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message 1: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments Our March book discussion will begin here on today, March 1, 2011, and Christine will be our discussion leader. The book for March is The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by the prolific and eclectic author, Walter Mosley. Mosley is such a familiar author that no introduction is necessary, but this bio provided some interesting insights:

Walter Mosley was born on January 12, 1952 in Los Angeles, California, where his Easy Rawlins novels are set. He grew up in the Watts and Pico-Fairfield districts of the city, the only child of a mixed-race marriage. Mosley's father was an African-American man from the Deep South, and his mother a Jew whose parents immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe. Mosley's unique racial and ethnic heritage provided him with a multifaceted understanding of prejudice as well as the importance of cultural tradition. Both of these topics find outlets in Mosley's writings in various genres, most famously his Easy Rawlins mystery novels, beginning with Devil in a Blue Dress.

Mosley earned his bachelor's degree from Johnson State College in Vermont in 1977, after which he tried various jobs, including computer programming. In 1982 he moved to New York City with his future wife, Joy Kellman, a white Jewish woman. They were married five years later, in 1987. During this time, Mosley rekindled his love of reading and writing, which came to a height when he read The Color Purple, Alice Walker's iconic novel about the African-American experience. He stopped working in order to attend the City College of New York and focus on literature. Mosley recounts that one day he was inspired to write a sentence about black people sitting on a porch in Louisiana. Writing this sentence so roused him that he decided to devote his life to being an author.

Mosley owes a portion of his talent for narrative as well as his inspiration to his father, LeRoy Mosley. The elder Mosley was a World War II hero who became disenchanted with the American experience when he returned home to face racial prejudice and disrespect. Walter Mosley draws many of Easy Rawlins's experiences of war and prejudice from his father's stories. Mosley also attributes his deftness at weaving a narrative to the storytelling traditions of his father's black relatives; the influence of these family members is evident in Mosley's use of Southern African-American dialects as well.

After Devil in a Blue Dress, Mosley turned the trials of Easy Rawlins into a series, including: A Red Death, White Butterfly, Black Betty, A Little Yellow Dog, Big Boy Brawly Brown, Six Easy Pieces, and 2005's Little Scarlet. Yet Mosley has not limited himself to writing about Easy Rawlins; he has published two novels about another protagonist, Fearless Jones, as well. Mosley has also forayed into "novels of ideas," science-fiction, and non-fiction writing, including several incisive political essays. His latest publications are a science fiction novel called The Wave and Fortunate Son. Of Mosley's books, Devil in a Blue Dress and Always Outnumbered have been adapted for the screen. The former stars legendary African-American actor Denzel Washington as Easy Rawlins. Since Mosley's first publication, Devil in a Blue Dress, his writing has been translated into 21 languages.

Mosley has received numerous awards during his career, including an honorary Doctorate from the City College of New York, a Sundance Film Festival "Risktaker" award, and a Grammy award for his liner notes in the comedy album "Richard Pryor...And It's Deep Too!: The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings (1968-1992)" from Warner Archives/Rhino Entertainment. In addition, Mosley received public attention in 1992 when Bill Clinton named him as one of his favorite authors. But Mosley has never been one to let his achievements distract from one of his favorite causes, supporting and creating opportunities for small African-American organizations and African-American youth. He has been a supporter of Baltimore's Black Classic Press, and recently collaborated with the City College of New York to found a groundbreaking publishing degree program for young New York City residents.

No doubt in tribute to the mystery genre, Mosley dons a fedora and trench coat in photographs. He resides in New York City, where he teaches English at New York University.
- http://www.gradesaver.com/author/walt...

Ruth has already posted this interesting piece for us:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ilaina-....

Here's another one:
http://www.theroot.com/views/walter-m...

