Book Review: The Man in My Basement

February 12, 2011

“Sometimes,” he said and then hesitated, “sometimes an opportunity can show up at just the right moment. Sometimes that opportunity might be looking you in the face and you don’t quite recognize it.”

basementOh, Walter Mosley. I am beginning to think that you and I are just not cut out for each other when it comes to your high concept, non-mystery work. The basic premise of The Man in My Basement is a white man, Bennet, asks Charles Blakey–a black man–if he can live in Blakey’s basement, but Bennet wants more than to just live in the basement: he wants to be imprisoned there.

I had two major problems with the book.

1. The book feels as though it’s trying to be deep. I don’t really like to work for meaning when I read. By which I mean, yes, I am an Englishist by trade, and I am used to, as Joan Bauer would say, pulling meaning from a stone. However, I hate reading a book and feeling like I should be making meaning out of what is there. That I should be actively overthinking as I read instead of the book just being awesome and me just feeling like there’s something more. I don’t even think any of that makes sense, but it makes sense in my head. Basically, the whole time I was reading, I felt like I was missing something that was totally obvious and that the book was trying so hard to be deep, yet I was swimming in shallow water. Blergh.

2. The other big problem I had is the main character. I just didn’t care for him, didn’t like him, didn’t really understand why this story needed to be told. He’s unlikable and surrounded by unlikable characters. There was no one for me to latch onto, and characters are my thing. I can forgive a lot for awesome characters.

The one thing the book does have going for it is that Mosley is a master storyteller. Even as I had all of my feelings about the book, it was still immensely readable, and it was easy for me to get pulled into the world of the story when I picked the book up. But this book was a total bathroom book, and even then I read a magazine or another book before I finished this one.

Quirky Brown: 2/3; POC Reading Challenge: 4/15; Off the Shelf: 2/5


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