Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Return To Form

A couple of weeks ago I remembered that I still had an unsused gift voucher for the gay bookstore The Bookshop Darlinghurst that I had received as a birthday gift last year. And given that my next birthday is not all that far away (start saving now) and these things have an expiry on them, I should probably get into action and spend that sucker. So on a Saturday trip into the once bright and shiny gay mecca Oxford St (now sadly a tarnished and half shuttered shadow of its former self) I popped into the store and spotted a hardcover edition of the eighth Tales of the City novel by Armistead Maupin "Mary Ann in Autumn".

I had been a bit ho hum about buying it when it was first released because I was really, really disappointed by the previous book in the series "Michael Tolliver Lives". Ugh, that book nearly killed the whole series for me I disliked it so much. I feel like I need to go back and reread it at some point though, just to see if the scorn I've heaped on it since is still justified. At the time it felt like the mean spirited odd one out in the series, with some of the characters I had loved so much over the decades being cast as horrible middle aged versions of themselves.

Anyhoo, after I read some reviews that basically said this new book was the addition to the Tales series that we had hoped the previous one was going to be, I was more willing to give it a shot. (Truth be told I probably would have bought it anyway, even if it was just to see if I could throw it further than I had lobbed "Michael Tolliver Lives". But I would have gone for the paperback version, for aerodynamic comparison sakes.) And it was reduced, and it was now priced at the exact same value as my voucher. Sold!

And I devoured it in a few days, like I used to with the others in the series, and I really enjoyed it. The characters that had such a harsh eye cast on them in the previous book were a little more like the characters I had come to love. Older, some a little sadder, and less joyful than their earliest incarnations but still recognisable. The characters have aged along with the publication dates of the books, but this time I think it was handled better. The titular character of Mary Ann in particular seemed to be mostly back in Maupin's good books, after the horrible version of her that made its way into the previous book. I couldn't help but feel that Maupin had betrayed her somehow then. She was always the most complex character in the books, and I think that is just better handled here. The style of changing first person narratives, and the fun elements like the crazy coincidences that tie various plot threads together are all here too, and thank heavens for that.

If I'd thrown a hardback I might really have done some damage.

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