Michael Tolliver Lives (Tales of the City Series #7)

Michael Tolliver Lives (Tales of the City Series #7)

3.6 156
by Armistead Maupin

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Michael Tolliver, the sweet-spirited Southerner in Armistead Maupin's classic Tales of the City series, is arguably one of the most widely loved characters in contemporary fiction. Now, almost twenty years after ending his ground-breaking saga of San Francisco life, Maupin revisits his all-too-human hero, letting the fifty-five-year-old gardener tell his story in his


Michael Tolliver, the sweet-spirited Southerner in Armistead Maupin's classic Tales of the City series, is arguably one of the most widely loved characters in contemporary fiction. Now, almost twenty years after ending his ground-breaking saga of San Francisco life, Maupin revisits his all-too-human hero, letting the fifty-five-year-old gardener tell his story in his own voice.

Having survived the plague that took so many of his friends and lovers, Michael has learned to embrace the random pleasures of life, the tender alliances that sustain him in the hardest of times. Michael Tolliver Lives follows its protagonist as he finds love with a younger man, attends to his dying fundamentalist mother in Florida, and finally reaffirms his allegiance to a wise octogenarian who was once his landlady.

Though this is a stand-alone novel--accessible to fans of Tales of the City and new readers alike--a reassuring number of familiar faces appear along the way. As usual, the author's mordant wit and ear for pitch-perfect dialogue serve every aspect of the story--from the bawdy to the bittersweet. Michael Tolliver Lives is a novel about the act of growing older joyfully and the everyday miracles that somehow make that possible.

Editorial Reviews

Miami Herald
“Maupin’s writing is as cheerfully raunchy as ever . . . ”
Armistead Maupin is emphatic: "Michael Tolliver Lives is NOT a sequel to Tales [of the City] and it's certainly not Book 7 in the series." That said, readers will still affectionately embrace the return of Michael "Mouse" Tolliver, last seen in 1989. Thanks to the sustenance of HIV-fighting drug cocktails and the resourcefulness of Maupin's pen, Mouse retains all of his endearing vibrancy. Other Tales of the City regulars make cameo appearances, redoubling our sense of re-meeting old friends in a new place. Even better than a sequel.
David Leavitt
… the book is great fun to read. Maupin is a master at sustained and sustaining comic turns. Of these, my favorite is probably the story of Carlotta. Carlotta, to be precise, is the name Mike and Ben have given to the voice in which their Toyota Prius’s navigation system gives them directions: “female, elegant and a little bossy.” On a trip through the Southwest, Ben, noticing a chill in the air, tells Carlotta, “Seventy-two degrees.” She answers that “there is no fifth destination.” Realizing Carlotta must have misunderstood him, Ben asks: “If that’s the answer, what’s the question?”
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Maupin's seventh volume in his Tales of the City series arrives 18 years after his supposed final Tales novel, Sure of You. Indeed, the story picks up nearly 20 years later with none of the characters still living at 28 Barbary Lane, but still a family even if they're not under the same roof. Michael is now 55, and thanks to his HIV drug cocktail, he's living with AIDS and enjoying a healthy relationship with a much younger man. The novel also celebrates his strong relationships with his "logical" family of choice (as opposed to his "biological" family) that includes 85-year-old transsexual Anna Madrigal, longtime pal Brian and Brian's sex columnist daughter. Maupin's the perfect reader; he doesn't create voices for his characters because the book is told from Michael's POV. Although more sexually explicit that the previous novels, Maupin's cheerful and reassuring delivery makes it all good fun. This is the tale of Michael's move beyond his "suspended boyhood," and this return visit will enchant Maupin's legion of fans. There's a charming 20-minute interview with Maupin on the final disk. Simultaneous release with the HarperCollins hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 26). (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Maupin revisits his beloved "Tales of the City" series in this novel focused on central character Michael Tolliver. While other names and faces from "Tales" appear, this story is about Michael, now in his mid-fifties (despite AIDS) and happy in his relationship, his house, and his job. Credit Maupin for making such a fortunate character likable and interesting, but Michael is confronting mortality and seeing the age in himself and everyone around him. His mother's illness creates an opportunity for him to return to Florida and connect with his biological family, while his San Francisco family faces challenges of its own, including new additions and worries about the frailty of Anna Madrigal, now in her eighties. Additional charm comes from Maupin's loving portrayal of San Francisco as a special oasis, despite the dot-com invasion and high housing prices. An affirmation of growing older and wiser that gives hope to those trying to appreciate what they have while staying true to themselves, this novel is a graceful coda to the series. Recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ3/15/07.]
—Devon Thomas

