Thomas Murphy by Roger Rosenblatt

The acclaimed, award-winning essayist and memoirist returns to fiction with this reflective, bittersweet tale of love, loss, and wonder in the life of the irrepressible aging poet,Thomas Murphy

Trying to weasel out of an appointment with the neurologist that his only child, Máire, has cornered him into, the poet Thomas Murphy— exuberant singer of the oldies; friend of the down-and-out; tough, honest, and all-around good guy—contemplates his sunset years.

Máire worries that Murph is losing his memory. Murph wonders what to do with the rest of his life. The older mind is at issue—as he belts out, standing in his skivvies in his apartment house courtyard, “What are you doing the rest of your life?” Even as he doubts it, Murph’s mind, full of wit, worry, meditation, and plain fun, is a creative traveler, jumping from fact to memory to a whole imagined universe. He conjures the islands that have shaped him: Manhattan, his longtime home, and Inishmaan, off the Irish coast, where the rocks and the sea gave him poetry. He muses on the dead: Oona, his wife of fiftysome years, and Greenberg, his best friend. He embraces the living: his scolding, loving daughter and William, his grandson, a small and delicious replica of himself. Into his life, under bizarre circumstances, comes Sarah, less than half his age and blind, who sees into his heart. Murph finds his querulous self capable of intimacy again with a woman who too has edges, and a story of her own. They are drawn to each other by words and loneliness and, most significantly, by a shared attitude that “looks” outward toward joy, beauty, and the suffering world—what to do with the rest of one’s life.

Praise for Roger Rosenblatt

“To enter the world of this wonderful memoir is to leave the dull certainties of home and go wandering. The author’s destination is always the great wide world Out There, and through his sharp, compact prose, Roger Rosenblatt takes the reader with him. . . . In this extended essay, at once a memoir and a meditation on the literary form itself, Rosenblatt writes the way a great jazz musician plays, moving from one emotion to another, playing some with a dose of irony, others with joy, and a few with pain and melancholy (the blues, of course).”—Pete Hamill for the New York Times Book Review

“Beautiful sentences spill out such as, ‘Everyone dwells in one past or another, and to a greater or lesser extent, is ruled by it.’ A hallmark of memoir is the self now reflecting on the self then. This book pulls off the high wire feat of illuminating that double identity . . . deliciously satisfying.”—New York Journal of Books

“By opening up his own heart and mind, Rosenblatt creates a work so diverse and comprehensive that it feels more like a shared dream than merely an intricately written reflection of one man’s life and loves.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The book is rich with recollections and with the lush wanderings of memory and imagination . . . a characteristically eloquent and multiply rewarding book.”—Washington Post

“With the beautiful, lyrical writing and thoughtful reflection for which he is known, Rosenblatt offers beautifully rendered memories of childhood and ongoing curiosity about the city he so obviously loves.”—Booklist