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2008-06-29 - 8:17 a.m.

I just finished Walter Mosley's The Man in My Basement. I liked it. He writes quick books, and for someone who tries to do his homework a lot, it's really nice to read a plot that motors along, getting started on page one and moving, moving. He's a storyteller at heart, a skill I wish I had. I think he's one of my new favorites. His characters, man, they drink whiskey.

Anyway, in this book, the narrator has got a man locked in a cage built inside his basement. The man's there voluntarily. So the narrator's the warden, essentially, and since it's a first-person story, much of the book takes place either in his head, as he's thinking about or preparing for how to visit the prisoner downstairs, or actually in the basement, face to face with the locked-up guy. A main way by which the book keeps moving is that he'll start a chapter with what food he's bringing the prisoner. Cornflakes and canned peaches. Or, I was out all day and didn't think of my prisoner once, stuff like that. He's built the book, plot- and time-wise, around these visits to the basement. The narrator looks forward to them or he doesn't, but the fact that he's got somewhere to be, some duty to do, begins after a while to give him purpose.

And I was thinking about that, how plans keep you honest, keep you moving along. For example, yesterday, I knew I had to be on Washington Street at 3 p.m., to help a friend move. And I'd had some beers at the Hold Steady show the night before and am an owner of stubborn hangovers, but knowing I'd see friends there and knowing my buddy would say thanks for being there woke me up from the nap and got me out the door. And today, I'm helping my brother get and install some doors. After that, I'm watching the soccer on someone's big TV. After that, I'm polishing a new chapter. After that, I guess I'll start working on some new plans. Plans are handshakes with tomorrow, maybe, a promise that hey, I'll be there, you can count on me.

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