I stopped by Barnes & Noble yesterday to pick up a copy of Otaku USA, and I got a pleasant surprise while looking through the new paperbacks display. First of all, there are new editions of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series, which look nice. Second, every one of the new covers announces the imminent arrival of a sequel, Michael Tolliver Lives (from HarperCollins).
The Tales books were tremendously important to me when I first read them, way back during my college years. They were the first books I’d come across that didn’t present homosexuality as a problem or an issue. They were also the first books I’d read featuring gay and lesbian protagonists that were actually funny. They portrayed people of all sexual orientations living alluringly rounded lives in relative harmony, and their soap operatic structure certainly didn’t hurt. (The first four books were originally serialized in The San Francisco Chronicle.) Reading them was like receiving dispatches from the interpersonal Promised Land.
I haven’t read them in a long time, so I have no idea how they’ve aged or what my current reaction to them would be. I’m a little reluctant to do so, for fear that their initial impact and my nostalgia for them led me to enshrine them beyond their actual merit. And I’ve found that I haven’t been able to fairly evaluate Maupin’s other novels, Maybe the Moon and The Night Listener, probably owing to my fondness for the Barbary Lane crowd. (I think they suffer from a case of Serious Novelist Syndrome, and sly callbacks to the Tales books didn’t make me any fonder of them.)
But it will certainly be interesting to reacquaint myself with the Tales cast and to see how Maupin approaches them. And in a summer that doesn’t promise new installments from some of my favorite mystery authors (Elizabeth Peters and Tony Hillerman, for two), the book will nicely fill a gap in my summer reading.