Armistead Maupin 1944–
American journalist and novelist.
The following entry presents an overview of Maupin's life and career.
Maupin's novels are noted for their witty, realistic dialogue, bizarre plot twists, memorable characters, and the presentation of gay life as an integral part of the broader social milieu. His critically acclaimed six-novel Tales of the City series is set in San Francisco during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, and follows the lives of numerous characters. Maupin's main themes include homosexuality, alienation and discrimination, religion, sex and drugs, and love and romance. Critics have noted that with the advent of the AIDS crisis, his later works have taken a more serious and somber tone.
Born and raised in North Carolina, Maupin graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1966. He became a highly decorated soldier during the Vietnam War and was honored by the president of the United States. In the early 1970s he formally disclosed his homosexuality and moved from North Carolina to San Francisco, where he pursued a career in journalism. While writing for the San Francisco Chronicle he created the popular "Tales of the City" newspaper serial about people and life in the Bay Area; the characters became the protagonists of the six novels that comprise the Tales of the City series. Maupin has also written for the stage and screen and, in 1992, published Maybe the Moon, which is a departure from the Tales series.
The Tales of the City series—Tales of the City (1978), More Tales of the City (1980), Further Tales of the City (1982), Babycakes (1984), Significant Others (1987), and Sure of You (1989)—are set in San Francisco and follow the lives of Mary Ann Singleton, Michael ("Mouse") Tolliver, Brian Hawkins, Mona, Dede, Jonathan, Mr. Halcyon, and the mysterious Anna Madrigal, who oversees the lives of her tenant "family" at 28 Barbary Lane. In Tales of the City Mary Ann leaves the midwest to make a new life for herself in San Francisco during the 1970s; Michael, a gay neighbor who is currently between lovers, befriends her. Mrs. Madrigal, the landlord, becomes very protective of Mary Ann and all her tenants. Eventually, Michael falls in love with Jonathan, a young doctor and Dede Halcyon's gynecologist. Mrs. Madrigal also takes particular interest in Mona, a new tenant and friend of Michael. More Tales of the City follows Mary Ann and Michael in their search for love on a Mexican cruise ship. Back in San Francisco, Mary Ann and Michael also become embroiled in a bizarre series of circumstances, which involve an amnesia victim and lead to the discovery of a secret Christian cannibal cult that is operating out of Grace Cathedral. As the story draws to a close, Michael and Jonathan permanently get together, and Mrs. Madrigal reveals two very important secrets. In Babycakes, which begins with Queen Elizabeth II's royal visit to San Francisco, Mary Ann has become a successful TV reporter and has married. The mood of Babycakes is decidedly somber, as the AIDS issue is introduced into Michael's life and the rest of the characters at 28 Barbary Lane. As Significant Others begins, Jonathan has died from AIDS, Michael has AIDS, and Mary Ann has become a very popular local talk show hostess; Dede Halcyon, her twin Eurasian children, and her lover Dorothea spend a week at Camp Wimminwood, a summer music camp for lesbians. Meanwhile, Brian, Michael, and Booter are up-river at the Bohemian Grove, which is a summer camp for heterosexual men. In Sure of You, the last novel of the Tales series, 28 Barbary Lane has closed. Mrs. Madrigal goes off to Greece with Mona, but career-minded Mary Ann decides to leave San Francisco, her husband and child, and go to New York City. Maybe the Moon (1992) is a departure from the Tales series and is a first-person narrative about the life of a heterosexual dwarf actress who lives in Los Angeles and pursues a career in films.
Most commentators on the Tales of the City novels have applauded Maupin as a chronicler and satirist of contemporary American culture and have praised the realism and flow of his dialogue and the way he handles homosexual themes. Furthermore, many have commented favorably on his use of short chapters, outrageous plot twists, and his ability to interweave complicated subplots. Some critics, however, have faulted Maybe the Moon for its weak presentation of the themes of discrimination and alienation, and for its stereotypical portrayal of Los Angeles and the film industry.
∗Tales of the City (novel) 1978
∗More Tales of the City (novel) 1980
∗Further Tales of the City (novel) 1982
∗Babycakes (novel) 1984
∗Significant Others (novel) 1987
∗Sure of You (novel) 1989
†28 Barbary Lane: A Tales of the City Omnibus (novels) 1990
‡Back to Barbary Lane: The Final Tales of the City Omnibus (novels) 1992
Maybe the Moon (novel) 1992
∗These works comprise the Tales of the City series.
