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The Moves Make the Man

Review

The Moves Make the Man

The summer that Bix Braxton Rivers the Third disappears is the summer that Jerome Foxworthy, who calls himself the "Jayfox," decides to write the true story of Bix. After all, who was more qualified? He'd been there the whole time and he had Bix's notebook.

During the daylight hours, Jerome practices on his private court in the middle of the dark woods where there are no lights. He has no clue where the court came from --- he only knows that it's his special place. "The moves make the man, the moves make me," Jerome thinks. Then Momma notices that the moves were making him something else.

The week before school starts, Jerome Foxworthy is notified that he will be the colored child to integrate Chestnut Street Junior High School, the biggest white school in Wilmington. Jerome knows he will miss his teachers and friends and, especially, playing on the Parker Basketball Team. "Were there white people as good at Chestnut to take their place?" But, Jerome felt all right about it. "In spite of knowing I was going to miss everybody, I know who I am, and I will be fine anywhere."

Jerome decides to try out for the basketball team. He is not allowed to play, and one of the good players on the team tells the coach, "Here's a kid could win us the city, and nobody but you cares he's a nigger."

Jerome discovers Bix Braxton Rivers the Third on his court, holding a basketball, whispering secret numbers, playing bounceball. Bix asks Jerome to teach him to play hoops. So Professor Jerome gives Bix lessons late at night on the windy court in the woods; and after Jerome wins a railroad lantern in a basketball game, they can play underneath the light.

Bix spins the lantern so that it starts to go around "smooth as could be, in a big whizzy circle, making a whole ball of light, very large and beautiful and you could have seen it for miles." Later, while reading Bix's notebook, Jerome finds that Bix had written, "I will play my game beneath the Spin Light."

The two boys are as different in life as they are on the basketball court. Bix is quick to pick up hoops but he does not have the moves; he does not put one single move anywhere, not one fake at all. "I don't need fakes," Bix says. "If the game is worth playing, it is worth playing straight, clean, no cockamamie mumbo jumbo in it." To the "Jayfox" the moves are self-expression and survival. However, to Bix, they mean falsehoods, and he has sworn never to lie.

Bix tells Jerome why he has to learn to play basketball, why he has to beat his stepfather. Will Jerome be able to help him if Bix refuses to put in the moves? What has happened to Bix that he flips out at the least suspicion that someone is faking, even in jest? What has caused the pain in his eyes that he covers with a strange wit?

THE MOVES MAKE THE MAN by Bruce Brooks contains many layers, all peeling away, to reveal how the metaphor of the basketball game follows through in life. Jayfox says, "If you are faking, somebody is taking...if nobody else is there to take the fake, then for good or bad a part of your own self will follow it. There are no moves you truly make alone."

Reviewed by Audrey Marie Danielson on September 26, 1984

The Moves Make the Man
by Bruce Brooks

  • Publication Date: September 26, 1984
  • : 208 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0060206985
  • ISBN-13: 9780060206987