Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin

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Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: As adept at catching the contemporary mood as he ever was, Maupin sounds warm, witty and wise in this nostalgic book. Eschewing the wild coincidences for the more sedate events of middle age, this is perhaps less laugh-out-loud funny than Tales Of The City, but it's just as heart-warming.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: June 2007
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 978-0385612401

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Michael Tolliver's getting on a bit these days. It's been almost twenty years since we saw him last. In the intervening years, he's cheated death by virus, gained some weight, a bulging medicine cabinet, a bigger sense of introspection, and, most importantly, a husband. Michael's thoughts are dominated by his relationship with Ben. Whatever's going on around him, his thoughts always return to his profound sense of gratitude for this mutually-fulfilling May to September - he's not quite December yet, after all - relationship. Michael has learned to love the daily routines of life, learned to savour them, treasure them. And for two hundred and something pages, this is what he does, taking the odd excursion to tend to his dying mother, rebuild a tentative relationship with his homophobic, god-fearing brother, and take care of Anna Madrigal, his erstwhile landlady and logical - not biological - mother.

When I heard Armistead Maupin was going to revisit Barbary Lane, I was suffused with a glow of the kind of benign nostalgia Michael Tolliver resonates throughout Michael Tolliver Lives. Seldom have books been so loved as were all the volumes in his best-selling Tales of the City series. Wildly silly, laugh out loud funny, irresistibly naughty, they caught the sense of the times for both those who were there and those who were not. They wormed their kindly way into the hearts of everyone who read them, gay, straight and even, perhaps especially, straight-laced alike.

Michael Tolliver lives is slightly different to those that went before - Maupin insists it's not a belated continuation of the series, but rather the beginning of something new. And it is. It lacks the crazy pacing, the outrageous coincidences. It's a first person narration. It's slower, calmer, more still. Times have changed. Michael - and Maupin - are September boys now and Michael Tolliver Lives reflects this. I think it may disappoint some readers, but, as I hurtle towards those September days myself, it didn't disappoint me. It just felt... right. The belly laughs have turned to slightly rueful chuckles. Meandering off into the haze of one's thoughts before getting around to turning the page feels... right. I felt as though Michael and I had been moving in similar directions.

And this, ultimately, is the sweet, undeniable attraction of these books about gay life in San Francisco. They are about something supposedly different, but what you find in this discrete bunch of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals, transgendered MTFs, transgendered FTMs and born-again Christians is resonance. Under the skin, we're all the same - but trite as the phrase may be, we are not trite. We are, um, I don't know, worthy. Maupin makes us feel worthy. It's a gift to be envied.

won't hear a word said against these books. Not a word. And I do hope we see another one soon.

My thanks to the kind people at Transworld for sending the book and allowing me to reacquaint myself with Barbary Lane.

Those who like this kind of witty, warm, generous writing might enjoy Fup by Jim Dodge and Holes by Louis Sachar.

Booklists.jpg Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin is in the Top Ten Books For Your Auntie.

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Buy Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin at Amazon.com.


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Magda said:

Another one of those things that I managed never to have heard of.

Jill replied:

Blimey! The first books are absolutely delightful.