October 19, 2008

return of an old friend




It's hard to explain my emotional connection to Armistead Maupin's 'Tales of the City' series of books. A lot of it probably has to do with the fact that I discovered the first book at the same time that I moved to Dallas, which was the time that I really (at the risk of sounding too granola-ey) "discovered myself" or found my place in the world - and just like the characters in the book, I was making my first real venture out into the world on my own terms. But the series - which chronicles fictitious life in 1970's San Francisco - also seemed to offer some promise for a nostalgia that I had missed. Like thousands of others, I'm sure, I connected with the lead character, Michael "Mouse" Tolliver, as well as parts of many other characters in the books; and somewhere deep down, I believed that maybe someday I would find my own Barbary Lane. Maupin's books are easy reads that fly by and are hard to put down. At one point, I remember buying not only the next book, but the following one as well, because I would feel such a sense of loss when I got to the end of a book and couldn't wait to get the next one. So when I came to the end of the sixth and final book, it was like losing touch with your friends forever. When I was in Munich, my friend Richard mentioned that he was reading Maupin's new book "Michael Tolliver Lives". I knew, but had forgotten, that he had written a new book. In it, he picks back up with Mouse and his life in present day San Francisco - decades later. I finally found it in the Houston Airport and immediately dived into what felt like a homecoming. Though Mouse is 10 years older, I still relate. Maybe only because of the 40th birthday, but I feel my mortality in a way I didn't before. And I see things with a sense of experience and probably jadedness as well gratefulness - today I look back as much as I look forward. And once again, I find things in Mouse's life that I wonder about and maybe hope for - my own Barbary Lane. The new book is every bit what you would expect from the original series - full of characters who truly are characters, and twists and situations that had me embarassing myself by laughing out loud in airports and trying to hide tears on airplanes. I may not have found my own Barbary Lane yet (or have I?), but I am grateful for a new chapter and another visit with that fictional world. Unfortunately, the joy of the visit only comes with another sense of loss once the book ends. Funny how fiction resembles life sometimes.

1 comment:

eryk said...

Just finished the 6th one myself, again. I've read them all multiple times, but did it this time in anticipation of picking up Michael Tolliver Lives.
Good post.