Back to Barbary Lane by Armistead Maupin

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Back to Barbary Lane Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

In 1991, Armistead Maupin released a collection of the final three works in his Tales of the City series, grouping them under the title Back to Barbary Lane: The Final Tales of the City Omnibus. The naturalistic novels Babycakes (1984), Significant Others (1987), and Sure of You (1989) deal with Michael Tolliver’s continuing recovery from the loss of his lover to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). They reflect Maupin’s main theme—acceptance of and compassion for all people.

Babycakes is a psychological study of the effects of death from AIDS on those who survive. Michael’s progress in overcoming the emptiness in his heart is painfully slow. He is encouraged, however, through the love of his compassionate chosen family to begin to recover from his loss.

In Significant Others Michael’s recovery progresses. As his pain lessens, his interest in the world around him increases. He interacts with a larger number of friends, straight and gay. He swims a dangerous river at night to help a loving but demanding woman solve the mystery of the disappearance of her weekend lover. Michael has tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), but he reaches the point that he gives rather than receives help. When his old friend Brian is exposed to AIDS and must anxiously await the results of an HIV test, Michael takes him on a soothing trip to the country. More important, Michael’s capacity to love reawakens. He meets a handsome visitor to San Francisco, Thack Sweeney, and begins to feel stirrings of the heart.

Michael and Thack display maturity and compassion. Realizing that he is ready to open himself to a new lover, Michael nevertheless delays his own gratification to help his friend Brian. Thack refuses to be dissuaded from a possible relationship by Michael’s HIV-positive status. Thack sees Michael as a human being worthy of love, not as a person with HIV.

The final novel, Sure of You, continues to follow the development of Michael and Thack as loving and compassionate men. Two years have passed since the events of Significant Others , and Michael and...

(The entire section is 514 words.)