†This collection contains Tales of the City, More Tales of the City, and Further Tales of the City.
‡This collection contains Babycakes, Significant Others, and Sure of You.
(The entire section is 88 words.)
SOURCE: A review of More Tales of the City, in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 217, No. 4, February 1, 1980, p. 106.
[In the following review, the critic provides brief synopses of the story lines in More Tales of the City.]
[In More Tales of the City,] things are hopping once again at Anna Madrigal's San Francisco rooming house, and Maupin fills us in on the latest crises in the lives of the Barbary Lane crew. Anna finally reveals that she is not the man she once was, which comes as quite a shock to several of her boarders (one of whom turns out to be her daughter). Mary Ann and Michael set out to find the loves of their lives on a cruise to Mexico. She takes up with an amnesia victim who—as the two eventually discover—lost his memory after becoming involved with an Episcopal cannibal cult. And it looks as though Michael's future will be rosy when he meets Jon, a kind gynecologist. Mona and Brian, two of Anna's more frustrated tenants, find solace in each other at the end of this entertaining, highly dramatic saga, which takes well-aimed pokes at just about every imaginable human lifestyle and personality.
(The entire section is 197 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Further Tales of the City, in The Village Voice, August 31, 1982, p. 40.
[Harvey was an American film curator and critic. In the following review, he focuses on the characters and plot of Further Tales of the City.]
According to Michael, the Tales of the City trilogy's gay-clone Candide, there are two kinds of people in this world—or at least in San Francisco, which in Armistead Maupin's oeuvre amounts to the same thing. Either you are a Tony, one of those benighted souls who think the city's theme song is the Bennett rendition of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," or a Jeanette, an aficionado of the blithe and gallant Miss MacDonald's anthem, "San Francisco," from the movie of the same name. Michael, ca va sans dire, is a Jeanette; his best female chum Mary Ann, a budding local TV personality, is one by osmosis, although when she first arrived on the scene fresh from Cleveland at the start of book one, she was indisputably a Tony. Their landlady Mrs. Madrigal (father—don't ask—of Mona, who is getting her head together in Seattle) probably thinks she is Jeanette, especially when she has partaken of the leaves pruned from Miss Barbara Stanwyck, the most potent marijuana plant in her herb garden. Hillsborough matron Franny Halcyon just can't help being a Tony. But then Franny's endured so many traumas in the past—having lost her husband from bum...
(The entire section is 823 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Babycakes, in The New York Times Book Review, November 18, 1984, p. 32.
[In the following review, Austin favorably assesses Babycakes, predicting that the book will win over some of Maupin's critics.]
Queen Elizabeth has arrived in San Francisco; just as Mary Ann Singleton, television reporter, goes to cover the scene, one of the Queen's officers jumps ship. Mary Ann's husband, Brian, doesn't know that he's infertile, but Mary Ann does, so she decides to…. Thus begins Babycakes, and the fourth installment of Armistead Maupin's San Francisco saga careens beautifully on. People who haven't read his Tales of the City, More Tales of the City and Further Tales of the City might initially be confused by the plethora of characters, but they should continue. Babycakes, unlike the Tales, preserves a sense of irony while making paramount the values of warmth and love. Almost a decade into their promiscuous but caring friendships, the characters are tempered by age and wisdom, though still layered in reflecting, intermittently revealing levels of absurdity. Gestures have a life of their own—an "Elizabethan" wave of the hand, for example, belongs first to the Queen, then to a socialite, then to Mona, a mail-order lesbian bride, making equal the essentially unequal. If British high life and low life don't come across as different from San...
(The entire section is 328 words.)
SOURCE: "A Talk with Armistead Maupin," in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 231, No. 11, March 20, 1987, pp. 53-4.
[In the following excerpted essay, which is based on a conversation with Maupin, Spain discusses Maupin's homosexual themes and attitudes, the AIDS crisis and its effect on his writing, his method for creating characters and plots, and his wide appeal among both heterosexuals and homosexuals.]
