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Man Gone Down

3.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,370 ratings  ·  254 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 431 pages
Published December 7th 2006 by Grove Press, Black Cat
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Average rating 3.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,370 ratings  ·  254 reviews

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Jun 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
I feel guilty for not being in love with this.

Because I should be, right? It's about an educated black writer who somehow went from being the newest test case in Boston's busing system to being a scholarship student at Harvard, and from there to being a drop-out (or kicked-out, as it were) that lands himself at a smaller college in New York, becomes a writer, marries a white woman and fathers three mixed-race children, fails at becoming a writer and suffers the financial/familial penalties
Jan 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Okay, after reading some of the other reviews of this book i must throw down. The narrator got whipped and beaten by his drunk mother, and abandoned by his father, and people beat the crap out of him at school. regularly. and as an adult, he still has physical problems from these abuses. And his best friend got beaten up even worse than him. By his fuck-ass father. So all you people who find this novel tediously dirge-like, or overly grim, or too introverted-stream-of-consciousness, or too ...more
Oct 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
I was really excited to read this book after hearing that he upset all of the other authors and won the Dublin prize for literature. Not just that, but the topic (a Black man in the inner city searches his soul) was incredibly appealing to me. However, the book was a huge disappointment or maybe it shows a lot of promise and it's a wonderful first novel for an up and coming author.

I thought it was very self-indulgent and circular. Nothing happens, which is fine if there is some internal
Dec 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
There are maybe ten novels whose first reading gave me enough of a kick in the gut that I will always remember it, and this is one of them. I felt more affinity for the narrator than for any character I can recall in recent literature -- despite the fact that he is black and of the city and I'm a white kid from the sticks and the novel is very much about race; but it's more fundamentally a novel about being a husband and father and, well, a man, with all the baggage that carries, and feeling ...more
Jenny McPhee
Apr 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have never read anything like this novel. It has the meandering stream-of-consciousness and meticulous attention to detail of Virginia Woolf. It has the male obsessiveness with with masculinity and how it functions in time and place of James Joyce. It explores race with the rigour and nuance of a 21st century Ralph Ellison. And it describes the conundrums of class and society's basic unfairness with the storytelling skills of Dickens. And to add the cherry, Thomas is as in love with T.S. Eliot ...more
Feb 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to enjoy this book about an adjunct instructor-turned- construction worker whose interracial marriage is falling apart, but the mopey narrator kept making such stupid decisions that I quickly lost sympathy for him.
Aug 04, 2009 rated it did not like it
I’m disappointed. I really thought I was going to get into this book. I was hoping for young James Baldwin, or Ellison during his brief moment when he had something to say about the minefields and bottomless tar pits that litter the landscape of Black males even for those who “do the right thing”.

O.K. let me temper my words with the fact that he was brutally raped as a kid, which I wish he would have talked about at the beginning of the book. But honestly this dude comes off as a typical Black
Jan 06, 2012 rated it did not like it
Man Gone Down has received a lot of favorable reviews, and won the IMPAC Award in 2009, and I can see some hints of the reasons why. The final chapter is achingly beautiful, as is a passage reminiscing on September '11. Despite some very good writing, the overall package was not to my liking.

The book's narrator is a black man, and he provides us with an in-depth view into his life during a week in which he is having problems with his wife, and in coming up with the money to pay for his kids'
Sep 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book was an epic experience for me. It was well-paced, the imagery rich, the descriptions of Brooklyn living and breathing. The ending was a bit abrupt, but it fit the uneven nature of the main character.

However, the real reason I give this book five stars is because it was an intensely personal experience. The themes of race and displacement are explored more honestly than anything I've ever read.

In particular, I think this book is a harbinger of the genre to come: books that explore the
Dec 15, 2007 rated it liked it
A 400+ page story that is mostly interior monologue -- very difficult to read. The repeating mantra about the difficulties this young man faced growing up and the unmet high expectations becomes tiresome.

Yet and still, there is something attractive about this book. The writing style is accessible and I really felt the brooklyn neighborhood and NY life Thomas was describing. Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man is the book MGD is most often compared to and I can see that. Invisible Man was also a very
Mar 17, 2009 rated it did not like it
I read this book for my book group, and it was a book that I picked and was very interested in reading.

