Posts Tagged ‘some strong language’

The Man in My Basement: A Novel

November 18, 2009

Author: Walter Mosley

Title: The Man in My Basement: A Novel

Genre: African-American/Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2004

Number of Pages: 256

Geographical Setting: The village of Sag Harbor, NY

Time Period: Present day (2004)

Series: No

Plot Summary: Charles Blakey’s life is falling apart at the age of thirty-three.  Unemployed, drinking far too much, and estranged from his only friends, he spends his days reading science fiction novels alone in his family’s three-story Sag Harbor home.  The Blakey family has a long history in Sag Harbor dating back to the 17th century when they arrived in New York as free blacks.  Now, however, Charles is in danger of losing the home his family has owned for seven generations.  Nearly penniless, Charles is far behind on his loans, and the bank is threatening to take his house.  Then one day Charles hears a knock at his door.  A mysterious, 57-year-old white man named Anniston Bennet has an unusual propostion.  If Charles is willing to rent him his basement for 65 days, Bennet will pay him nearly $50,000.  Though the money would solve his financial problems, Charles is wary.  Who is this mysterious white man, and why did he chose Charles for this strange request?  Why is Bennet insisting on complete secrecy, and what is contained in the large packages he wants delivered to Charles’ basement?  Though suspicious, Charles begins the monumental task of preparing his basement for Bennet’s arrival.  In the process, he discovers a family heirloom – a trio of ancient African masks – that rekindles in him a sense of belonging, family, and identity.  Charles begins to rethink his decision to rent to Bennet, and his anxiety is multiplied when he learns Bennet plans to construct a prison cell for himself inside Charles’ basement so that he can pay for “crimes against humanity.”  Ultimately, Charles’ need for money and cautious curiosity prevail, and he allows Bennet to lock himself in the basement.  As the 65 days pass, the voluntary “prisoner” and his “warden” engage in several heated conversations that explore themes of guilt, punishment, responsibility, and redemption which all lead to an unpredictable ending that will challenge and haunt readers.

Subject Headings: African-American men;  Unemployed workers;  European-American men;  Rich men;  African-American families — History;  African-Americans — Material culture;  Landlord and tenant;  Race relations;  Power (Social sciences);  Identity (Psychology);  Atonement;  Home ownership;  Debt;  Alcohol use;  Los Angles, California;  Psychological fiction.

Appeal: gripping, steady, realistic characters, vivid, strong secondary characters, mythic, character-centered, complex, literary references, inventive, thought-provoking, sexually explicit, small-town setting, contemporary, haunting, philosophical, psychological, suspenseful, frank, some strong language, realistic dialogue

Three terms that best describe the book: Haunting, Philosophical, Realistic

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Dirty Bird Blues: A Novel by Clarence Major – Manfred Banks is an aspiring blues musician in Chicago who’s life is falling apart thanks to his taste for Old Crow whiskey (aka the “Dirty Bird”).  His wife Cleo has taken their daughter and left him for a preacher, and he can’t find work.  Will he be able to quit the bottle and regain his family or will he spiral into drunken oblivian?  (realistic characters, psychological, realistic dialogue, alcohol abuse, unemployment, search for identity, race relations, inventive)

The Book of Illusions: A Novel by Paul Auster – Since losing his wife and young sons in a plane crash, Vermont English professor David Zimmer has been lost in an alcoholic haze.  When a chance T.V. viewing of old silent film star Hector Mann makes him laugh for the first time in months, Zimmer sets out to track down the actor.  This is a difficult task, however, because Mann had disappeared years before at the height of his fame.  Zimmer’s quest to find Mann leads him to confront death, chaos, and his own guilt and leads to haunting encounter with the old film star.  (gripping, steady pace, realistic characters, complex, haunting, psychological, frank language, alcohol abuse, inventive)

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison – This classic work traces a young African-American man’s life journey from the South to New York City during which he concludes he is an “invisible man.”  After growing up trusting, the narrator encounters shocking injustices at college, at a paint factory job, and as a member of Harlem’s Communist Party.  These experiences convince him that to whites he has no identity.  He’s an invisible man on to whom they project their own preconcieved ideas.  (gripping, haunting, realistic characters, psychological, thought-provoking, race relations, philosophical, vivid, search for identity)

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860 by James Oliver Horton – Co-written by professors of sociology at George Washington and George Mason Universities, this book traces the lives of the first free blacks in America from the American Revolution through the Civil War.  It examines this black communities struggles with racial injustice while striving to maintain a unique identity.  This book is about Charles Blakey’s own ancestors.  The Blakey family decended back to these same free black families in Sag Harbor, and it is with this family past that Charles longs to reconnect.

African Masks from the Barbier-Mueller Collection by Iris Hahner-Herzog – Written by a noted ethnologist, this book presents nearly 250 of the finest African masks from the renowned Barbier-Mueller collection.  With 100 color photographs and in-depth essays explaining the origins and uses of the masks, this book offers a fascinating look at fascinating African art form.  As Charles Blakey cleans family heirlooms from his basement, he discovers a trio of “passport” masks from his African ancestors.  These masks help him reconnect with his roots and start to reform his identity.