Enjoy!


message 2: by George (last edited Mar 01, 2011 05:49AM) (new)

George | 763 comments Greek. the ruling family of Egypt after Alexander, up to the time of Cleopatra and the Roman conquest.


message 3: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3846 comments Mod
I enjoy Mosley's writing immensely. I've read several books from the Easy Rawlins series and enjoyed The Man in My Basement fairly well. Ptolemy Grey was really rather disappointing for me. I won't go into details until we delve into it further, but, it was the least satisfying of his books I've read thus far. However, reading some of the reviews from GR readers, I'm certain to be in the minority here.


message 4: by Rashida (new)

Rashida | 264 comments To this point I've elected not to read this book. I have a client with advanced dementia whose case continues to haunt me, and I've not felt the emotional wherewithal to tackle this subject matter. For those who have read it, do you think it's safer avoiding the book, or would you say it is "handleable" if you get my meaning?


message 5: by BookishGlow (new)

BookishGlow (bookish_glow) I absolutely loved this book! I am very familiar with Mosley's previous works, which were in the genre of mystery. His most recent book, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, was great and allowed his readers to see his talents in a different writing style.


message 6: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2883 comments Mod
I too have read most of Walter Mosley's work and agree with what has been said about his work. I appreciate that Mosley is able to write across genre and his message is still on point for an issue with our society and his ability at times to address the hard issues.

There have been times when I have not necessarily liked all of his books - so now approach his books with caution. But, I was pleasantly surprised with Ptolemy Grey. I read this book in one sitting when it first came out.

But,as we are discussing his writing as a whole - there is one aspect of his writing that I have noticed that I am curious about - I do not think that Mosley does a good job in developing his female characters. I feel that his female characters tend to be be more one dimensional while his male characters are more fully developed and are complex with many layers to explore. It seems that the female characters are there for a sexual need for the male characters or at least developed where their sexual nature is their main purpose in the story,and that there is almost some edginess to the sexual behavior. Some of which some people would consider out of the norm.

I read Ptolemy Grey when it first came out and actually read it in one setting


message 7: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments Rashida wrote: "To this point I've elected not to read this book. I have a client with advanced dementia whose case continues to haunt me, and I've not felt the emotional wherewithal to tackle this subject matter..."

I think that you could handle it, Rashida. While there are realistic elements about Ptolmey's dementia, the more dominant premise is speculative - what would a man do if he had a short time of clarity given back to him to resolve things before death? And I say "man" deliberately - this is Walter Mosely! I want to comment on Mosely and women, but I'll have to do it a little later.


message 8: by Hazel (new)

Hazel | 191 comments Wilhelmina wrote: "I want to comment on Mosely and women, but I'll have to do it a little later.
..."


Mina, I wonder if you'd also have any comments on similarities between Mosely and James Ellroy?


message 9: by Mocha Drop (new)

Mocha Drop (mochadrop) | 212 comments Columbus wrote: "I enjoy Mosley's writing immensely. I've read several books from the Easy Rawlins series and enjoyed The Man in My Basement fairly well. Ptolemy Grey was really rather disappointing f..."

Hi Columbus,

You will have me as another who was disappointed in this offering by WM. It was my local club’s January 2011 BOM and it resulted in a middle of the road rating - no one was “wow’d” by it - and like you, I’ll share my disappointments and issues when the group is ready to delve into the details.

Re: other WM works - I’ve read most of his detective series (Easy and Fearless), a few of the ventures into speculative fiction and for the most part enjoyed “47,” and “The Wave,” etc - however, I found a that he has a tendency to start with a great premise/idea, develops it well, but at some point things either go awry into “left field” or fizzle to the point where I close the book in disappointment or confusion. This happened so often, that I opted to stop automatically pre-ordering his work and used the library card instead. Even then, after a few more releases, it deteriorated to not reading him at all. If it weren’t for Ptolemy being selected by an avid fan in the local group, I would have opted to pass on it. Although critically acclaimed, I read the first in the Leonid McGill series and opted not to continue with the series - just wasn’t interested in Leonid’s world or continuing adventures (I found him to be an unlikeable character).