Kirkus Reviews
The central figure in Tales of the City returns two decades later and brings us up to date on most of the popular series' other characters as well. Michael is now 55 and HIV-positive, but his meds keep him healthy, along with shots of testosterone administered by 33-year-old live-in boyfriend Ben, who thinks older men are hot. They even got married at City Hall, though of course Michael's born-again mother, brother and sister-in-law down in Florida flinch every time he refers to Ben as his husband. Fortunately, he's still got the emotional support of former landlady Anna Madrigal, now 85 and in fragile health, and straight pal Brian Hawkins, sole owner of the nursery they founded together. (Back when Michael thought he was going to die, he decided he'd rather plant gardens.) Brian's ex Mary Ann, a fellow alum of 28 Barbary Lane, long ago decamped for Connecticut and a stockbroker husband, but their daughter Shawna carries on the San Francisco bohemian tradition as a cheerfully bisexual blogger who chronicles "her escapades in the pansexual wonderland." So things are good and not so very different from the old days on Barbary Lane as Maupin brings his characters into middle age with his customary blend of ready humor, frank sex scenes (that always seem kind of sweet) and unrepentant antagonism toward the red-state Americans who hate Michael and his kind. Those folks include Michael's biological family. Michael's mother, meanwhile, is dying of emphysema, and Michael, who's faced his own mortality, as well as that of lovers and friends, must now grapple with an impending death that connects him to people with whom he otherwise has nothing in common. Michael's detested father, though dead formany years, provides a startling final plot twist that enables Michael to make tentative peace with brother Irwin, and Anna's heart attack prompts Michael to declare allegiance to his true family. Thirty years later, he's still proud of the life he's made and the city that made it possible. Rueful but never regretful, warmhearted and witty: a treat for Maupin's many fans.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Tales of the City Series , #7
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Michael Tolliver Lives LP

By Armistead Maupin

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Armistead Maupin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061285332

Chapter One

Confederacy of Survivors

Not long ago, down on Castro Street, a stranger in a Giants parka gave me a loaded glance as we passed each other in front of Cliff's Hardware. He was close to my age, I guess, not that far past fifty—and not bad-looking either, in a beat-up, Bruce Willis-y sort of way—so I waited a moment before turning to see if he would go for a second look. He knew this old do-si-do as well as I did, and hit his mark perfectly.

"Hey," he called, "you're supposed to be dead."

I gave him an off-kilter smile. "Guess I didn't get the memo."

His face grew redder as he approached. "Sorry, I just meant . . . it's been a really long time and . . . sometimes you just assume . . . you know . . ."

I did know. Here in our beloved Gayberry you can barely turn around without gazing into the strangely familiar features of someone long believed dead. Having lost track of him in darker days, you had all but composed his obituary and scattered his ashes at sea, when he shows up in the housewares aisle at Cala Foods to tell you he's been growing roses in Petaluma for the past decade. This happens to me a lot, these odd little supermarket resurrections, so I figured it could just as easily happen to someone else.

But who the hell was he?

"You're looking good," hesaid pleasantly.

"Thanks. You too." His face had trenches like mine—the usual wasting from the meds. A fellow cigar store Indian.

"You are Mike Tolliver, right?"

"Michael. Yeah. But I can't quite—"

"Oh . . . sorry." He thrust out his hand. "Ed Lyons. We met at Joe Dimitri's after the second Gay Games."

That was no help at all, and it must have shown.

"You know," the guy offered gamely. "The big house up on Collingwood?"

Still nothing.

"The circle jerk?"


"We went back to my place afterward."

"On Potrero Hill!"

"You remember!"

What I remembered—all I remembered after nineteen years—was his dick. I remembered how its less-than-average length was made irrelevant by its girth. It was one of the thickest I'd ever seen, with a head that flared like a caveman's club. Remembering him was a good deal harder. Nineteen years is too long a time to remember a face.

"We had fun, " I said, hoping that a friendly leer would make up for my phallocentric memory.

"You had something to do with plants, didn't you?"

"Still do." I showed him my dirty cuticles. "I had a nursery back then, but now I garden full time."

That seemed to excite him, because he tugged on the strap of my overalls and uttered a guttural "woof." If he was angling for a nooner, I wasn't up for it. The green-collar job that had stoked his furnace had left me with some nasty twinges in my rotator cuffs, and I still had podocarps to prune in Glen Park. All I really wanted was an easy evening with Ben and the hot tub and a rare bacon cheeseburger from Burgermeister.

