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Michael Tolliver Lives: A Novel Hardcover – June 12, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Maupin denies that this is a seventh volume of his beloved Tales of the City, but—happily—that's exactly what it is, with style and invention galore. When we left the residents of 28 Barbary Lane, it was 1989, and Michael "Mouse" Tolliver was coping with the supposed death sentence of HIV. Now, improved drug cocktails have given him a new life, while regular shots of testosterone and doses of Viagra allow him a rich and inventive sex life with a new boyfriend, Ben, "twenty-one years younger than I am—an entire adult younger, if you must insist on looking at it that way." Number 28 Barbary Lane itself is no more, but its former tenants are doing well, for the most part, in diaspora. Michael's best friend, ladies' man Brian Hawkins, is back, and unprepared for his grown daughter, Shawna, a pansexual it-girl journalist à la Michelle Tea, to leave for a New York career. Mrs. Madrigal, the transsexual landlady, is still radiant and mysterious at age 85. Maupin introduces a dazzling variety of real-life reference points, but the story belongs to Mouse, whose chartings of the transgressive, multigendered sex trends of San Francisco are every bit as lovable as Mouse's original wet jockey shorts contest in the very first Tales, back in 1978. (June)
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Armistead Maupin and his popular Tales of the City series evolved from a mid-1970s column in the San Francisco Chronicle and, over the next decade, attracted a loyal following. Those readers, as well as newcomers to Maupin's fiction, are in for a treat with Michael Tolliver Lives. These loosely connected vignettes benefit from Maupin's engaging voice, though the pacing is a bit uneven in places and plot takes a back seat to well-drawn, likeable characters. Critics inevitable compare the novel to Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones books or Sex and the City, though Maupin generally does it better. First-timers should find the new installment engaging enough to go back to the early volumes.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
Top customer reviews
So now, thirteen years after I read the last book in the series, I was over the moon to see "Michael Tolliver Lives." But after reading two negative critic reviews, I was worried. Could this book measure up to my memories? Yes, and then some. "Michael Tolliver Lives" is different than the previous novels in the "Tales" series; this is one man's, first person narrative, unlike the multi-character structure of the other "Tales" books. But "Michael Tolliver Lives" is as wonderful, moving and beautiful as anything Maupin's ever written (quick plug for "Maybe the Moon.") Here are the characters we know and love. Times have changed, but Mouse and Brian and Anna Madrigal, the pot smoking landlady (and some others, but that'd be ruining the surprise) are here and take no time making us love them again.
As the title implies, this is Michael's (aka Mouse) tale. Mouse is as sharp as ever and his wry observations make you realize how much you've missed him. In this book, we learn more about his family: his mother, his brother, his sister in law, and see Michael come to an even deeper understanding of the role he's played in his family's life, and outside of it. This part of the book was one that stayed with me; some of Michael's thoughts are exactly where I have been at times, and that recognition really got to me. (Another nice moment of identification for me is when Michael cites the scene in "Poltergeist" when JoBeth Williams feels her daughter's soul move through her. I thought I was the only one who appreciates that scene.) The novel also reflects the crazy times we live in, as Maupin has always done from the hedonistic 70s to the Reagan 80s to now. It's nice to know that we're all in this together. It's been indescribably wonderful to catch up with our old friends (I've grown to love the pot smoking landlady immensely and wish I'd "known" her personally) and see how they've been surviving. In these post-9/11 years, we need our friends from Barbary Lane. And here they are.
Let us try again. When we first meet Mouse he has been free of his Florida, Anita Bryant like family for long enough to have some freedom to be his homosexual self. He is openly gay, not apologetic and not about to let anyone make him feel apologetic. As mature as his self-acceptance is, he is more of a teenager in how operates as a gay person. He is perhaps too determined to not be alone on any given night, too concerned with his image among possible lovers and one almost expects him to play out middle school games by having someone carry messages to a possible boyfriend and checking to see if he likes him first.
One of the strengths of Maupin's characters is that they mature over time. Sometimes characters mature as a result of immediate crises, and sometimes due to the ways that the real world can demand maturation. Over time Michael, no long Mouse to me, will deal with life threatening medical issues with one lone time lover, AIDs as a killer of friends and an immediate threat to his own survival. These things will promote the emergence of an adult man. Michael Tolliver is a likable character, and develops into a better adult.
In Michael Tolliver lives, we meet the fully mature person. He has completed his growth into a responsible adult homosexual man. HIV has him on a strictly regimented life. His relationship with a much your man, Ben is a mature one, peculiar to them but stable, frisky and loving.
There are two clear parts to this book. Michael of California the independent adult and the Michael the son of a right wing family back in Florida. This second part is the majority of the book. Michael and Ben will travel to Florida as his mother is now very ill. If there is going to be a reconciliation it has to be soon.
Yes there are special issued between a conservative family and a politically left gay son. These particulars of these issues are played out. Background to these conflicts is a country not a liberal as the swinging San Francisco of Barbary Lane days. This allows for much of the same sharp humor and insights that are part of the depth of the Tolliver character and the awareness of the author.
As happy as I was to see another volume in the Tales of Books, Michael Tolliver Lives was a letdown. Armistead Maupin writes as well as ever, but there was a darkness and a determination to judge that seems one sided. Michael has cause to insist on his point of view and on his `rightness" I just felt that Maupin rather stacked the deck. Michael is arrayed against a family that comes off as having too few redeeming features. Taken as individuals, they seem to come from the same family but there is too high of a concentration of faults, weaknesses and etc. This may make Michael more sympathetic but it also makes preferring him too easy.
I and most fans of these books already like `Mouse' he did not have to be the only normal one in his family.
As a fan of these books I had to read this one, and my criticism aside it is worth reading. Technically it works as a standalone. To fully understand references and the various secondary characters, one should have read the initial trilogy. This book has a last of the series feel to it, but there is another and I think a better one, The Days of Anna Madrigal.
Be advised. Part of the message of this book is that Homosexuals deserve respect and are everything any human is. This means their personalities and sexuality are matters to be respected. Respect to a writer means having these aspects part of the story. Maupin is never pornographic, but he can be graphic. Michael Tolliver Lives is more deliberately sexual others.
Most recent customer reviews
If you're new to the series or Maupin's work in general, definitely recommend going back...Read more