Alas, that was before I got started. I really had to force myself to slog through this morose, boring book about a morose, boring guy. It's not that I don't get where the guy came from, because he clearly comes by his challenges honestly. Still, there isn't nearly enough here to sustain my interest.

I'll be interested in hearing what my fellow book group members thought, but I'm thinking that I
Mr. Gottshalk
Jun 29, 2017 rated it liked it
If a book doesn't capture my attention in the first 1/4 of so, I usually abandon it. For some reason, I stuck with this one. The last 100-150 pages were a lot better than the first 250-300. I enjoyed the back-and-forth flashbacks that this young, black protagonist has - everything is so difficult for him, try as he might to get ahead. However, the prose is written in such a way that it's confusing as to note what's important and what's not. Finally, he settles down and just sticks to his story, ...more
Eoin ODonnell
Oct 08, 2019 rated it did not like it
Well done Michael Thomas you created one of the dullest, most self interested, judgemental characters in literary history. The main character judges everyone and constantly thinks he is right. If gets old very quickly.
The writing isn't great with some awful editing and errors. At one stage a character is described as sucking his teeth 4 times in a page and a half

God awful. Avoid
Rachel Louise Atkin
Apr 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned, new-york
A lot of people describe this as a modern version of Invisible Man, and whilst I see why the make the comparisons I don't think this novel is quite up to paralleling such an amazing and transformative book. Man Gone Down, like Invisible Man, is follows a black protagonist who fails to root himself. He moves through different spaces, abandoning his family, abandoning friends and jobs, and exploring how he is treated as a black man with-in the circles he inhabits.

I did like this book overall but
Oct 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Complex, challenging, compelling, and imperfect.

Our un-named narrator is given a clear mission -- raise a substantial amount of cash in 4 days in order to get his family life back on track. We follow him almost in real time around NYC, through those four days and nights in which he doesn't sleep or really stop moving at all, like a clinically depressed shark. And the book is at its best when he is on the move, working and pursuing his goal. Other times, his attention wanders and he seems to
Nov 29, 2007 rated it liked it
This is the story of a man who is constantly walking the line between barely holding himself together and disconnnecting / falling completely apart.

The protagonist here has been utterly defeated, the weight of his memories overwhelms and suffocates him, he is paranoid and ineffectual and unable to affect any kind of positive change or build any new positive relationships. He feels this tremendous weight from the institutions that created him, his racial ancestry, the opportunities he was given
May 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
An extraordinary book, intelligent and thought provoking. The prose is dense and powerful but seldom self-conscious. It's also an important book--there's already criticism about it out there. Caveat: It is not profitable to read this book in snatches. It demands,but also rewards, more time, closer attention.

"It's a strange thing to go through life as a social experiment," Michael Thomas's unnamed narrator muses more than once. Part Irish, part Indian, part black,he has been encouraged from
Nov 12, 2008 rated it liked it
I admittedly took several breaks before finishing this book. Thomas' prose is wordy and self-indulgent and often meaningless stream-of-consciousness blather. I was completely prepared to dismiss the novel completely, but then I dug in and was rewarded in a way I hadn't anticipated. The narrator is often contemptible and I found it difficult to empathize with a lot of the existential dilemmas he found himself struggling with, but at his heart is not a bad person. It is when Thomas allows the ...more
Atikah Wahid
Jul 25, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I feel like I'm giving up more books than actually finishing them. And I really wanted to like this book because it's something that I've been looking for - a contemporary African American novel. And there are familiar themes like interracial relationships, colorism, becoming disillusion with the American Dream and all that jazz. But this book is a mess. Even after 100 pages, I couldn't make sense of characterisation, plot, timeline, anything. I'm just flipping the pages to finish up, rather ...more
Leora Bersohn
Jan 13, 2011 rated it did not like it
My Library Journal review:

