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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Happy Michael Tolliver Day! 

Mayor Gavin Newsom has declared today, "Michael Tolliver Day in San Francisco"!

Who is Michael Tolliver?

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.

The above is an excert from the book flap of today's newly released book, "Michael Tolliver Lives".

sfgate had this great article on the release of this book.

Today I went to Book Passages in the Ferry Building with my friend Philip to attend a book reading and signing by Mr. Maupin. It didn't disappoint. This store had hosted a book signing for ex-President Bill Clinton a couple of years ago. I remember reading an article in sfgate.com about how large the turnout was.

Well, it turns out that the turn out for Armistead Maupin was even larger than the crowd for Bill Clinton. That really goes to show just how beloved this local author is to many San Franciscans.

Mr. Maupin read the first chapter of his new book, which was everything I was hoping it would be (already!). Within the first chapter, Michael talks about the Cliff's Variety store on Castro Street, as well as our neighborhood Cala Grocery store. What I'm most excited about is that this will be the first book in the series when I'll have the opportunity to read it during the same time frame that it is written.

I first read Tales of the City when I moved to San Francisco in 1995. My new friend, Andrew, had given me a great older printing of the book, knowing that I would enjoy the stories. I was immediately hooked. The fictional San Francisco street in which some of the characters lived, Barbery Lane, was modeled off of Macandray Lane, which I passed by every day on my walk from my apartment in Nob Hill to my art school in Russian Hill. The stories (which were first written in the 70s) told of the local haunts and buildings that the characters would go to - many of them still existed when I lived there in the mid-90s. It was great fun to read these books, and to recognize the various locations that were mentioned.

"Michael Tolliver Lives" is written in present day, with the character aging nearly 20 years since the last installment of the "Tales of the City" series. He is meant to be an "every man's" character - one that I'm sure I would see or talk to in my neighborhood daily.

You may remember that I went to see another Armistead Maupin reading last August. I mentioned to him that my father-in-law taught him in Junior High School way back when, and that he is still a fan of his work.

I told Dick's father that this new book was coming out in early June, and we were hoping to plan a trip out to San Francisco for him to attend a reading event with me. Unfortunately, I didn't hear of any reading engagements until last week, and by that time, it was too late for us to plan a quick trip out for him. When I told him that I would be attending this reading, I suggested to Richard that he might write him a note that I could pass along to Mr. Maupin. He was delighted with the idea, and sent me a note over email for me to deliver.

When I had our books signed today, I re-told Mr. Maupin that my father-in-law was his English teaching in Junior High School. He asked me for his name, and again, seemed to remember (but you never know - the poor guy still had hundreds of books to sign today).

He seemed very pleased that I had a note from Richard. I hope he finds the time to read it soon. I think it would be nice connection to the past for both of them.

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