I like WM as an author and humanitarian -- I’ve heard him speak, met him, etc...a very likeable person, great ideas, vision, insight, etc....but his releases are not automatic purchases anymore.


message 10: by Mocha Drop (new)

Mocha Drop (mochadrop) | 212 comments Beverly wrote: "I too have read most of Walter Mosley's work and agree with what has been said about his work. I appreciate that Mosley is able to write across genre and his message is still on point for an issue ..."

I concur with your observation re: women being objectified in WM's works...and in this novel, the relationship between Robin and Ptolemy was a bit disturbing (for me) when sexual innuendos, references (and the kissing) came into play between the two of them. I read the book in December, so details are fuzzy, but I believe there were hints of Robin being sexually abused/molested earlier in her childhood and I thought those experiences, perhaps, could have explained her behavior toward Ptolemy, but his interweaving of references to her as wife/niece/daughter/granddaughter was a bit unsettling to the point where I was a bit distracted from other aspects of the story.


message 11: by Mocha Drop (new)

Mocha Drop (mochadrop) | 212 comments Rashida wrote: "To this point I've elected not to read this book. I have a client with advanced dementia whose case continues to haunt me, and I've not felt the emotional wherewithal to tackle this subject matter..."

I thought this was the strongest point of the book - WM did an outstanding job depicting Ptolemy's descent into dementia...it was very well done, imo. I admired him taking it a step further and clearly painting the proverbial picture of their daily struggles (literally hostage in their own homes/neighborhoods; victims of abuse/bullies; cheated, mistreated, ignored by relatives and "the system," etc.). Mosley even paralleled Ptolemy's physically surroundings to the state of his mind. I liked that aspect along with the flashbacks (to an extent)....


message 12: by S (new)

S | 17 comments Beverly wrote: "I too have read most of Walter Mosley's work and agree with what has been said about his work. I appreciate that Mosley is able to write across genre and his message is still on point for an issue ..."

OMGosh!

After reading your comment, this reality became clear. I too enjoyed the book. Once I was further into the story, I didn't put the book down until the wee hours of the morn when I finished it. That said, during the entire time I was reading, there was always a constant feeling of amiss, as if something was missing (maybe that's why I read so feverishly).

What was missing for me - fully developed (ok, even somewhat developed) female characters. I hadn't realized it until your comment. How subtle Mosely passes this along in his novel. The only female character development limited to sexuality. For an author as skilled as Mosley, I think it is intentional. Could it be insight into the man himself; and if so, what life experiences caused such a thing.

This reality (compounded by it subtlety) really diminishes my enjoyment of the book. What a shame.


message 13: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2883 comments Mod
Mocha Girl wrote: "Rashida wrote: "To this point I've elected not to read this book. I have a client with advanced dementia whose case continues to haunt me, and I've not felt the emotional wherewithal to tackle thi..."

I agree that how WM writes about dementia is what held my interest in the book. This was insightful to me and worth the read. At times I have the ability to scan or not focus on the aspects of the story that did not come together and when story turned "sexual" between Ptolemy and Robyn just quickly read over the words.


message 14: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2883 comments Mod
Christine wrote: "Great comments, everyone. I would like to respond more in-depth to people's comments on the representation of women in Mosley's work and hopefully will get to do so later. In the meantime, I'd like..."

I read this book several months ago so some of the events may be fuzzy and as nothing sticks out in my mind about this beginning - then I would say - I did not think it strange. This was an old man with dementia where his mind drifted in and out and probably thought the statement was not strange. In itself it is not a statement that is strange onto itself. These types of comments are not necessarily strange in our society or in other cultures. To me - it curious in societies where the female has a choice - on their various reactions and how they behavior to these statements.


message 15: by Hazel (last edited Mar 05, 2011 06:34AM) (new)

Hazel | 191 comments Christine wrote: "Great comments, everyone. I would like to respond more in-depth to people's comments on the representation of women in Mosley's work and hopefully will get to do so later. In the meantime, I'd like..."

I've just started, and am trying to catch up with the rest of you. :-)

One question: I notice several nicknames for Ptolemy, in which the p-sound is prominent. Would the P be sounded in the US? ie puh-tolemy/peh-tolemy rather than tolemy?

