped to the glass from the outside: a rectangle made of photographs of men—black-and-white and from another time, all of them in old-fashioned suits and ties and overcoats, all of them with their eyes closed—surrounding a single Polaroid photo: the same one Ester had taken of Lee in the cafeteria of the Crystal Castle. Someone had cut out her eyes, replacing them with big, sightless engorged eyes that sucked all sentience from her face. Lee tried to open the window, but it was painted shut. They were four floors up.

From The Readymade Thief by Augustus Rose, published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright 2017 by Augustus Rose.


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