Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Novels that stir up the pond
My first Walter Mosley was The Man in My Basement, which I thought was extremely odd but couldn’t forget. When I found Six Easy Pieces on a bargain table, I bought it, and then had to read the Easy Rawlins series (I’ve only got about 3 in so far, the early ones being hard to find, and I must read them in order). Now there’s The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey. Let’s get this straight—the only thing I have in common with the characters in this novel is that we’re all human beings. But that’s enough for Mosley, who never loses hold for a second in this book. The story is this: a scared old man descending into dementia gets a reprieve through the arrival of a teenaged girl and an experimental drug. He uses the reprieve to deal with the particular memories that haunted his dementia; to love the girl as thoroughly as he can; and to carry out a task given him by a man he loved and saw lynched as a child. How he does this is as satisfying as it always is when a character who has suffered uses money and knowledge/power to exact justice without mercy, and to reward the merciful. That’s the detective fiction part of Mosley’s craft. But deeper than that is how he looks at aging, and love, and one human being seeing another over barriers of age, experience, sex. I finished the book at bedtime and then couldn’t sleep, for all the memories and thoughts it had stirred up.