Somehow he seemed to pick up on that. "You married these days?"

"Yeah . . . pretty much."

"Married married or just . . . regular?"

"You mean . . . did we go down to City Hall?"


I told him we did.

"Must've been amazing," he said.

"Well, it was a mob scene, but . . . you know . . . pretty cool." I wasn't especially forthcoming, but I had told the story once too often and had usually failed to convey the oddball magic of that day: all those separate dreams coming true in a gilded, high-domed palace straight out of Beauty and the Beast. You had to have witnessed that long line of middle-aged people standing in the rain, some of them with kids in tow, waiting to affirm what they'd already known for years. And the mayor himself, so young and handsome and . . . neat . . . that he actually looked like the man on top of a wedding cake.

"Well," said Ed Lyons, stranger no more, now that I'd put a name to the penis. "I'm heading down to the bagel shop. How 'bout you?"

I told him I was headed for my truck.

"Woof!" he exclaimed, aroused by the mere mention of my vehicle.

I must've rolled my eyes just a little.

"What?" he asked.

"It's not that butch a truck," I told him.

He laughed and charged off. As I watched his broad shoulders navigate the stream of pedestrians, I wondered if I would find Ed's job—whatever it might be—as sexy as he found mine. Oh, yeah, buddy, that's right, make me want it, make me buy that two-bedroom condo! That Century 21 blazer is so fucking hot!

I headed for my truck (a light-blue Tacoma, if you must know), buzzing on a sort of homegrown euphoria that sweeps over me from time to time. After thirty years in the city, it's nice to be reminded that I'm still glad to be here, still glad to belong to this sweet confederacy of survivors, where men meet in front of the hardware store and talk of love and death and circle jerks as if they're discussing the weather.

It helps that I have Ben; I know that. Some years back, when I was still single, the charm of the city was wearing thin for me. All those imperial dot-commers in their SUVs and Hummers barreling down the middle of Noe Street as if leading an assault on a Third World nation. And those freshly minted queens down at Badlands, wreathed in cigarette smoke and attitude, who seemed to believe that political activism meant a subscription to Out magazine and regular attendance at Queer as Folk night. Not to mention the traffic snarls and the fuck-you-all maître d's and the small-town queers who brought their small-town fears to the Castro and tried to bar . . .


Excerpted from Michael Tolliver Lives LP by Armistead Maupin Copyright © 2007 by Armistead Maupin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Armistead Maupin is the author of the nine-volume Tales of the City series, which includes Tales of the City, More Tales of the City, Further Tales of the City, Babycakes, Significant Others, Sure of You, Michael Tolliver Lives, Mary Ann in Autumn, and now The Days of Anna Madrigal. Maupin's other novels include Maybe the Moon and The Night Listener. Maupin was the 2012 recipient of the Lambda Literary Foundation's Pioneer Award. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, the photographer Christopher Turner.

Brief Biography

San Francisco, California
Date of Birth:
May 13, 1944
Place of Birth:
Washington, D.C.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Michael Tolliver Lives 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 156 reviews.
Candace Weiss More than 1 year ago
When I saw on my Color Nook blog this book advertised as Free download, I was excited to try it, sad to say it is incorrectly advertised on the B and N site. It is not free, oh well. Would like to read it, but not willing to spend tthis on an unknown author for me.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the only book told from Michael's point of view, which is a great way of continuing his story but with a different feeing. The book doesn't really move any action forward, but that's kinda the point. We're seeing Mouse at a specific point in his life, and he reminisces about the many people and events that have touched his life. It makes you remember the parts and characters of the prior book that you loved, but it does introduce you to new characters that now make perfect sense given his history. Comforting read.
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Memito More than 1 year ago
A nice visit with Anna, Michael, and others. Great to peek into their lives after so many years. Michael so accurately assigns the term "logical family" to something we all have experienced. To read this would be a wonderful gift to one's self.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great humorously written story of modern day "logical "family and biological family needs and finding personal values. Does include a same sex marriage so if you are close minded YOUR LOSE ! I'll be on the look out for more by this author,wonderful book club choice,too.
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JustG83 More than 1 year ago
This IS part of the Tales of the City series. While Maupin originally stated it was a stand-alone, he then retracted his statement sometime later and that is completely agreeable. While it isn't written in the traditional serial format, it's a fresh look into the future of a beloved character and only left me even more excited to read Mary Ann in Autumn.