Tuesday, June 19, 2007

good to be back

as the more sharp sighted of you will have noticed, nothing much has been posted on this site for a while, the principle reason being that I normally do this at home (due to pressure of work. ridicule of colleagues etc.)- we're currently upgrading our computer at home, going all wireless and broadband, as you will no doubt guess that means our system completely conked out for a bit, well, quite a bit actually. By the time I came to accept the relatively simple fact that I'd better do this at work I had a/. got used to not doing it- very easy and b/. forgotten Sabers's easy to remember code words- even easier. By the time I'd gotten round to asking Saber (much lamented ex member of staff now residing in Bath) I think he'd forgotten them too. Oh well, we're back on track now.

The funny thing is, over the last month, while cycling in to work, I've probably had more blog ideas than while we were regularly posting but I suppose that this is as predictable as upgraded computers being worse than they were pre improvement

Anyway, back to the title of the blog, I'm not referring to the blog itself or, indeed to top 70's pop tune by a dodgy pop star. It actually refers to something I'd hoped to see but didn't think I would- a seventh Tales of the City novel, 'Michael Toliver Lives' and the job I'm looking forward to most today is to put it in the window.

I loved these chronicles of San Francisco life, they are as much a part of my 'eighties and early 'nineties as anything i can think of. And when the TV series came out the pubs of Manchester must have taken a fierce dip in profits as they were denuded of booksellers. Mind you, they probably made most of it back again as we all went in the next night to talk about what we'd seen. Having recently watched them again it is with some sadness that I have to report that I do not think they have aged well but the same cannot be said for the books.
Their magazine origins ensure a tight plot with plenty of cliffhangers and they are so much of their time that I don't think they will ever date. Indeed, aging well is, I now think, the prime theme of the sequence. The books are often dismissed as just pieces of fluff- well, apart from what is so bad about that, top class fluff is probably one of the hardest things to write- this also ignores the later books as the younger characters pass into their thirties and forties and, essentially, grow-up and many of them grow old or ill and not just how you deal with aging but how you deal with mortality becomes a prime concern

Maupin has said that this new novel is 'not a continuation of Tales of the City' but it does include just about every character you would expect. The focus is, obviously, on Mouse, or Michael Tolliver as, just about, everyone now knows him. How much of that focus is now on Maupin himself is another question. Unlike many authors who do their semi-autobiographical novel at the beginning of their careers Maupin's later novels seem to be increasingly about him, and here we seem to see one of his most famous characters complete a process begun over 18 years ago and completely morph into his creator. It would be interesting to know how much of Michael Tolliver has seeped into Maupin.

Not a lot happens in the new book, but enough to make the two people I lent the proof to cry, and it is a sad, elegiac book but, like the others, hopeful in the end. I, like the others, loved it, recommend it and have now written too much about it.


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