An impoverished writer wanders Brooklyn in search of the money that will reunite him with his family. Having survived horrific abuse as a child and alcoholism as an adult, the unnamed protagonist continues to suffer. Part Native American, part African American, he is obsessed with his wife's whiteness, his children's ambiguous ethnic identities, and the perceived slights of his neighbors. A father of three, he refuses to take a steady job, finish his doctoral
Shelly Sanders
Dec 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Michael Thomas has created a narrator so real, that it's hard at times to differentiate fact from fiction. Thomas, like the narrator, is a black writer living in New York City, and both are faced with the challenges of integrating within a white world--as fathers, husbands, and sons. Through Thomas' narrator, I see clearly the struggles faces internally and externally:
"I wonder if I'm too damaged. Baldwin somewhere once wrote about someone who had "a wound that he would never recover from," but
Jun 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: new-york, kindle
Michael Thomas's novel of four crucial days in the life of an intellectually brilliant black man temporarily separated from his white wife and three kids as he struggles to pull enough money together to maintain the yuppie Brooklyn life they'd established seamlessly weaves this quest with his stream-of-consciousness thoughts about the many roles he must play, his life as a recovering addict, T.S. Eliot, and his difficult childhood. It's poetic, yet grounded in well-observed characterization and ...more
Mar 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Sometimes I hate this star system of rating books. This book is so intelligent, erudite, philosophical and at times dramatic that I could see myself giving it 5 stars. So why only 3? I just about dsiliked everything about the protagonist. The "man gone down" of the title. A tall and physically imposing Black man, in a very tenous marraige with a White woman and their 3 children, he seems to think of himself as some latter day Walter Mitty. Everything about him is interior dialouge and hopeless ...more
Jul 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've read this year. I realized I don't read African American authors and really wanted to...but not a chick lit one like Dickey or Tyree. I was pulled in immediately when I found this book at BN.

The protagonist is a black man, married to a white woman and dad to two kids. He's been to Harvard, has tried to be an author, and is currently unemployed though he does masterful construction work. Throughout the book he wrestles with the idea of leaving his family. He feels
Jul 28, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: folks interested in writing, and in race and identity
This book had me think about how race and class impact identity and how we see the world. Are these opportunities open or closed to me or is it my perception based on how I think I am perceived due to aspects of my identity? The main character is a black man who grew up working class, married to a white woman who grew up wealthy. The book covers a few days in his life in New York City as he is broke and trying to get things together for his family. It is a deeply personal look inside what this ...more
Nov 15, 2009 rated it liked it
"Man Gone Down" is an soulfully written novel about an anonymous black man who can't afford to take care of his interracial family. As eloquent as this story is, and as much as I wanted to like it, I found myself bored. Perhaps the most touching aspect of the book is how he describes his two sons, one tan with blonde hair and blue eyes, the other toffee colored and more noticably black. However, for most of the book the narrator rambles on in a self effacing fashion that screams "LOSER" from ...more
Mar 01, 2011 rated it did not like it
just didn't do it for me. not the plot. not the setting. not the main character. i detected an attempt at a sort of "rhythmic" writing but even that didn't hook me. maybe the author was trying to do too much in one book? i don't know. something was missing. i am not sure what. when i was done, i didn't care enough to analyze what that something might have been.
Oct 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Certainly not a comfortable book to read but one where I think the negative comments are as much a testament as the positive ones. I'm not sure I could read it again because the author too often brings us face smashed to the window of our less noble and unhappy impulses, thoughts and feelings but it is a book that will be living in my head for a long time.
Jul 10, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It started out well, but I found the narrator got pretty monotonous after awhile. Disappointing, because I was really enthused when I first picked it up.
Aug 02, 2008 rated it liked it
What if Ralph Ellison was a whiny asshole?
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THE LISTS: Man Gone Down 10 9 Jan 18, 2013 01:53PM  
THE LISTS: Novel #1 1 10 Sep 29, 2012 02:04PM  

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“I wonder if this is what it feels like, falling out of love: feeling yourself fading out of existence - the gray sky, the coffee shop limbo - everything a way station of sorts. Making promises you know you can't keep. Making promises - period. People in love shouldn't have to vow or demand, petition or exhort. Nothing. Not even question. No collisions with your surroundings or yourself - you move gently, unknowing, in time.” 9 likes
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