Man, Underground

It’s hard to make friends underground.

When the city initiates a property review of a recluse’s subterranean home, his life is interrupted by a seventeen-year-old punk-inspired Honor’s student intent on defending him. Like the stranger she targets for her assistance, Monika is accustomed to being ostracized by those who make assumptions about her. A fast-paced dark comedy, Man, Underground will leave readers contemplating the disruptions and the potential transformative power found in random acts of kindness. From Regal House Publishing.

Man, Underground has been shortlisted for the Montana Book Award, the High Plains Book Award, the Eric Hoffer Award, and the Nautilus Award. It was longlisted for the Reading the West Award.

2023 Montana Book Award Honor Book

2024 Eric Hoffer Award general fiction 1st Runner-up

2024 Nautilus Silver Award–Fiction, Large Press

2024 High Plains Book Award–Finalist for fiction and for the Big Sky award

Long-listed for the 2024 Reading the West Award.

And there’s a soundtrack! Scroll to the bottom of the page if you are interested in listening.

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praise for Man, Underground

A dark, comedic parable of resilience and camaraderie between a reclusive man who finds solace in an unconventional home and an audacious teenager who inserts herself into his hidden world. I was hooked from the first page. — Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of The Many Daughters of Afong Moy

I like my fiction inspiring, passionate, big-hearted, and laugh-out-loud funny – and if you get me there through tragedy, then my hat stays off for you. Mark Hummel achieves all of this in his subtly elegant, gently intellectual, moving story of the friendship between a man with a broken spirit and a teenager with a soaring one. — Laura McBride, author of We Are Called to Rise

With Man, Underground, Mark Hummel has crafted a novel of rare insight. It is sincere but never sentimental, life-affirming yet clear-eyed, and timely while possessing a timeless wisdom. — Luke Geddes, author of Heart of Junk

From the very first pages, I was drawn into the story through its sparkling, muscular dialogue, and then lured on by a series of plot moves both arresting and entirely plausible. This truly wonderful novel reminded me that grief met with patience and the willingness to listen can be grief gently and incrementally eased. — Liza Wieland, author of Paris, 7 A.M. and Land of Enchantment

In Man, Underground, Mark Hummel explores the powerful pull of isolation as a response to grief. Delving into questions of agency and identity, Hummel forces the reader to question the necessity of human interaction and the role we all play in other people’s lives. — Virginia Reeves, Booker-prize-longlisted author of Work Like Any Other

A lovely and moving novel about loss and recovery. — Fiona Maazel, author of A Little More Human and Woke Up Lonely, Guggenheim Fellow

Funny, tender, and shimmering with optimism, Man, Underground asks: “What if we were all just a little kinder? A little more understanding?” It’s a delightful, heartwarming story of an unexpected friendship that leaves the reader with hope. I look forward to what Hummel does next. — Meagan Lucas, award-winning author of Songbirds and Stray Dogs and Here in the Dark

In Mark Hummel’s lovely novel Man, Underground, a modern-day Bartleby who would “prefer not to” live in society retreats to an underground house to escape the memories of a family tragedy. What he doesn’t count on is a 17-year-old girl, also a misfit running from her own family woes, reaching into that hole and dragging him back up into the light of the living. Man, Underground is witty, endearing, and full of surprises. — David Abrams, author of Brave Deeds and Fobbit

Hummel takes us on a wild journey of American gentrification; the narrator, voluntarily trapped in his basement, a sort of transplanted Dostoevsky’s Underground Man, dreads encroachments by real estate schemers, the state, commercial Americana, and finds rescue from his paranoia in an unlikely friendship with a young counter-cultural activist, with whom he has amazingly witty conversations. The dialogue sounds like a Raymond Chandler movie script, so sharp and clever, and the descriptions and narrative comments are all interesting and original, and many could be quoted as aphorisms. This cultural and psychological critique and satire will entertain you for sure. — Josip Novakovich, author of Rubble of Rubles and April Fool’s Day, Man Booker International Prize nominee

Written with great skill and giving evidence of a brilliant mind harboring a wide-awake worldview, this is pure delight to read. It is also substantial and nourishing to the soul of those of us who suspect that the world is not a lovely place unless we make it so… a true work of literature, worthy of any reader’s time and attention. — Reading the West

Mark Hummel’s animated descriptions, knockout dialogue, laugh-out-loud wit, and narrative momentum create a story relevant to everyone. In his canny and compassionate prose, Mr. Hummel lets us know that we are all bewildered and vulnerable, that fate comes for every one of us, and it is only by relating to each another that we can heal our communities and maybe the world. Delicious wit and tender observations combine to tell the story of a lonely man and his quest for reason. This is Mark Hummel at the top of his game. — Jean Ryan, author of Survival Skills and Lost Sister

Mark Hummel brilliantly draws the reader deeper and deeper into the narrator’s life, peeling each layer to challenge our assumptions about “others.” Hummel’s descriptive, deeply engaging prose is surgically precise and insightful, revealing the beauty and heartbreak of our shared human experience, and the redemptive power of unlikely friendships. — Ginger Pinholster, author of Snakes of St. Augustine and City in a Forest

Somewhere around the last third of this book, I thought of a line from Rilke: “Who, if I cried, would hear me among the angelic orders?” Yeah, Rilke. It came into my head as the lives of the Man, Underground’s narrator and his wildly unlikely friend, Monika, became ever more intertwined. –Laura Scalzo, author of American Arcadia

Man, Underground is a wonderful and compelling novel.  From an initial unexpected meeting, through family tragedy and isolation, Mark Hummel has created a pair of central characters whose conversations with each other are playful, deep and necessary. Hummel is a master at dialogue, and as each chapter unfolds through the unexpected—city bureaucracy, gnome relocation, under-bridge karaoke—the real story emerges brilliantly through the asides, the quips, the sudden truths. Man, Underground is a story about discovering hope.  Every page is a joy. —W. Scott Olsen, author of Neverland: Adventures, Wonder, and One World Record in a very Small Plane and former editor of Ascent

Every Hollywood screenwriter should study Mark Hummel’s dialog. He’s a genuine master. — James A. Ross, author of Hunting Teddy Roosevelt.

Man, Underground has a soundtrack!

I encourage you to wait until you have read the book to have a listen. It’s not as if the soundtrack contains spoilers, but this eclectic list will make a lot more sense with context, for every song on this playlist (with the exception of the final track) is discussed, is playing in the background, or is a focal point of the novel, appearing in the order provided. Given that the narrator is a former music critic, you can make the argument that music is a soundtrack to his life. It is to mine. You may very well feel the same way. Enjoy!