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The Man in My Basement: A Novel Hardcover – January 5, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Even in his genre fiction, which includes mysteries (the Easy Rawlins, Fearless Jones and Socrates Fortlaw series) and SF (Blue Light, etc.), Mosley has not been content simply to spin an engrossing action story but has sought to explore larger themes as well. In this stand-alone literary tale, themes are in the forefront as Mosley abandons action in favor of a volatile, sometimes unspoken dialogue between Charles Blakey and Anniston Bennet. Blakey, descended from a line of free blacks reaching back into 17th-century America, lives alone in the big family house in Sag Harbor. Bennet is a mysterious white man who approaches Blakey with a strange proposition-to be locked up in Blakey's basement-that Blakey comes to accept only reluctantly and with reservations. The magnitude of Bennet's wealth, power and influence becomes apparent gradually, and his quest for punishment and, perhaps, redemption, proves unsettling-to the reader as well as to Blakey, who finds himself trying to understand Bennet as well as trying to recast his own relatively purposeless life. The shifting power relationship between Bennet and Blakey works nicely, and it is fitting that Blakey's thoughts find expression more in physicality than in contemplation; his involvements with earthy, sensual Bethany and racially proud, sophisticated and educated Narciss reflect differing possibilities. The novel, written in adorned prose that allows the ideas to breathe, will hold readers rapt; it is Mosley's most philosophical novel to date, as he explores guilt, punishment, responsibility and redemption as individual and as social constructs. While it will be difficult for this novel to achieve the kind of audience Mosley's genre fiction does, the author again demonstrates his superior ability to tackle virtually any prose form, and he is to be applauded for creating a rarity, an engaging novel of ideas.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
This relatively short novel asks a lot of its readers--more so, even, than Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries or more serious fiction, plays, and essays. His two unlikely (and largely unlikable) heroes are left to tackle such huge questions as the nature of evil and redemption, guilt and punishment, power, ambition, and America's role in the world. Some critics found that the book did not dig deep enough or come close enough to offering any concrete conclusions, and they criticized the overly philosophical dialogue. Others felt that Mosley masterfully integrated his powerful prose with a provocative, page-turning story that constitutes nothing less than a masterpiece. Where some saw emptiness, others found brilliance. Maybe that's the point.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
Top customer reviews
The premise is intriguing in itself. Charles is a black man who lives in his house, which has been in his family for generations. Fired from his banking job for embezzlement, he is starting to run out of funds. He has some African masks that are worth a lot of money, but it would take years for those to sell and he needs funds now.
Anniston Bennet, a rich white man, shows up on Charles' doorstep with a proposition- boatloads of cash if Charles would allow him to live in his basement for a few months.
Charles will eventually take the deal (spoiler, but it is in the title) and as the man moves in, he realizes Anniston's furniture is a cage in which Anniston will live and Charles is to be his jailer/warden. The big question is why. That is the joy of the book.
I am going to resist spoilers since the conversations between the two men are what build this book, but the book isn't just their conversations, in fact, they have only a few conversations. The book is about who Charles is and how did he get to the place he is in, what his relationships are like, and why does he just sort of coast through life.
When I was discussing this book with my father, his initial question was- is it about race? My answer was, race has something to do with it, but it isn't front and center. This is a book about relationships and how one lives a life with elements of race thrown in. Race cannot be ignored, Charles is poor and black, while Anniston is rich and white, but to boil it to a race book would be cheating the fuller thrust of the book.
I had not read a Mosley book before and after reading this one, I am ready for more of his. This is simply a great book, but I will warn you, Charles is a womanizer and there is lots of sex in this book. I was actually a bit surprised by how much, but it has to do with Charles' character.
I gave this one 4 stars, leaning on 4.5 stars. I have not stopped thinking about this book since reading it.