Sunday, May 5, 2013

Review: "The Man in My Basement" by Walter Mosley

A superb fable about race that has one of the most unique and intriguing plots not just in black literature, but also in literature itself, Walter Mosley’s The Man in My Basement one of the creepiest and most interesting novels I have ever read. It takes the essence of something akin to the scene in Native Son, where Bigger Thomas dismembers and cooks Mary in the oven, and uses that to frame a story that feels like the episode of The Twilight Zone that Rod Serling never got around to writing. It reminds me so much of that show, that when reading the parts that involve Anniston Bennet, the almost antagonist of the book, I bet you that you will see Burgees Meredith playing him in your mind’s eye. And when I say this book is creepy, it really is. The mystery as to why the events are happening makes this a book you must read in a well-lighted place. The book literally drips with dread as things quickly spiral out of control and things are taken way to far, which makes for an amazing (and amazingly quick) read. But do not let that fool you if you wanted something more than thrills. This is a very deep book, going past the ideas of race and the history of our nation’s underbelly to speak to the darkest parts of our heart and how we feel about evil, moral culpability and the ways in which we seek redemption in the worst possible ways, because they seem like the only ways to attain it. The story begins right away with Charles Blakey, the last sire of an old aristocratic family of black serfs and proverbial loser, answers the door of his families’ mansion expecting his drinking buddies, instead being greeted by Mr. Bennet, who comes off as a powerfully creepy, which would be a perfect fit for Meredith in an adaption of the book. He offers Charles an odd proposition: let him rent out his basement to turn into a prison for himself, and let Charles be his warden. The request is too odd to be accepted on the spot, and Charles is given time to think about. We learn the level of debt he is in, the mistakes he has made in the past, and his feelings about his past present and future, all of which influence him in his decision to accept the offer Mr. Bennet is proposing to him. As soon as Mr. Bennet is moved in, Charles begins to change. He finds a purpose in life, he has another shot at love with a smart archeologist who helped him clean out his cavernous basement as well as being $50,000 richer. But as things get progressively darker, and we learn about why Mr. Bennet is punishing himself and the full force of the ideas that Charles is being introduced to by Mr. Bennet. It becomes a proverbial chess game, with Charles soul on the line. I hope this book gains a wider fan base and its themes get the attention of literary academics, but I think this book is to damn fun and interesting to be taught in school. Read it on your own and enjoy the dark magic that lies within.
Rating: 5/5

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