It's the Friday before a long holiday weekend in San Francisco, and many of the city's residents are preparing to escape to the country for some time away from their day-to-day concerns. The readers of the San Francisco Examiner, however, will take at least one daily concern away with them—namely, a worried curiosity about what Monday will bring for the cast of characters whose lives Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin outlines daily in the Examiner serial Significant Others….
San Franciscans are accustomed to the suspense. Maupin has been serializing the adventures of a cross-section of Bay Area characters off and on since 1976, when the original series first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. Readers elsewhere have followed these tales in four editions, beginning with Tales of the City in 1978, followed by More Tales … (1980), Further Tales … (1982) and 1984's Babycakes; together they have sold over 200,000...
(The entire section is 2100 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Significant Others, in Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 19, 1987, p. 15.
[In the following favorable review, Baldwin discusses the development of character and theme in Significant Others.]
First, up popped Tales of the City in 1978, a collection of his serialized newspaper columns chronicling the hopelessly, comically tangled lives of selected fictional soul mates from widely disparate sexual, geographic and social orientations—and all this in a charmed, anything-possible San Francisco. There followed More Tales of, Further Tales, and Babycakes (a communal nickname). Now, almost 10 years later, Armistead Maupin's spool of labyrinthine plot, barbed-wire dialogue (that doesn't really sting long), and playful trend-skewering is winding its way unflaggingly on. Well, almost unflaggingly.
If you've been tracking and giggling over Maupin's jolly crew all along, no explanation is necessary; if however you come to Significant Others like a virgin, some explanation is possible. The first Maupin one comes upon is usually the funniest; still, this one strikes me as his most skillful balancing act yet in a self-limiting genre, especially one additionally limited by current events.
Most of the same crew reports in: the sweet gay hero, Michael (Mouse) Tolliver, the once-naive Mary Ann, now Oprah-Winfrying it on local TV;...
(The entire section is 820 words.)
SOURCE: "Crisis in the Beloved City," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 4436, April 8-14, 1988, p. 384.
[In the following review of Significant Others, Mars-Jones contends that the story lacks the "inventiveness" and "high camp" of Maupin's earlier pre-AIDS novels.]
Significant Others is the fifth in Armistead Maupin's endearing Tales of the City series of sagas, about high and low life (but never depressingly low life) in San Francisco. In each book, Maupin plants a new generation of plot and character-seedlings, re-pots some mature blooms and thins out some others. He has the literary equivalent, in his wry, easy-going prose, of green fingers. He knows exactly when to be sharp and when sentimental.
If there is a break in the sequence, it is between volume three (Further Tales of the City) and four (Babycakes). The cause of the break can be stated very simply: AIDS. It's not just that the early books assume a high level of sexual exchangeability, without consequences, among the characters, though that is enough to give those volumes a period flavour. The first book of the series, Tales of the City, was only published in book form in 1978 (all the volumes were originally serialized in San Francisco papers), but reading it today is to feel like a Scott Fitzgerald character, contemplating the Jazz Age from after the Wall Street Crash with an...
(The entire section is 813 words.)
SOURCE: "If You Go Down to the Woods Today," in New Statesman, Vol. 115, No. 2977, April 15, 1988, p. 42.
[In the following review of Significant Others, Lumsden describes Maupin's writing as "urbane" and notes his propensity for humorous assessments of both hetero- and homosexuals.]
As I write this review [of Significant Others] I am babysitting—actually, he's nine—while Zak's straight parents go off to court.
And that means that I'm inside the world that Maupin has made peculiarly his own. Listen: at breakfast, just half an hour ago, young Zak gazed at me earnestly—for we haven't met in a couple of years—and said without the least animosity, "God had to make it a man and a woman in the Garden of Eden, didn't he? If he'd made two men, we'd all be dead, wouldn't we?"
Great Heaven, I thought to myself, as every other adult around the table looked at the ceiling, the child's acknowledging a memory of having very properly been told that I am gay. Or is the kid giving me gay paranoia at 8.30 a. m.? "Very true," I said gravely back to him. And wondered whether it was through school or home or TV that his echo of the old moral majority "joke" about "Adam and Steve" had drifted into his upbringing by sensible English straight parents. How do sensible straight parents explain the existence of lesbians or gays to children who now see or hear the words,...
(The entire section is 609 words.)
SOURCE: "Serial Thriller," in The Village Voice Literary Supplement, No. 79, October, 1989, p. 13.
[An American educator and critic, Kendrick is the author of The Novel-Machine: The Theory and Fiction of Anthony Trollope (1980). In the following essay, he focuses on the development of the characters and themes in Maupin's Tales of the City novels.]
Eleven years and 2000 pages later, Mary Ann Singleton has finally arrived. Way back when, at the beginning of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City (1978), she was a naive Clevelander who'd come to San Francisco for a week's vacation and decided not to go home. Now, at the end of the sixth and final installment, Sure of You, she's moved to New York, where she hosts a nationally syndicated talk show, Mary Ann in the Morning. People calls her "the new Mary Hart."
"The who?" asks Mrs. Madrigal (Mary Ann's ex-landlady) when Brian Hawkins (Mary Ann's ex-husband) tells her that bit of news.
"Just this woman on Entertainment Tonight."
"I'll bring you the article."
"Don't go to any trouble, dear."
He smiled a little.
It's a seemingly casual exchange, typical of Maupin's colloquial style, but if you've been following his characters through...
(The entire section is 1997 words.)
SOURCE: "Goodnight, Mrs. Madrigal," in The New York Times Book Review, October 22, 1989, p. 26.
[An American novelist, essayist, and critic, Feinberg was a member of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). His final work, Queer and Loathing: Rants and Raves of a Raging AIDS Clone, was published near the time of his death in 1994. In the following review of Sure of You, Feinberg examines the influence of the AIDS crisis on the novel's characters and plot.]
Farewell to 28 Barbary Lane. Sure of You is the sixth and final volume in Armistead Maupin's remarkable Tales of the City series, an extended love letter to a magical San Francisco. The first five volumes were serialized in San Francisco newspapers. A master of compression, Mr. Maupin crams information into short, delectable, addictive chapters ideal for post-Vonnegut attention spans. I know I'm not the only one who was up until 2 in the morning with the latest installment, promising myself to stop after just one more chapter.
Mr. Maupin juggles plots adeptly. In past volumes he has written lurid subplots including cannibal cults and child pornographers with clip-on ties. Along the way we've learned some of the mysteries of Mrs. Madrigal, the transsexual hophead landlady of 28 Barbary Lane; we've watched Mary Ann Singleton's climb to success from small-town secretary to successful television talk show...
(The entire section is 841 words.)
SOURCE: "Mainstreaming a Cult Classic," in Newsweek, Vol. 114, No. 18, October 30, 1989, p. 77.
[In the review below, Clifton describes Sure of You as a dark finale to the Tales series set "in a city now haunted by AIDS."]
Armistead Maupin is a jovial fellow, a witty gay writer who can even make wry jokes about AIDS—which he does in his latest book, Sure of You…. There is only one subject that annoys him, irritates the hell out of him, enrages him, in fact. It is the subject of The Closet, and the cowards and traitors still cowering in its darkness.
Sure of You is the sixth—and Maupin says the last—novel in his famous series chronicling the lives of characters who, like Maupin himself, were drawn to San Francisco from all over America. The first five books, starting with the frothy Tales of the City in 1978, were based on his daily newspaper columns, which described San Francisco social life through a fictional parade of people. The books became cult classics; the Times of London called them "the funniest series of novels currently in progress." The new novel is the first that Maupin has written from scratch. It is a much darker, tougher book, about the breakdown of relationships among his familiar characters in a city now haunted by AIDS. With the first printing of 50,000 sold out before the official publication date, Sure of...
(The entire section is 1044 words.)
SOURCE: "Out on the Town," in Mother Jones, Vol. 14, No. 9, November, 1989, p. 54.
[In the following review, Block describes the tone of Sure of You as serious, noting the novel's concern with such themes as the AIDS crisis and homosexuality.]
"The thing of calling something a 'black' or a 'gay' or a 'women's' novel: it sounds like some medicine that you've got to take," writer Armistead Maupin says, smiling almost wearily. "And that does a terrible disservice to those of us who are simply trying to tell stories about the real world, simply trying to include the people into the real world where they belong."
There is still a hint of North Carolina to the author's accent: a reminder of the world he was born into, and its distance from the one he inhabits and writes about in his witty Tales of the City novels. A young protégé of Jesse Helms, campus conservative at Chapel Hill, and unapologetic Vietnam vet in the sixties, Maupin, now forty-five, has emerged as an armchair anarchist who dedicated his latest book to his male lover in San Francisco and to his sister back in Raleigh. "I helped a lot of debutantes come out," says Maupin, "but Jane was the only one who ever returned the favor."
The transformation can be traced back to 1977, when Maupin began serializing his fiction in the San Francisco Chronicle, coming out quite publicly in the process....
(The entire section is 719 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Tales of the City, More Tales of the City, Further Tales of the City, Babycakes, and Significant Others, in Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 5, 1989, p. 20.
[In the following review, Solomon remarks favorably on the Tales series.]
Bedtime stories for Baby Boomers. Armistead Maupin's continuing saga of life in San Francisco began as a serial in the Chronicle in 1976, and his tongue-in-cheek depiction of the late '70s sex-and drugs singles scene seems as remote today as the misadventures of the Pickwickians.
Although the search for love and security in an increasingly uncertain world remains at the heart of this popular series, the tone has darkened. The three earlier books played relatively down-to-earth characters against such extravagantly silly plot twists as the discovery of the Episcopal Cannibal Cult in More Tales. But as the liberated '70s gave way to the grayer, grimmer '80s, Maupin grew more serious. He began to confront the AIDS crisis in Babycakes, which features his most sensitive writing; the threat of the pandemic and the responses it engenders dominate Significant Others.
Maupin also has lost interest in Mary Ann Singleton: The sweetly bewildered ingenue from Cleveland who was the main character of the first books has become a materialistic, upscale yuppie. The focus of the story...
(The entire section is 313 words.)
SOURCE: "City of the Plain and Not So Plain," in Spectator, Vol. 264, No. 8431, February 10, 1990, pp. 31-2.
[Waugh, the daughter of English novelist Evelyn Waugh, is an English editor, critic, and novelist whose works include Kate's House (1983). In the following review, she examines the Tales novels, focusing on character and theme.]
Armistead Maupin started his fictional—and mainly homosexual—saga of life and times in San Francisco in the Seventies and Eighties as a contemporary serial in the San Francisco Chronicle. In all, there are six novels chronicling the sexual connections and life-styles of the original cast of characters and their friends. Now, the last of these, Sure of You, and the first three, in an omnibus volume, have been published [in Great Britain]. For those who become insatiable fans, the other two are also available (Significant Others from Chatto & Windus, and Babycakes from Black Swan). The novels span the first gay (in the traditional sense) ardour of the sexually permissive Seventies, when San Francisco became the fun place to be if you were homosexual, to the gloom of the middle-aged, Aids-responsible citizenry of the late Eighties. Because it has been written as things happened, there is the added, slightly voyeuristic interest of witnessing social history in the making, which gives a depth to the colourful flutterings of the...
(The entire section is 815 words.)
SOURCE: "Soap without Suds," in New Statesman and Society, Vol. 3, No. 90, March 2, 1990, pp. 36, 38.
[In the following review of Sure of You, Gerrard praises the story as a "bright, funny, engaging and loquacious soap."]
Writers—like Dickens or even Fay Weldon—have written newspaper serials which have then appeared in novel from; others—like Trollope, Anthony Powell, Catherine Cookson—have written novel series. Armistead Maupin has combined both, and become a cult. It is easy to see why. Sure of You, the sixth and final novel in his Tales of the City sequence—written in installments over the years—has a narrative as easy to pick up as The Archers after a long holiday, and as hard to put down as any good potboiler.
Set in San Francisco, Sure of You is about the contemporary life of the city as much as any of its inhabitants. Each vignette—the dinner parties in chintzy condos, the gay nightclubs, the AZT bleepers uniting strangers in bars, the celebrity gatherings where West Coast personalities feel like hicks beside their New York colleagues, the triangular trellis round which one character grows pink flowers (symbol of gay liberation), the journey that a mother and daughter make to Lesbos—fills in our picture of San Francisco. The novel is littered with specific contemporary references: the latest fads (like a realistic model of Jeff...
(The entire section is 549 words.)
SOURCE: "From Bath-House to Bleeper," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 4536, March 9-15, 1990, p. 258.
[In the following review, Glyde favorably assesses the Tales novels, discussing the difference in tone of the first three volumes with that of the last three.]
The daily column in the form of a story (no rumination allowed): it worked for Dickens, and Armistead Maupin, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, quickly saw an advantage in the agonizing hurry to get each instalment out on time. Current events and absurdities could be skinned and fictionalized immediately. What Maupin calls "defenders of serious journalism" complained, but to no avail. In this landscape, there are no expanses of contemplative and plot-wasting sky. Everything connects tightly and tantalisingly. There is much for lovers of fiction (and soaps): love, despair (but not for long), idiosyncrasy and the death of the really bad, carefully mixed with the preoccupations of real-life readers.
From cock-rings to cruets, from The Karmic Anchovy to thirtysomething, Maupin has described thirteen years in the life of a city and its people. Tales of the City begins in 1976, when the bath-houses of San Francisco still thrummed with the fearless frothings of the happy. Heads or tails, you might say, are the choices where sex and dope are the forces of life, followed, at a distance, by...
(The entire section is 820 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Sure of You, in Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 14, 1990, p. 14.
[In the review below, Solomon remarks favorably on Sure of You.]
The seventh installment in the popular Tales of the City series continues Armistead Maupin's chronicle of contemporary life in a romanticized San Francisco. Part soap opera, part roman a clef and part ably written contemporary novel, Sure of You is as entertaining as Maupin's earlier books. While Michael Tolliver confronts the permanent terrors of his HIV-positive status, Mary Ann Singleton, who began as the heroine of the books, succumbs to an insidious disease within her soul. She's turned into an uncaring, status-hungry yuppie. Even Anna Madrigal, the ethereal, stoned den mother who presides over 28 Barbary Lane, has given up on her. Like the earlier Significant Others, Sure of You is really about Brian Hawkins, Mary Ann's beleaguered husband. Originally a singles barfly, Brian has developed into an increasingly sympathetic figure, an intelligent baby-boomer grappling with the problems of growing older and growing up. Maupin has said Sure of You is the final volume in the series, but that decision is probably reversible: His characters, like his readers, may demand that he continue the story.
(The entire section is 200 words.)
SOURCE: "Politics, Power and Pride," in The Gay Novel in America, Garland Publishing, 1991, pp. 288-89.
[The author of The Gay Novel: The Male Homosexual Image in America (1983), Levin is an American educator, biographer, and nonfiction writer. In the following excerpt, he contends that Tales of the City presents homosexuality as "a single facet of the human persona" and an ordinary part of the social milieu.]
Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City consists of interrelated vignettes that were originally printed as a column in the San Francisco Chronicle. (The work was so commercially successful that it led to six sequels.) Despite the humble newspaper origins, the tales offer pleasant diversions mixed with insight—more so than works with more prestigious aims. The short escapades describe the lives of young San Franciscans, most of whom are single; a few older characters and married couples complete the picture. About half are lesbians and gay men and most of the tales revolve around their efforts to find a genuine lasting relationship. Often this quest merely leads to sex. The married characters try to improve their relationships or supply what they feel is missing through extramarital activity. Some of the humor results from the bizarre intermingling of the characters.
Some of the ambience appears that gives San Francisco its cosmopolitan reputation,...
(The entire section is 486 words.)
SOURCE: "Out of the Fog," in San Francisco Review of Books, Vol. 17, No. 2, Fall, 1992, pp. 5-6.
[In the following review, Hagan compares the themes of Maybe the Moon with those of the Tales novels.]
It's an airy spacious place, a penthouse cresting a Noe Valley hill, that Armistead Maupin calls home. Even on a cloudy San Francisco summer day, the living room glows with light from the expanse of windows looking out over the city—Maupin's home of twenty years. As an avid reader of Tales of the City, I arrived with a bounty of questions regarding his latest novel, in which he strays from his familiar San Francisco cast and setting and moves to contemporary Los Angeles to explore the trials of a 31-inch tall Jewish woman in Tinseltown. I had read the new book, had been assured that Maupin was still Maupin, and was anxious to discuss this new display of familiar Maupin themes. But first I wanted to know why L.A?—why a dwarf?
