Wednesday, June 13, 2007

After Barbary Lane

Yesterday was the official release of Michael Tolliver Lives, by Armistead Maupin. For those of you who need a little refresher, Michael Tolliver, affectionately known as "Mouse," is one of the main characters in Maupin's Tales of the City line of novels, which were groundbreaking on their own and, on a personal level, were my introduction and sense of connection to a larger gay culture that predated me. The latest book takes place roughly 20 years since Sure Of You, the last of the Tales of the City line.

Maupin has insisted that this book isn't the 7th Tales of the City novel and after having read it, I'm inclined to agree with him. While Mouse emerged as my favorite character of the myriad of personalities involved, I feel like the hallmark of the original series was that it inter-weaved the lived of so many different people and bizarre events as well as the spirit of San Francisco itself. MTL, rather, focuses squarely on Michael and while it brings you up to date with most of the main characters from the original story, there is a sense of bringing things to conclusion, rather than the adventures that had marked its predecessors.

Of course, this is by design -- specifically, it is the aftermath of Michael's unexpected survival of the AIDS crisis -- but more generally, it takes on the taboo of age in a gay culture that tends to ignore anyone over the age of 35. Personally, I take great encouragement from any positive examples that life does continue for gay men. At the same time, its hard to shake a bit of melancholy for times gone by -- yet Maupin's gift is to share the realization that while life changes, there are new reasons to embrace every moment of it.

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