Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley is a best-selling author of more than 34 books.

About his 2010 novel, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey:

At ninety-one years old, Ptolemy Grey is one of the world’s forgotten: by his family, by his friends, by even himself. Marooned in a cluttered Los Angeles apartment overflowing with mementos from his past, Ptolemy sinks deeper into lonely dementia and into a past that’s best left buried. He’s determined to pass the rest of his days with only his memories for company. Until, at his grandnephew’s funeral, he meets Robyn and experiences a seismic shift, in his head, his heart, and his life.

Seventeen and without a family of her own, Robyn is unlike anyone Ptolemy has ever known. She and Ptolemy form an unexpected bond that reinvigorates his world. Robyn will not tolerate the way he has allowed himself to live, skulking in and out of awareness barely long enough to cash his small pension checks, living in fear of his neighbors and the memories that threaten to swallow him. With Robyn’s help, Ptolemy moves from isolation back into the brightness of friendship and desire. But Robyn’s challenges also push Ptolemy to make a life-changing decision that will affect both of them: to recapture the clarity and vigor of his fading mind and unlock the secrets he has carried for decades.
In a Q & A with Rachel Emma Silverman at the Wall Street Journal, Mosley discussed his personal experience with some of the novel's themes:
Wall Street Journal: When was your mother diagnosed with dementia?

For at least seven years, it was apparent that she was having more and more difficulty handling things, and slowly over a period of time, I started taking over responsibilities in her life, paying the checks, making sure that other things were dealt with…They eventually took away her license and I had to find someone to drive her…I think that in my mother’s early 70s, there were markers that showed she was having problems. We were leaving a restaurant and she looked around everywhere and said “I can’t find my keys.” I looked in her purse. They were right there.

Tell me a bit about your family. Were there other family members able to help you?

My father died 17 years ago. I have no brothers or sisters. My mother had no brothers or sisters. My father was an orphan… One of the real challenging issues, it was just me. That was all that was going to take care of this.

…What I was dealing with was very much like parenting, but inverted. Parents automatically know that children need to be protected, physically and emotionally. That’s the whole thing about parenting that’s inverted here. You know your parents in another way — as being responsible, taking care of themselves, as being in charge, and they know themselves in that way, too…You can never do as much for them as they did for you.

Was it tough to communicate with her from afar?

Toward...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue