Monday, April 12, 2010

Tales of the City

Happy Monday!  I thought I would start off the week by sharing a fabulous series of books I am in the middle of re-reading.  I learned of Armistead Maupin when I was in my early 20's and have been hooked ever since!

The first of Maupin's novels, entitled Tales of the City, was published in 1978. Five more followed in the 1980s, ending with the last book, Sure of You, in 1989.  A seventh novel published in 2007, Michael Tolliver Lives, continues the story of some of the characters. In Babycakes, published in 1983, Maupin was one of the first writers to address the subject of AIDS.  Of the autobiographical nature of the characters, he says "I’ve always been all of the characters in one way or another."

Armistead Maupin

Tales of the City is a series of novels, the first portions of which were published initially as a newspaper serial starting on August 8, 1974, in a Marin County newspaper, The Pacific Sun, picked up in 1976 by the San Francisco Chronicle, and later reworked into the series of books published by HarperCollins.

The series opens with the arrival of Mary Ann Singleton, a naive young woman from Cleveland, Ohio. She finds an apartment at 28 Barbary Lane, the domain of the eccentric marijuana-growing landlady Anna Madrigal.

Mary Ann becomes friends with the other tenants of the building: the hippyish bisexual Mona Ramsey (who, though a central character, is not in all of the books); heterosexual lothario Brian Hawkins; the sinister and cagey roof tenant Norman Neal Williams; and Michael Tolliver, a sweet and personable gay man known to friends as Mouse (as in Mickey Mouse), who becomes very important to the series.

It sounds like there is an awful lot of sex but I can assure you there is nothing graphic in these books.

Beyond the house, lovers and friends guide Mary Ann through her San Franciscan adventures. Edgar Halcyon, Mary Ann's and Mona's boss, Edgar's socialite daughter DeDe Halcyon-Day, and her scheming bisexual husband Beauchamp Day all provide a glimpse into a more affluent Californian class, while Mrs. Madrigal's mother and owner of the Blue Moon Lodge brothel, Mother Mucca, brings mystery and comic relief. Mona's ex-lover D'orothea Wilson, returns from a modelling assignment in New York, while Michael's lover and DeDe's gynecologist, Jon Fielding, becomes part of the social group. In the last two books, Thack Sweeney becomes Michael's lover.

Recognize this actress?  The Tales of the City movie was one of her first big roles!  Laura Linney went on to The Truman Show, The Mothman Prophecies, The Life of David Gale, Love Actually, Frasier, The Nanny Diaries (wasn't she just delicious as Mrs X!)  and many other roles.

If you are thinking Tales of the City is a small name production here are some of the other actors you might regognize...Olympia Dukakis, Parker Posey, Paul Gross, Thomas Gibson, Chloe Webb, Donald Moffat, Janeane Garofalo, Swoosie Kurtz and Sandra Oh.

I have loved these books since I first discovered them ohhhhh back in 1990ish.  Armistead Maupin's writing is like butter - every word just rolls off the page as it weaves this tapestry of lives.  If you enjoy this sort of story you will also like Alexander McCall Smith who has been compared to Armistead Maupin.

You may have seen the movie The Night Listener starring Robin Williams and Toni Collette.  This movie is based on the book by the same name which tells the story of Armistead Maupin's relationship with a young fan.  The Night Listener is ever so slightly linked to the Tales of the City series - one of the minor characters is the daughter of one of the characters in Tales of the City!

Have a fabulous day!

**Many thanks to Wikipedia for always helping me get the facts straight**


Confessions Of A Domestic Goddess said...

I've had this book on my shelf since my senior year of college when a Prof decided last minute to drop the book (after I'd bought it, of course) I've kept it knowing that I'd read it at some point....thanks to your glowing recommendation I've pulled it off my shelf and will read it next.


Janine said...

Hi there!! Always so informative!!

Jo said...

I've just started to collect books for my summer reading ~ thanks for the great review.

Was my grammar really that poor? I've never had a comment ~ yikes!

Nikosmommy said...

I've watched a few episodes from the show staring Laura Linney. I was actually confused about when the show was produced because she HAS NOT aged!!! I couldn't tell if it was an older show or a new one made to look set the 80's!

North of 25A said...

I have wanted to read these books (& the show) forever - thanks for reminding me - sometimes I just need that reminder...

Nezzy said...

I've seen the movie but never read the book. I think I need to. Thanks!!!

God bless and have a marvelous Monday!!!

Travelbug Mom said...

Thanks for the info....always looking for "new" things to read. I've also added the movie to my netflix queue....thanks again.