The beginning didn't surprise/confuse me either. I didn't have preconceptions about the relationship, and it seems quite 'normal' for someone to say: if our ages were different you'd be a perfect wife, because you've taken such good care of me. Caregivers often get that kind of response.

I'm noticing the 'sexual undertones' as Grey notices how attractive Robyn is, and Robyn tests his reaction to her. I'd agree that Mosley's women are often largely the objects of male sexuality. I don't like that. :-)


message 16: by William (last edited Mar 10, 2011 06:13AM) (new)

William (be2lieve) | 1319 comments Mod
Just picked up the book from the library yesterday and am already half way through. Quite a breezy enjoyable read so far. Especially given the subject matter and the difficulty and challenge of portraying a protagonist in the grip of advancing dementia. But Mosley is deft so far. I really enjoyed the scene where we find out just why Reggie has been missing these last few weeks and the comical beat downs that Melinda suffers from Ptolemy's protectors. Robyn is not yet a fully developed character, just Ptolemys girl Friday and sometime sexual tease, but I'm assuming that as she moves into a more central role that her back story will become an integral part of this tale.


message 17: by Yolo (new)

Yolo (notoriousspinks) | 15 comments William wrote: "Just picked up the book from the library yesterday and am already half way through. Quite a breezy enjoyable read so far. Especially given the subject matter and the difficulty and challenge of por..."

I picked my copy up from the library this week as well. I like how he adds some comical moments to lighten the mood of dealing with dementia. My grandmother has it and she can say the darnedest things and other times she can be just as difficult and untrusting as Ptolemy.


message 18: by George (new)

George | 763 comments my copy just arrived this week as well. I'd have to echo William's comments so far as I'm concerned. I know others have had other feelings, but I haven't read them beyond the first line or so. but I'll go back and read them all once I've finished, probably by the weekend.


message 19: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3846 comments Mod
Ptolemy's relationship/friendship with Robyn although somewhat  squirm-inducing, was not my biggest problem with this book. I'm not a prude in the least bit but I must admit some of the situations made me a bit uncomfortable. I'm not certain if that was the author's intent or not but whether it was or not it just didn't work well for me. This has to be the first WM novel that I felt perfectly comfortable not finishing - however, I soldiered on.

Such a prolific author he already has a chance to redeem himself with the 3rd installment of the Leonid McGill series out now?


message 20: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3846 comments Mod
Regarding Mosley's female characters - Christine wrote:

"And I have to agree, a lot of his female characters are there to stoke the sexual desires of the main character and they don't always have more going on than that. I wonder if that is something Mosley intends, or if he's just so focused on presenting the story that the fleshing out of female characters just doesn't feel as important."

Reading a WM (crime) novel, I expect to find female characters written as sexual objects -only. But, it wouldn't be unlike most or many other male crime novelists. I guess I feel some what guilty not really recognizing that until Beverly brought it up. We tend to overlook that aspect for the sake of the story. Is that fair? Does Mosley deserve a pass on this?


message 21: by Hazel (new)

Hazel | 191 comments Columbus wrote: "Reading a WM (crime) novel, I expect to find female characters written as sexual objects -only. But, it wouldn't be unlike most or many other male crime novelists. I guess I feel some what guilty not really recognizing that until Beverly brought it up. We tend to overlook that aspect for the sake of the story. Is that fair? Does Mosley deserve a pass on this? ..."

Nope. He can do better.

My suspicion, having finished the book now, is that it is Mosley's preoccupation with women as sex objects that we see, in the way female characters respond to Ptolemy; from Robin to Ms Wring to the psychiatrist. Along with this is the wish-fulfillment intergenerational sexuality; not just Robyn and Ptolemy, but Robyn's earlier experience as well. Of course, it's always the old man and the nubile young woman/girl. In Ptolemy's case, the unwashed, unkempt, living in a slovenly apartment, dementing old man; but for some reason, he's attractive to a fetching young thing. And it's not because she's after his money. Yeah. Right.

