three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
30-Sept-Oct-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-Michael Tolliver LivesArmistead Maupin’s six-volume Tales of the City series went on hiatus after Sure of You (1989). In Michael Tolliver Lives, Maupin’s irrepressible protagonist returns. In his mid-50s and 20 years separated from an HIV diagnosis, Michael is happily married to Ben, a much younger man, and operates a thriving landscaping business in San Francisco. Many of the characters from the original series are back, including the transsexual Anna Madrigal, Michael’s dear friend and former landlady, and with them an unmistakable air of nostalgia. Every day is a pleasure for Michael, despite the ill health of his "logical" mother, Anna, a judgmental family, and his biological mother’s imminent death in his native Florida.
HarperCollins. 288 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0060761350

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"If I have a complaint about Michael Tolliver Lives, it may be that for all the pleasure it takes in its own transgressiveness, it comes off as a little too nice. … Maupin is a master at sustained and sustaining comic turns." David Leavitt

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Not only is the popular and acclaimed series alive and well, with more readers than ever after the first three books were turned into TV miniseries, Michael Tolliver has pulled through. … It’s a tribute to Maupin as an author that this novel can effectively stand alone as well as fit in with the older members of its family." Richard Melo

Minneapolis Star Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The entertaining but occasionally uneven Michael Tolliver Lives underscores what I’ve always imagined about Maupin: that he’s one of those rare people you find yourself fortunate to be seated next to at a long, tedious dinner. … The book’s plotlines, lean as they are, manage a few page-turning surprises." Rick Nelson

Pittsburgh Trib-Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Fans of the Tales of the City series, who have aged along with the writer and his characters, will enjoy Michael Tolliver if for no other reason than it re-introduces us to some beloved characters. But just as we sometimes long for our lost youth, Michael Tolliver might make us long to re-read the earlier, more entertaining books." Sue Jones

Rocky Mountain News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Michael Tolliver Lives is witty and tragic by turns, yet offers characters who have already made major changes in their lives. … The past may be a foreign country, but this literary day trip reminds us of why we love to travel." Mike Pearson

Washington Post 2 of 5 Stars
"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." David Leviathan

Critical Summary

Armistead Maupin and his popular Tales of the City series evolved from a mid-1970s column in the San Francisco Chronicle and, over the next decade, attracted a loyal following. Those readers, as well as newcomers to Maupin’s fiction, are in for a treat with Michael Tolliver Lives. These loosely connected vignettes benefit from Maupin’s engaging voice, though the pacing is a bit uneven in places and plot takes a back seat to well-drawn, likeable characters. Critics inevitable compare the novel to Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones books or Sex and the City, though Maupin generally does it better. First-timers should find the new installment engaging enough to go back to the early volumes.

First in the Series

Tales of the City (1978): The colorful residents of 28 Barbary Lane in San Francisco—including a marijuana-growing landlady, a young, naïve secretary, a copywriter, a waiter, and Michael Tolliver, a gay man—form a proxy family.