Originally Posted on July 14, 2007
When was the first time you read Armistead Maupin? Was it at the time PBS first televised Tales of The City? Or, were you one of the original readers of the newspaper series that first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle many years ago?
Not everyone have read Maupin, though I would make it required reading for anyone living or visiting San Francisco. I’d give copies of Tales of The City to every GLBT person I know so they can honor one of our finest writers in our community. Maybe they already have a copy?
Why my enthusiasm over Maupin? As a gay man who came out in the San Francisco Bay Area, he was my inspiration to write. Every writer can point to one other person for inspiration. I have two…luckily both icons made their mark in San Francisco. Randy Shilts happens to be the other inspiration.
When I picked up my first Maupin book, I was hooked. There is a singular reason for this: Michael Tolliver.
If there is one character in which I can enjoy reading many times over it is Michael Mouse. The Floridian that escaped the clutches of fundamentalist Christianity for the freedom of San Francisco was someone I can truly identify with. His trials and tribulations mirrored every gay man's life from his first encounter with Mary Ann Singleton to his appearance in Sure of You.
There is a reason behind my fondness for Michael. It takes another Southerner who also emigrated to San Francisco to tell his story. Armistead Maupin came from North Carolina and experienced the same prejudice from his own kin. His own pain earlier in life is reflected on Michael Tolliver’s pain. If you read further into the series, and followed Maupin’s own life, it seems that art does imitate...life.
After Sure of You, Maupin dove into new territory. I must admit that I did not enjoy Maybe The Moon as much as I should. It wasn’t my kind of tale and quite the disappointment. Then, there’s The Night Listener. I heard the film got mixed reviews. Frankly, it wasn’t the kind of story that I'd expect Maupin would tell. But, hey, he scored his paycheck and I forgave him for not sticking to a tried-and-true formula. It is a lesson a writer needs to explore...expand one's horizons when it comes to story, character and temper.
Deep down inside, I was pining for Michael Tolliver. I missed that sweet man who boogied with Mary Ann in the 1970’s and became the face of the AIDS Crisis in the later books. He had his relationships, good and bad. Yet, he was set-aside for Robin Williams and Macaulay’s little brother.
To my joy, I was glad to hear that Michael Tolliver is alive! He’s aged gracefully in his fifties after beating back the disease only to be just HIV Positive. He’s got a new man, a younger fella. The rest of the story can be found in volume seven of the Tales series: Michael Tolliver Lives.
As with Maupin’s writing, I feel older and wiser. It is a welcome sight to see a new work from the old grain back on the shelves again. To celebrate this synergistic maturation, this is on my “must read” list. In fact, I will pick up a copy this weekend and dive right into it.
Will I write a review on it? No. The reviews are in and they look pretty good. Better still, why don’t you pick up a copy? I’m sure Maupin would appreciate the patronage.
After all, this is truly Michael Tolliver’s story.