” I had to find it out on my own, with the help of the city that has become my home. I know this may be hard for you to believe, but San Francisco is full of men and women, both straight and gay, who doesn’t consider sexuality in measuring the worth of another human being. ” (Michael Tolliver, “Letter to Mama”)
More Tales of the City continues with the adventures of the tenants at 28 Barbary Lane. Spanning three months between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day in 1977, the magically contrived coincidences continue to reign. Following the death of tycoon, Edgar Halcyon, who left behind a legacy for Mary Ann Singleton, she goes on a cruise with Michael “Mouse” Tolliver to Mexico. Despite humorous bouts of social missteps, and that they find it easier to pass as a married couple, Mary Ann finds love at sea with an amnesia-stricken stranger, Burke Andrew. Thought he has lucked out on love for life, Michael bumps into his favorite gynecologist, Jon Fielding, in an Acapulco bar. The encounter rekindles his hope for a happily-ever-after life with a lover.
It seems like every time I start up with somebody new . . . I don’t know . . . I see the beginning and the end all at once. I know how it’ll die. I can play those scenes in my sleep. This time, though . . . well, I don’t wanna know the end. Not for a while, anyway. (Michael Tolliver, “Table for Five”)
Back at home the venerable landlady, Mars. Madrigal, has no choice but to reveal her past as Mona Ramsey stumbles upon her destiny on a Greyhound bus to Reno. She is left to mull over the secret anagram in Mrs. Madrigal’s name. Meanwhile, Brian Hawkins, the top-floor tenant for whom libido has taken everything, begins a “long-distance” affair with a woman in a nearby Deco apartment tower—with the binoculars!
He raised the binoculars again and zeroed in on an eleventh-floor room that was suffused with a dim, rosy light. Seconds later, a woman appeared.
She stood near the window in a long gown of some sort, a dark form against the fleshy warmth of her room. She was motionless for a moment, then her hands went down to her waist and up again suddenly to her face.
She was wearing binoculars.
And she was looking at Brian. (“The Superman Building”)
This second book in the series has set the wheels in motion, pursuing secrets and relations introduced in the first book. The many adventures, and misadventures, often fun, black, and breath-taking at the same time, are choreographed so fluidly that one can lose track of time, thanks to the cliffhangers galore. Mary Ann’s quest for the cause of Burke’s amnesia takes on a course of a thriller. Equally bizarre but satisfying is Mona’s trip down memory lane as she learns about her parents. Most touching of all is Michael’s reflection of his life as a gay man who found true kindness, passion, and sensitivity from people who never judge him by his sexual orientation. Now I’m hitting the third book, Further Tales of the City, right away.
352 pp. Harper Perennial 2007 edition. [Read/
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