No. No pass from me. :-)


message 22: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3846 comments Mod
Christine wrote:

"Can you elaborate on what made you want to quit the book? Are you glad you finished, despite reservations? "

Christine, more than the awkward situations between Ptolemy and Robyn the story didn't really click for me. I had reservations prior to the books release when I read the synopsis.  I was afraid of reading another sentimental  or schmaltzy journey about a serious disease or disorder, rather conventional and with a feel-good conclusion. Although, it wasn't that entirely, the book was still rather mundane and boring to me.  Not what you expect from Walter Mosley. But, as Mocha Girl mentioned in an earlier posting, his books are no longer automatic purchases or reads for me. It's almost imperative that I read an excerpt from the book followed by a strong recommendation from someone I have divine faith in.

Yes, I'm glad I finished the book if only because I enjoy the discussions. Also, even though I didn't enjoy this story I love Mosley's Los Angeles. The city is alway's a part of the story. Love it!  Also, it's very, very rare that I will start a book and not finish it. The last book I started w/o completing was Susan Straight's, I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen.... I just could not finish that book for some reason although I know of people who really enjoyed it.


message 23: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3846 comments Mod
Christine, Despite not enjoying Ptolemy I'm gonna take a chance on the Leonid McGill series with the first book in the installment. Just requested it from my local library  The new book, When the Thrill is Gone
received a good review from Booklist and a starred review in Publisher's Weekly. Apparently, they feel it's the best yet in this young series. I thought I read somewhere that he intends to write ten McGill books in total.


message 24: by S (new)

S | 17 comments Columbus wrote: "Regarding Mosley's female characters - Christine wrote:

"And I have to agree, a lot of his female characters are there to stoke the sexual desires of the main character and they don't always have ..."


A pass???!!! Are people today trying so hard to be civilized that such atrocities are overlooked, passable?

Mosely's portrayal of Black women is no different than the views of slave owners – worth only of their sexuality. I wonder if this type of portrayal of Black women would be so easily accepted if the writer was White? The fact that it's a Black man writing about Black women this way should make it even more appalling. It is only when we as a race stops portraying this depiction, that the world will also. And then maybe, just maybe, a Halle Berry could have won Best Actress for a truly critical work of art.

I don't know about other women, but I am MUCH more than my sexuality, as much as it is a part of me. To reduce me to this only, is demeaning and offensive, and should never be accepted on any level.


message 25: by Blue (new)

Blue (topazamber) Christine wrote: "TEA wrote: "Ptolemy has my heart already. I won't put this one down for long. What does Ptolemy mean? Is it an Egyptian term or something???? I don't know how to pronounce it."

I think it's pron..."


Thanks, Christine.


message 26: by Blue (new)

Blue (topazamber) Christine wrote: "Hi everyone. I really enjoyed this latest novel by Walter Mosley. Before we delve into the novel itself, I wanted to mention some of my previous experiences with Mosley. I've read most of his Easy ..."

I'm familiar with some of the Easy Rawlins series. Not familiar with Leonid... or his nonfiction books. I would love to hear him speak. I don't doubt you enjoyed it.


message 27: by Blue (new)

Blue (topazamber) Christine wrote: "Hi everyone. I really enjoyed this latest novel by Walter Mosley. Before we delve into the novel itself, I wanted to mention some of my previous experiences with Mosley. I've read most of his Easy ..."

I enjoyed the whole novel. I was shocked by the ending. I'm scared to talk about it don't want to give a spoiler.


message 28: by Blue (new)

Blue (topazamber) Christine wrote: "For those who enjoyed the book, what in general did you like about it? I enjoyed it because I felt for Ptolemy and Robyn and my empathy for them grew stronger as the story progressed. I had no idea..."

I also liked the relationship between Ptolemy G. and Robyn. I didn't think his relationship with Wring would end up positive, but it did end up very comfy on the couch. At first, at the bank, I thought she was up to no good.

