Thursday, August 6, 2009

Of Mice and Bookmen

Greetings, Colleagues--

Nine Bookmen (including two first-timers) attended the Aug. 5 discussion of Armistead Maupin's novel, "Michael Tolliver Lives." Here are some observations about the novel that I believe reflect our consensus, though not necessarily unanimity.

Nearly all those present have read at least some of the six-volume "Tales of the City" series. Some had also heard Maupin read them on audiobooks and/or seen the three TV adaptations (the first ran on PBS, the second and third on Showtime).

With that in mind, the group agreed that one of the pleasures of reading this latest book was finding out what had happened to the main characters from Barbary Lane and environs. However, we did not get into the question of whether MTL is functionally a seventh volume in the series or stands on its own (which I take as meaning most of us assumed it is the former).

We agreed that the novel is significantly less political than its predecessors, with little social commentary. In fact, one member commented that the references to Bush, Iraq, etc., seemed "dropped in" rather than organic to the story (such as it was). Overall, however, I didn't sense that change was a problem for most of the group.

The switch from the "Tales" series' third-person omniscient narrator to first-person removes any lingering doubt that Maupin is Michael Tolliver, but did not jar most of the group (though I must say it did bother me, at least to some extent).

I also expressed my disappointment (speaking as a Louisiana boy) that the chapters where Michael goes home to see his mother verged so close on Southern Gothic. However, that was distinctly a minority view.

Overall, the group enjoyed reading (or rereading in some cases) "Michael Tolliver Lives." As one member said (I'm paraphrasing here): "Great literature it ain't, but it is a good summer read." Cheers, Steve

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