Thursday, October 7, 2010
'The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey'
‘Last Days’ is the story of a ninety-one year old Black man named Ptolemy. He has dementia… of sorts. I’m sure most doctors would diagnose him as that, but I’m not as convinced. Seems to me this man had more life in his “last days” than most people do their seventy-one point seven years on this planet. Walter Mosley creates a beautiful story with some… provoking people. Ptolemy is a walking, dying encyclopedia of his Black experience. And many others as well. The man is dying, he knows he’s dying, and he’s OK with him dying. What hurts him most is that his mind is going away. His remaining family is like the rest of ours; some good, some bad, looking for a quick come up.
What happens, however, is what makes Walter Mosley one of the masters of this beloved craft. A mahogany colored beauty (Robyn) finds her way into the life of Ptolemy and she is one of the few bright lights to walk hand and hand with him in the end. While Robyn is his chaperone in “real life”, the person that guides him is someone we never really meet. Leave it to Mr. Mosley to create a (ghost) character that is more powerful than the (live) characters. Coydog McCann is the character of whom I speak. He’s a teacher, he’s a guide, he’s a mentor, and he’s a friend. Together, Ptolemy and Coydog have a deep, deep friendship that borders on the strongest type of brotherly love. This bond grows stronger over the years and Coy needs Ptolemy to help him complete a mission of sorts when he dies, and Ptolemy needs Robyn to do the same.
To help with this Ptolemy chooses to be a guinea pig for an experimental drug that will help him be lucid his final days. In spite of his dementia, this man is far from crazy and the drug doesn’t GIVE him clarity… it sharpens it. The name he gives to the doctor is classic. As with all of Mosley’s novels the surrounding cast is splendid. Every single one. Even Alfred. This man can not miss. Thank you Walter for yet another.