Steven's Reviews > Michael Tolliver Lives

Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin
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Jul 01, 08

Read in June, 2008

With his trademark ear for contemporary dialog, and the other ear firmly planted on the ground, gleaning the latest issues from gay life in America, Armistead Maupin has again brought the world of San Francisco to life, and let the story of Michael "Mouse" Tolliver go forth into the new millennium. The book is fun and familiar, the only shift being in point-of-view, this being told in Michael's first person voice, as opposed to the more journalistic and omniscient narrator from the other "Tales of the City" installments. But, this is minor, as it was always Maupin's story to tell, with wit and a love for all of humanity, in all its permutations. The book doesn't shy away from current conflicts, mostly the divisive line between conservative Christians and the LGBT community as we struggle for equality; but, as always, it's the characters and their emotional interplay that take center stage, allowing the conflict of the country to be given a very personal face, which has always been Maupin's thesis: the personal is political, and therefore will get solved in personal relationships and the honesty that eventually comes out of relationship conflict. In other words, he makes you fall in love with the characters, knowing that once you love them, you'll follow them anywhere.
New readers will find the book works well on its own, as Maupin fills in the blanks enough to keep the story going without bogging it down. Devout readers will be satisfied with where most of the characters are taken, with the exception of one, which leads me to the one issue I had with the book. The series began with Mary Ann Singleton turning away from her Midwestern roots to find freedom in the free love 70s of California, and her character's presence is hardly felt in this book, in fact, her name isn't even mentioned until past the halfway point. The ending, which I'll be purposefully cryptic about, since most of the pleasure in Maupin's writing comes from his ability to turn personal dramas into mysterious tales, comes quickly, and is a bit rushed, so I was left wanting more. Luckily, in this edition, there's an interview with Maupin in the back in which he reveals he's working on a whole book about Mary Ann. I hope it's in her voice, as I think she and Michael were the two poles between which all of Maupin's characters fall. Until then, I'm left smiling from this read, but not entirely full.
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