05 August 2007

Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin

They say everything gets better with age.

But in the world of homosexuality, where an obsession with perfect looks, body and clothes is a contact sport (and the same goes for world, really, but I think its more prevalent with us gays) , most young gays would like nothing to do with anyone older than say 25. And heaven forbid you even think that they have sex.

When Armistead Maupin began his Tales of The City series for the San Francisco Chronicle in 1976, I’m sure no one thought how important the stories of Michael, Brian, Mary Ann, Mona and Mrs Madrigal would become. It was then, the first chronicle of modern gay life, filled with the joys and pains of being who you are and accepted by your “logical” family instead of your biological one. Maupin would eventually write five novels based on those stories from the newspaper, centering on the characters who live at 28 Barbary Lane. A sixth novel was published in 1989.

The cultural impact of those books fed a generation of gay men and women already living in the era, plus the ones who came after, which was I, when I started reading them around 1987-88. Of course, I knew about them before I picked up the first book, but until I got a bit older and finally accepted who I was did I want to read them.

With Sure of You, the sixth book in the series published in 1989, we left our characters coping with problems the 1980's brought on: AIDS and the rise of the conservative movement. Now, Maupin -who had wanted to do a novel about aging gay men and how they fit within the current fixation that after the age of 25 in gay life, you might as well as never go out again - found the perfect voice to do it in, good old Mouse.

Michael Tolliver Lives, is in many ways -like all of Maupin’s Tales books - semi-autobiographical. Michael is 55, HIV positive and now married to Ben, who is 21-years younger than him. In real life, Maupin has the same arraignment.

The novel itself is wonderfully written -and to be honest, you don’t have to read the previous 6 books in the series (even though Maupin says this book is not the seventh volume), as he gives updates on all the characters. The author’s talent has aged well, and he gets across the message that just because you are, say in your 50's, you can still be attracted to men younger than you.

After all, straight men have been doing for years, marrying women as much as 30 years younger than they are. So, I guess, there is hope for me.

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