I also would have liked getting to know Reggie on my own rather than just hearing about him from other characters in the book. Then, he was gone. I think Mosley stole my chance to make a personal opinion about his great nephew or nephew.


message 29: by Blue (new)

Blue (topazamber) Christine wrote: "Great comments, everyone. I would like to respond more in-depth to people's comments on the representation of women in Mosley's work and hopefully will get to do so later. In the meantime, I'd like..."

I always thought the sexual overtones were just comic between the two, Robyn and Ptolemy. Those words fifty years and twenty years appeared more than once in the conversation. I think it was a way for both people to say we like each other and our relationship is just a friendship. I think it's still hard for society to see a man and woman as just friends. Even if the age difference is huge there is still discomfort when two people, male and female get together. It just has got to be sexual in thought or action. Really??? I don't think.


message 30: by William (last edited Mar 16, 2011 07:24AM) (new)

William (be2lieve) | 1319 comments Mod
I think that there was the inevitable sexual tension that would almost surely develope between a not quite dead yet older guy and a young nubile teen with great legs and a derriere that makes most chairs rejoice. But Mosley keeps the story from degenerating into dirty old man, pedophile territory by showing the restraint and dignity of Ptolemy even in the grips of temptation. He also rises above painting Robyn as the evil temptress by explaining her familial abuse and deprived upbringing. It is not uncommon for children of abuse to be drawn to an older man for protection and stability. They were both very damaged goods drawn to each other.
I think that when Mosley writes crime fiction he may not spend the time writing fully developed female characters. But this is usually the par for the course in all crime fiction other than in those novels written by females. This is a much different story than his usual hard boiled plots and I felt that at least with Robyn that I know and identify with some young women that are very much like her.


message 31: by William (new)

William (be2lieve) | 1319 comments Mod
Yup, thats what I'm saying...unless they were related or gay. Why do you say this book could have done without the sexual component? It would not have been half as interesting if Mosley didn't keep you guessing how far he was going to go with it.


message 32: by George (new)

George | 763 comments Perhaps Mosley is saying there's always a sexual component in relations between men and women, regardless of what is said and done, or not. It didn't dominate Ptolemy's relationship with Robyn for various reasons, but it still existed. It certainly wasn't the basis of Robyn's feelings for Ptolemy but it wasn't nonexistant.But there was a real sense of selflessness in their relations with each other that probably couldn't have existed had there been a more overt sexual relationship between them.

I'd have to say all in all, I really liked the story and I'm glad to have read the book. Mosley does an outstanding job of making the senile Ptolemy a real person one can empathize with and relate to. Try Nobel prize winning author William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury sometime and get back to me. Then, of course we get to see what he was like when he was in control of himself. I didn't find the ending surprising at all, I was just happy to see he was able to accomplish everything he set out to do before he checked out. A happy ending all around.


message 33: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments I'm always a bit unhappy with Mosley's take on women. I absolutely hated what he did with Easy Rawlins' relationship in the last few books of that series. In his books, the only good women are very young or very old - everyone else is unfaithful or out for the money. I guess that at this point, I've come to expect this attitude from Mosley. The question for Mosley always seems to be, "Given the corruption and racism of the world, what does a good man do?" For me, the answer for Ptolmey was made a little too simple by the presence of a fortune in gold and a helpful Jewish community to help him arrange for its dispersal. I was left wondering what Ptolmey would have done during his last days of clarity if, like the rest of us, he hadn't had a secret fortune.


message 34: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments Christine wrote: "I've read Mosley's Diablerie: A Novel and Killing Johnny Fry: A Sexistential Novel, ..."

