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Foreign Matter: A Novel [Hardcover]

Robert MacLean


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Book Description

May 1988
Handsome lazy worthless Toby travels with a woman who pays. He's got it made. Trouble is, she has a nine-year-old daughter who's smarter than he is and gets him into and out of trouble at will. He's her yoyo.

When her grandfather spends her mother's allowance on a painting Toby goes to a Greek island to steal it. But without the little girl to help him, nothing works.


Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Atheneum (May 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689119402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689119408
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14.5 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Toby Tucker is the feckless, likable hero of this comic tale of modern undirected life. After supporting himself in Europe as a tour guide, Toby takes up with Marcie, a young American widow whose allowance from Hazelton Harding, her wealthy father-in-law, guarantees a lifestyle Toby is sure he was born for. When Haze threatens to cut off Marcie so she'll move back to the States with her daughtera precocious youngster Toby warily refers to as "the child"Toby alternately falls and steps into a plot to reestablish the status quo: Haze covets an abstract painting owned by a woman who lives on a Greek island and Toby will help him get it. He, Marcie and "the child" join Haze at the woman's villa, along with her teenaged American daughter and her French tutor, the artist who created the coveted painting, a pair of unlikely butlers and an old expatriate friend of Toby's. The plan accelerates out of control, involving assorted liaisons, the three-time destruction and restoration of the painting, its theft and rediscovery and, at the conclusion, thanks to "the child," a happy ending for nearly every one of the vivid characters who cavort across the pages of this fresh and spirited first novel.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The international misadventures of Toby Tucker provide the "matter" for this comic novel. Former English tutor and tour guide and chronic debtor on the lam, Toby has acquired the habits of a man of leisure but not the means to support them. The story begins in an Athens restaurant as Toby accidentally disrobes a strange woman by flicking from her shoulder an emerald pin that he mistook for a stray insect. The flying pin lands in the soup bowl of another diner and is promptly consumed. As the story unfolds, Toby repeatedly damages an expensive painting by puncturing the canvas with various parts of his body, using it to fend off an angry dog, and dousing it with turpentine. Such episodes, reminiscent of P.G. Wodehouse and Kingsley Amis, are consistently amusing and at times hilarious. Albert E. Wilhelm, Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Comic Art July 16 2011
By Collector Guy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I'm so glad to see Robert Maclean's Foreign Matter up and running again. Now we can look forward to a whole "Toby" series. Wonderful! If you're hesitating be assured: this book is right up there with the best of them, an undiscovered--or only partially discovered--classic of comic narrative. Years ago I was on a panel that gave Maclean a grant for fiction; none of us ever felt it was wasted money. I've been publishing fiction for a while, and have taught writing for decades, and this is a writer I wish I'd had around in one of my workshops. He's made a few interesting films, and written some fine plays, but fiction is where he started, and he's very good at it. You'll be amused and delighted by this book. Like all good comedy it turns conventional notions upside down. It coheres beautifully and is funny right to the end. Try it!
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