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Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin
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Michael Tolliver Lives (2007)

by Armistead Maupin

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As the first chapter opens, it is 2006, and Mike, at 55, is surprised to be alive. Twenty years ago he was certain that he would die of AIDS; now, much to his own bewilderment, he’s thriving, thanks to “a fine-tuned mélange of Viramune and Combivir.” Life is good for Mike: he owns his own house, runs a successful business as a gardener and landscape architect, and was recently married to Ben, who is handsome, charming and 21 years his junior.

And yet, let’s not forget that we’re in Armistead Maupin’s San Francisco. Thus Mike’s burly assistant, a self-proclaimed “bear cub” named Jake Greenleaf, turns out to be a female-to-male transsexual with whom Mike once had a gender-bending one-night stand. Mike found Ben, on the Internet, on a site devoted to older men and their admirers, on which Ben identified himself as CLEANCUTLAD4U. And their wedding was part of the communal ceremony that took place at San Francisco City Hall after the city declared marriage between same-sex couples legal, with Mayor Gavin Newsom presiding, “so young and handsome and ... neat ... that he actually looked like the man on top of a wedding cake.”

As for Anna Madrigal — the doyenne of Barbary Lane, played so memorably by Olympia Dukakis in the PBS adaptation of the series — she’s now 85, and has moved from her boarding house to a small apartment where she watches lovingly over the three young “trannies” upstairs. Along with Mike, she’s trying to keep an eye on Shawna, the daughter of Mike’s straight best friend, Brian. Shawna has grown up into a sort of Outward Bound explorer of the erotic wilderness, whose adventurings — recounted on a widely read blog — include a stint working at “the Lusty Lady, a peep show in North Beach that recently became the nation’s first worker-owned strip club.” Even the domestic bliss that Mike shares with Ben is distinctly San Franciscan in flavor, with Ben casually giving his older husband testosterone injections and the couple negotiating just how open they want their marriage to be. (“You’re too young to be monogamous,” Mike tells Ben. “And I’m too old.”)

Such, though, is life in the city that Mike’s Orlando-based relatives call “Sodom by the Bay” — a life whose audaciously self-conscious particularity Mike finds alternately delightful and exasperating. Reflecting on a restaurant menu’s description of ingredients as “artisanal” rather than “homemade,” he observes: “Sometimes Northern California just wears me ... down, and I get fed up with our precious patois, our fetishizing of almost everything.” It’s as if, for Maupin as much as for Mike, a certain malaise has settled in; as if “the City” they love so well, with its population of latex fetishists, foot worshipers and people who like to have sex in clown costumes, has started to seem even to them a little too, well, cute.
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Light, not terribly involving story of the now 50+ Barbary Lane characters. The heralding and overly written angle of Michael's marriage to his young husband Ben seems a bit outdated given today's acceptance of "gay" marriage, which at the time of publication was a controversial. Still, Maupin's prose is fun to read and very witty. ( )
  dugmel | Jul 11, 2015 |
It was tough to reacquaint myself with my favorite Tales of the City characters now that they're in their 50s. But once I adjusted to the reality of aging, the book was really great. A bit less carefree than the earlier books, but the tone matches the series' new adulthood well. ( )
  brianinseattle | Oct 1, 2014 |
He's back!: Yeah, after all this time, Michael is back. This was a fun, quick read. It's great that Michael survived AIDS, and is a great catch-up on what has been happening in his (and his other friends) lives. This is a fun read and makes me long for more!
  lonepalm | Feb 5, 2014 |
(71) ( )
  activelearning | Oct 13, 2013 |
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Not long ago, down on Castro Street, a stranger in a Giants parka gave me a loaded glance as we passed each other in front of Cliff's Hardware.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060761350, Hardcover)

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 contem-porary 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:38 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Michael Tolliver, the sweet-spirited Southerner in Armistead Maupin's classic Tales of the City series, lives on in this novel about growing older joyfully. Almost twenty years after ending his saga of San Francisco life, author Maupin revisits his all-too-human hero, letting the 55-year-old gardener tell his own story. 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. This book 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. This stand-alone novel is accessible to new readers, while fans of Tales of the City will find a reassuring number of familiar faces.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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