Brave woman! Should I bite the bullet and give them a try?


message 35: by George (new)

George | 763 comments hmm. well, it's been quite a while since I"ve read any of the Easy Rawlin's books or much of Mosley at all, so for me this book came as a pleasant surprise. As I said, this one has a "happy" ending, and the actual pot of gold at the end of the rainbow certainly makes that much easier. as for the Jewish merchants, for me it was interesting to see both Arabs and Jews as more or less equal friends to Ptolemy, both perhaps attracted to his "Egyptian" origins and obviously in his earlier life he mixed equally with both. but it never hurts to have fistfulls of gold, or so I would imagine, having little enough of my own. It was interesting to see Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead make a guest appearance at the very end. hadn't really expected that.


message 36: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3846 comments Mod
Well, suffice it to say, this isn't the first time Mosley has been taken to task for the representation of his female characters. This has been the topic of conversation in other forums as well. I wonder if he has real difficulty writing strong women characters or if he just feels his books will sell despite it and its just a classic case of hubris? I don't know.

Christine wrote: "There are certainly racial undertones with Ptolemy's insistence that the doctor is the devil, which I thought was interesting but little heavy-handed."

Christine, there were certainly "racial undertones" there. But, I thought Mosley did a good job with it. With so many black men still being fearful of doctors for cultural and historical reasons, I appreciated the fact he touched on that. Here's a case where being a little "heavy-handed" is accepted.


message 37: by George (new)

George | 763 comments Well, of course there is no shortage of racial overtones in the book. Can't say I found any of them "heavy-handed" or particularly objectionable really. I found the attitude of non-white equality or solidarity interesting, as in the conversation with the driver. Very old school Southern attitude, where one was either white, or not.


message 38: by Lori (new)

Lori (lorijohnson) | 24 comments While I read and enjoyed the book, I wasn't particularly comfortable with the sexual tension between Robyn and Ptolemy either. The scene Christine mentions, the one where Ptolemy is spying on Robyn and her boyfriend, struck me as over-kill when I intially read it. In a discussion with a couple of other friends about the book, I said the scene seemed like an unnecessary one you'd see tacked on in a movie.

But this morning, as I reading an article about Alzheimer's it struck me that there are certain things folks suffering from dementia don't seem to forget. Having dealt with those suffering from the ailment in my own family, I know from experience that they don't forget how to cuss *lol* and they don't necessarily lose their awareness of or interest in sex.

My own family still chuckles about the find we made after my grandfather's passing. He'd suffered with Alzheimer's for years, and after his passing we discovered he'd kept a stash of Jet magazines underneath the house. Tucked inside of the mags were $1 and $5 dollar bills. Based on the location of the bills, we concluded he must have looked upon the money as gifts for his girlfriends--the bathing suit clad models in the Jet centerfolds. :-)

Perhaps, Mosley's aim was to show, not only that Ptolemy maintained an interest in sex even though he was suffering from dementia, but that sometimes it revealed itself in ways that were unpredicatable and/or somewhat socially unacceptable . . .


message 39: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments I agree, Lori - many elderly people, with and without dementia, retain an interest in sex with the added bonus of losing a sense of restraint about appropriate behavior. Nursing home populations have interesting romantic dynamics!

Several people have mentioned that Mosley is no longer on their "must-read" list. He's still on mine, although he writes so many books that I'm a bit behind. I think that I still want to read his books because he always poses interesting questions in his writing and I don't feel that I'm just reading a variation on a frequently used theme. Sometimes he falls flat on his face, but often he succeeds. In spite of my qualms about his depiction of women, I liked this book because this was a story that I hadn't heard before.

I started reading Mosley way back when Devil in a Blue Dress first came out. I enjoy a good mystery series, and the Easy Rawlins series was one of my favorites. But I started thinking - for a while, there were a number of good African American mystery series out, but apart from Mosley's new series, I could only think of one with new books still being published. That one is the Tennyson Hardwick series by Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, and Blair Underwood, the most recent of which is From Cape Town with Love. Are there any others that I'm missing?


message 40: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3846 comments Mod
There's also Persia Walker's, Harlem Renaissance Series: Harlem Redux: A Novel; Darkness and the Devil Behind Me; Black Orchid Blues Haven't read them yet but I intend to.


message 41: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments Columbus wrote: "There's also Persia Walker's, Harlem Renaissance Series: Harlem Redux: A Novel; Darkness and the Devil Behind Me; Black Orchid Blues Haven't read them ..."