The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan – Written by a law professor at the University of British Columbia, this book traces the rise of the corporation over the past 150 years and contends that today it is a pathological institution.  As a system “programmed to exploit others for profit,” the modern corporation is a dangerous possessor of great power over society.  When Anniston Bennet wishes to imprison himself in Charles’ basement, it is to atone for the great evils he has committed in service to corporate interests.  He’s exploited the African people and literally killed children to provide profit and power to the corporate elite.

Name: Russ

The Hungry Moon

November 4, 2009

Author: Ramsey Campbell

Title: The Hungry Moon

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 1986

Number of Pages: 293

Geographical Setting: Moonwell, a fictional town in England’s Peaks District

Time Period: Present day (1986)

Series: No

Plot Summary: Located in England’s Peaks District, the town of Moonwell is a popular tourist stop named after a large cave that dominates the surrounding moorlands.  Each year on Midsummer Eve, the people of Moonwell hold a ceremony inspired by ancient Druid customs in which they decorate the cave with flowers.  However, this year is different.  When a charismatic Christian evangelist named Godwin Mann comes to stop the pagan tradition, Moonwell residents are quickly spellbound by his extreme religious teachings and the ceremony is abandoned.  As religious fanaticism grips the town, Mann descends into the cave to unroot its pagan forces, but instead encounters a tremendous evil for which he is no match.  Using the preacher as its host, the long-dormant evil reemerges from the cave in the body of Mann to lead the unsuspecting and faithful Moonwell residents to their doom.  As an ominous darkness turns day into permanent night and Moonwell is completely cut-off from the world, teacher Diana Kramer must interpret her terrible visions to learn how to save the town.  Why, Diana must learn, can no one leave Moonwell?  What are the pale, eyeless creatures lurking on the moor?  Why does the moon and its light seem so threatening?  Unless Diana can answer these questions, the unsuspecting people of Moonwell are doomed along with their souls.

Subject Headings: Evangelists, English;  Druids and druidism;  Small town life — England;  Americans in England;  Teachers — England;  Demons;  Good and evil;  Supernatural;  England;  Occult fiction, English;  Horror stories, English.

Appeal: measured, engrossing, menacing atmosphere, chilling, dark, ominous, supernatural, nightmarish, rural, small town, contemporary, plot-centered, some strong violence, strong female characters, dramatic language, some strong language

Three terms that best describe the book: Small town, Nightmarish, Supernatural

Relevant Fictin Works and Authors:

Bloodstone by Nate Kenyon — White Falls is just another sleepy New England town until young Jeb Taylor falls under the spell of an amulet with a sinister history centuries old.  As madness spreads from neighbor to neighbor, ex-con Billy Smith must decipher the dark dreams that have led him to this showdown with an ancient evil.  (measured, ominous, small town, nightmarish, supernatural, dark, contemporary, good vs. evil)

The Messenger of Magnolia Street: A Novel by River Jordan — When the sleepy Southern town of Shibboleth is threatened by an unnamed evil, three childhood friends return to save their hometown.  Trice, Billy, and Nehemiah must descend into the underground springs to battle the evil and correct decades-old wrongs in the little time that remains.  (small town, ominous, supernatural, measured, menacing atmosphere, good vs. evil.)

Curfew by Phil Rickman — When an ancient Druid monument is disturbed beneath the quiet English village of Crybbe, a long-buried evil is unleashed on the town and it’s residents.  A terrifying “being of light” called the Dragon rises to feast on the town, and it’s up to reporter Fay Morrison to prevent disaster.  (small town, ominous, supernatural, strong female characters, Druids, rural England, good vs. evil.)

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The Druid Source Book: From Earliest Times to the Present Day by John Matthews — Using historical stories and essays, this book offers an in-depth look at the mysterious Druids.  Included are fascinating classical accounts of Druid culture from Julius Caesar, examinations of druidic ceremonies, and a look at the druidic revival of the 18th and 19th centuries.  This book gives a greater understanding of the ancient peoples who summoned the lunar evil threatening to destroy Moonwell.

The Moon: Myth and Image by Jules Cashford — Using 175 illustrations, this book offers a comprehensive look at the moon and its influence on mythology, religion, and consciousness.  Beginning with early Paleolithic bone markings and moving to contemporary poetry, this book traces our centuries-old fascination with the moon as well as the customs and secular events it inspires.  In Moonwell, the annual “cave dressing” is thought to be a harmless custom mimicking ancient moon worship, but the lunar “being” within the cave proves to be more than a myth and hungry for human souls.

Peak District: Landscapes Through Time by John Barnatt — Written by the Senior Survey Archaeologist for the Peak District, this book examines the archaeological landscapes of Britian’s first national park.  Using maps and the latest research, it tells the story of the famous landscape’s evolution including details about prehistoric barrows, stone circles, Romano-British settlements, and nineteenth-century lead mines.  As a beautiful national park, the Peak District attracts many tourists to Moonwell, but the landscape also serves as the Earthly home of the unspeakable evil threatening the town and the world.

Name: Russ