Man Gone Down

Man Gone Down

Book - 2007
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Baker & Taylor
Approaching his thirty-fifth birthday estranged from his white Boston Brahmin wife and three children, an impoverished African-American construction worker evaluates his inner-city Boston childhood, the abuses he suffered at the hands of his parents, and the disparity between the promise of his intellectual potential and his real-world achievements. Original.

Perseus Publishing
On the eve of his thirty-fifth birthday, the unnamed black narrator of Man Gone Down finds himself broke, estranged from his white wife and three children, and living in the bedroom of a friend’s six-year-old child. He has four days to come up with the money to keep the kids in school and make a down payment on an apartment for them in which to live. As we slip between his childhood in inner city Boston and present-day New York City, we learn of a life marked by abuse, abandonment, raging alcoholism, and the best and worst intentions of a supposedly integrated America. This is a story of the American Dream gone awry, about what it’s like to feel preprogrammed to fail in life and the urge to escape that sentence.



Publisher Group West
Evoking the work of great American masters such as Ralph Ellison, but distinctly original, Michael Thomas’ first novel is a beautifully written, insightful, and devastating account of a young black father of three in a biracial marriage trying to claim a piece of the American Dream. On the eve of the unnamed narrator’s thirty-fifth birthday, he finds himself broke, estranged from his white Boston Brahmin wife and three children, and living in the bedroom of a friend’s six-year-old child. With only four days before he’s due in to pick up his family, he must make some sense out of his life. Alternating between his past—as an inner city child bused to the suburbs in the 1970’s—and a present where he is trying mightily to keep his children in private schools, we learn of his mother’s abuses, his father’s abandonment, and the best and worst intentions of a supposedly integrated America.  This is an extraordinary debut about what it feels like to be pre-programmed to fail in life—and the urge to escape that sentence.


Blackwell North Amer
Man Gone Down is a novel about a young black father of three in a biracial marriage trying to claim a piece of the American Dream he has bargained on since youth.
On the eve of the unnamed narrator's thirty-fifth birthday, he finds himself broke, estranged from his white wife and three children, and living in the bedroom of a friend's six-year-old child. He has four days before he's due in Boston to pick up his family, four days to try to make some sense of his life. He's been trying to stay afloat by working construction jobs, though he's known on the streets as "the professor," as he was expected to make something out of his life.
Alternating between his past - as a child in inner city Boston he was bussed to the suburbs as part of the doomed attempts at integration in the 1970s - and the present in New York City where he is trying mightily to keep his children in private schools, we learn of his mother's abuses, his father's abandonment, alcoholism, and the best and worst intentions of a supposedly integrated America.

Baker
& Taylor

Estranged from his white Boston Brahmin wife and three children, an impoverished African-American construction worker evaluates his inner-city Boston childhood and the disparity between the promise of his intellectual potential and his real-world achievements.

Publisher: New York : Black Cat, c2007
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780802170293
0802170293
Characteristics: 431 p. ; 21 cm

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vickiz
Jan 19, 2010

For good or bad, when I've gone as far as a chapter or its equivalent in a book, I commit to finishing that book. Perhaps life is too short and there are too many good books out there to possibly waste time with something that isn't clicking with you as a reader. However, I can't not stick with a book until the (sometimes bitter) end, on the chance that it is just slow to build and win my interest and confidence, and will reward me in the end. Such was the case with Man Gone Down, by Michael Thomas - and I'm very, very glad I stuck with it.

An unnamed African-American man sprints through a four-day period in New York City, scrambling to find jobs, settle debts and just plain score in order to amass enough money to win back his estranged wife and three children by finding a new home and paying his children's school fees. During that sprint, he struggles with real and perceived demons from the past and present, including alcoholism, professional and creative disappointment, and racism. He also struggles with whether or not he's actually sprinting after the right things, from his family to his aspirations to what he's been led to believe are his top personal and financial priorities in this compressed and nerve wracking exercise. The authenticity of the proverbial American Dream is hinted at, and the striving of Jay Gatsby is referred to specifically and yearningly several times.

What initially verges on irritating about this book is perhaps also what is brilliant about it. You can't get a purchase in this slippery narration, as the beleaguered narrator layers his four-day grocery list of desperate "to do's" with complaints about why he's in this situation to begin with, flashbacks to ostensibly pivotal moments in his life and so on. As a reader, it's disorienting ... but then it occurred to me that this effect was exactly the point. The narrator was unable to get his own purchase, kind of like he was tumbling faster and faster downward ... ah yes!

Just as it is difficult to get your footing with the narration, it is difficult to get a clear handle on the nameless narrator for, in fact, much of the book. It becomes an increasingly tedious thing to listen to a protagonist bemoan his so-called life as a social experiment. Something or someone other than him is always responsible for his failings and shortcomings - he even blames his dissatisfaction with how he strums a guitar on genetics. As the reader, you rally with him when he reacts to a real insult - someone on a renovation job site singling him out with the n word - but then you shake your head when he also perceives insult from someone inadvertently putting milk in his coffee. As he reaches the end of this breathless sprint, though, he seems to acknowledge that everyone is a social experiment, and it's all a social experiment. And on that encouraging point with his own character, I don't think it's a spoiler to say that the book ends on a significantly hopeful note.

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