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Michael Tolliver Lives: A Novelby Armistead Maupin
Synopses & Reviews
Michael Tolliver, the sweet-spirited Southerner in Armistead Maupin's classic Tales of the City series, is arguably one of the most widely loved characters in contemporary fiction. Now, almost twenty years after ending his ground-breaking saga of San Francisco life, Maupin revisits his all-too-human hero, letting the fifty-five-year-old gardener tell his story in his own voice.
Having survived the plague that took so many of his friends and lovers, Michael has learned to embrace the random pleasures of life, the tender alliances that sustain him in the hardest of times. Michael Tolliver Lives follows its protagonist as he finds love with a younger man, attends to his dying fundamentalist mother in Florida, and finally reaffirms his allegiance to a wise octogenarian who was once his landlady.
Though this is a stand-alone novel — accessible to fans of Tales of the City and new readers alike — a reassuring number of familiar faces appear along the way. As usual, the author's mordant wit and ear for pitch-perfect dialogue serve every aspect of the story — from the bawdy to the bittersweet. Michael Tolliver Lives is a novel about the act of growing older joyfully and the everyday miracles that somehow make that possible.
"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 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)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"It all boils down to this line: 'Hey ... the nipple toys have arrived from eBay.' If you get a kick out of that sentence, odds are you'll also get a kick out of Armistead Maupin's new novel, 'Michael Tolliver Lives.' But if that sentence — and roughly 8,000 other of its kind — isn't your cup of tea, then you should probably drink somewhere else. Maupin is rightfully praised... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) as the father of rooster lit (although, on the basis of this novel, perhaps the term 'daddy of rooster lit' would be preferred). His 'Tales of the City' books (this is the ninth, including collections) are amazing for their humor and humanity — which is why this book is so disappointing. The dust jacket claims that Michael Tolliver is 'arguably one of the most widely loved characters in contemporary fiction.' I must confess: I don't really love him widely, at least not on the basis of this novel. The man known as Mouse in the earlier books is now Michael (sometimes Mikey), a 55-year-old who came to grips with his mortality when he almost died of AIDS, only to find himself belonging to 'this sweet confederacy of survivors,' where men meet in front of the hardware store and talk of love and death and sex. Michael has a new, 33-year-old boyfriend whose character is so incredibly generic that Maupin might as well have named him Boyfriend. (Their sex is great, by the way. And if you doubt it, Maupin both shows and tells.) The plot, such as it is, revolves around two of Michael's mother figures. His biological mother, Alice, is dying. (You can tell because she's in a hospice, fluctuating between being a 'pink puffer' and a 'blue bloater.') His 'logical' mother, Anna, is also sick. (You can tell because she keeps speaking ... very ominously ... about ... not being around ... anymore.) Alice's illness requires Michael to confront the members of his family, each a different stripe of Christian conservative (and none of them at all becoming — this book has little empathy for the other side). Anna's illness requires the old gang from 'tales of the City' to reunite — a ninth-inning big chill that will leave readers unfamiliar with the series decidedly cold. At one point, the death story line threatens to turn the novel into a very special 'Designing Women' episode about Terri Schiavo. But then Maupin backs away, more content to discuss the joys of Boyfriend and the logistics of having a threesome with a 50-year-old black man in camouflage. (Ends up he's Alice's hairdresser. Small world.) The amount of sex Michael Tolliver has is nothing short of miraculous. Not because of his age (55 ain't that old) or his HIV-positive status or his stamina (helped along by Viagra and testosterone injections). No, what's incredible is that Michael Tolliver can maneuver his body under the huge chip on his shoulder. About George W. Bush. About the Iraq war. And particularly about how old he feels. 'The world is changing way too fast for me. ... No sooner have I mastered one set of directions than another comes along to replace it. It's getting harder and harder to keep up with what's going down. My only solace lies in something Anna once told me: '"You don't have to keep up, dear. You just have to keep open."' Sadly, Michael doesn't seem to have taken Anna's good advice. It's rather stunning that a book that features strippers, sex toys and a Baptist retreat called Blowing Rock would make me think of Larry McMurtry and John Updike. But sure enough, Maupin seems to have made his own premature contribution to the canon of Cranky Old Man fiction. This makes for some great lines, but not necessarily for great company. I hope Michael Tolliver continues to live, and that he and Boyfriend enjoy their shipment from eBay. Ultimately, Maupin's novel is not unlike a nipple toy. Some people will be really into it. Some people won't get it. And some people won't find it as exciting as they did when they ordered it." Reviewed by Richard Lipez, who writes detective fiction under the name Richard StevensonLisa Zeidner, a professor at Rutgers University in Camden; her latest novel is 'Layover'Carolyn See, who can be reached at www.carolynsee.comDavid Levithan, the author of 'Boy Meets Boy' and 'Wide Awake', Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"[C]harming, heartwarming....This is a kind of wrapping-up novel, but also a giving-thanks one....Sweet without being sappy." Booklist (Starred Review)
"An affirmation of growing older and wiser that gives hope to those trying to appreciate what they have while staying true to themselves, this novel is a graceful coda to the series. Recommended." Library Journal
"Maupin's writing style is both breezy and humorous, which makes the sadder moments all the more poignant." Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The internationally bestselling author of Tales of the City revisits his gay Everyman from the series, allowing the 55-year-old Michael Tolliver to tell his story in his own voice. Brimming with gentle insights about the human condition, this is a novel about the act of growing older joyfully.
About the Author
Armistead Maupin is the author of Tales of the City, More Tales of the City, Further Tales of the City, Babycakes, Significant Others, Sure of You, Maybe the Moon, and The Night Listener. Three television miniseries starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney were made from the first three Tales novels. The Night Listener became a feature film starring Robin Williams and Toni Collette. Maupin lives in San Francisco with his husband, Christopher Turner.
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