I haven't either. I'll have to hunt them down!


message 42: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments Christine wrote: "I use the term "heavy-handed" specifically in regard to Ptolemy's insistence that this doctor is the devil. Ptolemy says this over and over, and I just kept thinking that I get it, I know Ptolemy is handing over his life to this man he doesn't trust, I know this man is white and he's not happy with the inequality inherent in the situation. Does he have to hit us over the head with this word, devil devil devil devil devil?..."

I wonder whether Ptolmey might not have called a Black doctor "the devil" if he had offered Ptolmey a similar deal, Christine. I don't doubt that Mosley wanted to evoke the image of medical experiments that have been performed on Black people in the past, but to me, the offer to exchange a longer life with dementia for a shorter one with a clear mind would have been a "deal with the devil", no matter who offered it.


message 43: by Maegen (new)

Maegen (maegenr) | 44 comments I really enjoyed this book. I didn't think I would based on the subject matter, but I thought Moseley handled it with care. This is only the second book of his that I've read, so I can't speak to his pattern with female characters. I wasn't bothered by the sexual tension between Ptolemy and Robyn. In fact, I found it bit humanizing, a reminder that in spite of the mental chaos happening in Ptolemny's head, their is still a desire for what is natural to us all, even if displayed a bit inappropriately.


message 44: by William (last edited Mar 24, 2011 05:18PM) (new)

William (be2lieve) | 1319 comments Mod
The Coy character was certainly a great addition to the book. His role was almost as central to the story development as was Robyn. His tragedy was shared and served as a catalyst to most of the action in the book...What was the treasure that he bequeathed Ptolemy was question that kept the pages turning for me...that the treasure was dipped in the blood of ancestors was a heartening resolve. That Coy's mentoring and parenting proved to impact Ptolemy to the extent that it did...providing him with the smarts and armor to survive not only his time but also in his foggy old age was a delicious and heart warming element. And his sayings and wisdom nuggets cracked me up!


message 45: by George (new)

George | 763 comments very hard not to like Coy.


message 46: by Rashida (new)

Rashida | 264 comments Coy's character seemed very familiar to me as I was reading. The other character that just jumped in my head was Curly from a A Taste of Honey: Stories. But it actually made me think: Is it possible to have a magical negro in a book full of black folk written by a black man?


message 47: by Hazel (last edited Mar 27, 2011 08:43AM) (new)

Hazel | 191 comments Rashida wrote: "Coy's character seemed very familiar to me as I was reading. The other character that just jumped in my head was Curly from a A Taste of Honey: Stories. But it actually made me thi..."

Where thou need'st the magical negro, thou shalt find him. :-)

Yes, a very familiar character.


message 48: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments Christine wrote: "Coy's story was definitely sad and heart-wrenching, but that he passed so much wisdom, treasure, joy, and adventure to Ptolemy provides a very hopeful picture. This was another example for me of Mosley's ability to paint male relationships with empathy and understanding...."

Always a strong point in Mosley's books - Easy and Mouse; Paris and Fearless...


message 49: by Lori (new)

Lori (lorijohnson) | 24 comments I hope it's okay if I interject a question here. :-) It's been a while since I read the book, but if I'm not mistaken doesn't Ptolemy's daughter (biological) show up at his door at one point? I think it was a memory, a flashback of sorts. But I couldn't help but wonder what became of the child and why she didn't remain a part of his life. It seemed like a loose end. I'm wondering if I missed something?


message 50: by Rashida (new)

Rashida | 264 comments Lori, I wondered about her as well. Although, with Ptolemy being the age that he is, I think I just figured that he outlived her. Christine- my memory is that it was never put to the test but the physical resemblance was so great that he didn't deny her. he sent her away because Sensia didn't want children, but then Sensia saw her, immediately understood the situation, and they took her in. I don't think we learn more about that situation. It does seem to be a bit of a hanging chad, doesn't it?


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