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Thread: Book Club (January 2006): The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley

  1. #41
    FORT Fogey PGM35's Avatar
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    Mar 2005
    Round Rock, TX
    To respond to Geekthegirl:
    Click to see Spoiler:
    I was suprised that he didn't follow through with Bennet's last wishes, but given Charles' nature, I guess I shouldn't have been suprised. I would have done it - I think I would have trusted Bennet more to not have put me in danger.
    Overall, it was a good book, short / easy read.

    On a different note, What ever happened to Phat32? I thought he was going to enjoy reading/discussing the book??

  2. #42
    Come Along, Pond phat32's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Hi, Olivia!
    I discovered quite a bit to like in The Man in My Basement. The language was elegantly (and deceptively) simple, the dialogue felt authentic and rang true with me, and the questions it posed to the reader were complex, its morality disturbing and the world view bleak and nihilistic.

    While I never found Charles Blakey entirely likeable, I didn't find him unsympathetic. His Hamlet-like inability to act, to do something, was often times frustrating to me as a reader, but by the end of the novel, it seemed to be the most rational, most pragmatic, most sensible solution, the only sane response to an insane world, made even more insane after Bennet's confessions.

    I think if TMiMB were more widely read and better known, Anniston Bennet would be considered one of the truly great villains, every bit as memorable as, say, that cinematic bogeyman, Hannibal Lecter. Where Lecter is over-the-top, Bennet is sublime, cunning, ruthless, but, ironically, mundane. I get the sense if I were to walk past Bennet on the street, I would neither remember him nor find him remarkable in any way. As Hannah Arendt so famously suggested of Eichmann in the book she wrote about Eichmann following his trial, evil is, after all, banal. I think Bennet is the personification of the "banality of evil."

    I think Bennet is also the epitome of evil. If literature struggles to answer the fundamental question "What is evil?", Bennet provides a textbook example. He is highly attuned to the suffering of others but chooses to ignore them. The incredibly selfish and singularly destructive actions he takes are designed only to benefit him. And he sells his soul for the basest of reasons: to become wealthier, although most of us would think he is already wealthy "enough." Worst of all, Bennet's unspoken rationalization for his actions seems to be the classic, mundane and extremely weak "If I didn't do it, someone else would." Where I find sympathy for Blakey, I had absolutely none for Bennet.

    I read TMiMB with a highlighter in one hand, thinking that the passages which caught my attention would spur good discussion. In the end, I highlighted so much, it would have been impossible to include them all, or even 1/4 of them.

    This struck me, though, as the statement that typifies both Blakey and Mosley's philosophy in this novel:

    "[S]tanding on the outside quoting Marx and Engels isn't going to help. Sayin' that's not fair won't do anything either...Because you know they aren't going to stop doing what they're doing just because we whisper something against them at night on the phone. I mean, I put gas in my tank, don't I? That's what voting is to big business, you know. It's not a secret ballot; it's a purchase. If you buy from him, that's your vote of confidence."
    And that, to me, is what TMiMB is all about: The world as it actually is, the one we don't want to see or acknowledge, versus the world we wished it was and pretend we can affect through (mostly ineffectual) intellectual dialogue and weak protest. Mosley's novel is effective and haunting.
    "...Every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things donít always soften the bad things, but...the bad things donít always spoil the good things." - The Doctor

  3. #43
    From the corner of my eye Jewelsy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    in the middle of the Monsoons
    I FINALLY got this today. *grrrrrrr* I'll read it after I finish our February selection and post my comments.
    "Among the blind, the squinter rules." ~ Gerard Didier Erasmus

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