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“Sly, witty, and utterly compelling, Valerie Werder’s Thieves illuminates how we create and examine our selves in thrall to late capitalism—and how we’re all thieves of one kind or another. This novel gives immense pleasure, and, in its vivid evocations, mem-orable observations, and unexpected connections, much to think about.” CLAIRE MESSUD


“With great wit and charm, Valerie Werder unravels the story of a life in order to expertly wind it back around her finger. Thieves is a gleaming gem of a novel. It joyfully ransacks literary convention—borrowing, repurposing, stealing—but the result is entirely Werder's own.”   ELVIA WILK


“If you need a brain massage or to have your heart restarted, Valerie Werder’s prose is the place to go. Like an epic phone conversation with your most resourceful best friend, Thieves is full of detail, empathy, and not a few pieces of precious advice. In this book, I finally found out how I lived.”   LUCY IVES

A novel about the fungibility of female identity—and a shrewd indictment of how language operates under capitalism.   WENDY VOGEL

“Meaty but frustrating.” Publishers Weekly

Read Wendy Vogel’s review of Thieves in e-flux Criticism and Magdalena Ball’s review in Compulsive Reader. Learn more about my writing process in this interview with Fence editor Jason Zuzga and this craft piece in Necessary Fiction. Read about the book’s ethos of plagarism-as-praxis in this profile in the Harvard Crimson and this interview with Quinn Roberts in Full Stop. Listen to me chat about the novel with Amy Long on @TaylorSwift_as_books, with Iva Glisic and Liz Bradtke on the New Books Network podcast, and with Magdalena Ball on Compulsive Reader Talks.

A debut novel by a white millennial woman eviscerates the art industry that produces her freedoms and responsibilities. In an effort to remove herself, she begins shoplifting with a charismatic but entitled thief.


Valerie is an art worker in the big city. Literally the product of an American childhood in a small place where she learned to value objects and their promise, Valerie now lives and works in a storm of things, many of which are commodities—including herself.


While unhappily but compliantly selling paintings at an Upper East Side art gallery, Valerie meets an attractive shoplifter, Ted, who steals everything he needs and housesits for wealthy New Yorkers to avoid having a job and paying rent. Desperate to break free from the baffling social hierarchies, nonsense artspeak, and rampant sexism of the contemporary art world, Valerie begins shoplifting with Ted. She soon discovers, though, that escape from financial transaction doesn’t necessarily mean escape from emotional transaction, as Ted hides more than he reveals—including the actual terms of his relationship with an ex, Virginia.  


For readers of Chris Kraus and Ben Lerner, this urbane, semi-psychedelic coming-of-age novel interrogates the consumption and reflexivity of white American young womanhood in whip-smart, sharply humorous prose.

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