"I had a friend [Tammy De Treaux] who was 31 inches tall. I met her on a cruise, at a cocktail party, and we hit it off instantly. I was like anybody else—thrown at first and in love in about twenty minutes. The best way to describe her is as a sort of condensed Bette Midler: enormous personality obviously developed to compensate for her size, with a great loving heart and a terrific sense of humor."
Seeing Tammy's constant...
(The entire section is 1261 words.)
SOURCE: "Everybody's Beautiful," in New York Times Book Review, November 29, 1992, p. 24.
[Johnson is an American novelist and critic. In the following review of Maybe the Moon, she centers on the theme of discrimination and the protagonist Cady Roth.]
Cadence (Cady) Roth longs to be a real movie star. But she cannot get away from her most famous role, as Mr. Woods, an E.T.- or Yoda-like character—in an electronically controlled rubber suit—in a hit science fiction movie. That this otherwise intelligent person does not understand why other offers are not rolling in is soon apparent to readers of Armistead Maupin's novel Maybe the Moon. Cady is a 31-inch-tall, fat dwarf.
Cady lives in Studio City, near Hollywood, with her airhead friend Renee, who is unaccountably happy to pay the entire rent, rub lotion on Cady's legs and lift her up onto chairs. Their dialogue is as snappy as that in a situation comedy, and like sitcom characters they live in a timeless world where nothing much matters but who had sex and who is auditioning for what, and there are long afternoons to hang out at the mall.
Though there are hints that the novel is a feminist parable, Cady identifies more with her many gay male friends than with other women. Intimately involved in their love lives, she describes herself as "the biggest fag hag this side of Susan Sarandon" and is more...
(The entire section is 793 words.)
SOURCE: "Size Matters," in The Village Voice, Vol. 37, No. 48, December 1, 1992, p. 58.
[In the following review of Maybe the Moon, Ulin contends that the characters are stereotypical and the story fails to mirror real life.]
Back in the late '70's, Armistead Maupin came up with a truly brilliant idea: to write a serial novel, a comedy of manners that would unfold day to day in the pages of a major metropolitan newspaper. It was a very 19th century concept—Dickensian, even—but Maupin's approach seemed completely here-and-now. His intention was to take America's shifting cultural landscape and reflect it in a work that would feature a wide cross-section of characters—gay and straight, male and female, rich and poor—all residents of Maupin's beloved San Francisco. The result, Tales of the City, grew over the next decade from a local Bay Area phenomenon into a six-volume national bestseller and, ultimately, assured its author's place among the most inventive and light-hearted social satirists of his era.
Now Maupin has completed his first post-Tales effort, Maybe the Moon, a novel that takes on the myth and reality of Hollywood, where secrets are regularly guarded under the guise of "movie magic." That's the situation Cadence (Cady) Roth—31 inches tall and a former "World's Shortest Mobile Adult Human"—finds herself in. Having briefly flirted with...
(The entire section is 777 words.)
SOURCE: "Larger Than Life," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 4688, February 5, 1993, p. 19.
[The author of States of Desire: Travels in Gay America (1980), White is an American educator, novelist, essayist, and critic. In the following review, he describes Maupin's dialogue in Maybe the Moon as "crisp" and discusses the development of both the major and minor characters.]
In the 1960s, it was fashionable to define a work of art as a machine for creating sensations. If so, Maybe the Moon (a deliberately corny title invented by a Hollywood producer in the novel) is an extremely efficient machine for producing sensations of pleasure, suspense, pathos and a highly critical kind of irony.
Armistead Maupin is a consummate entertainer who has made a generation laugh with his six-volume San Francisco saga, Tales of the City. If this time out he's more cutting, the change in tone may be ascribed to his change of venue, from San Francisco to the much more dynamic, violent and hypocritical Los Angeles of the movies.
The heroine is Cadence Roth, a former Guinness record-holder as the world's smallest woman, whose greatest role was one in which she was entirely invisible and anonymous. She animated the styrofoam body of a lovable elf, Mr Woods, in a top-grossing film epic of the ET variety.
The text we are reading is Cady's...
(The entire section is 805 words.)
SOURCE: "Tweak My Nipple," in London Review of Books, Vol. 15, No. 6, March 25, 1993, pp. 21-2.
[In the following review of Maybe the Moon, Mars-Jones charges that the story is poorly paced, the characterizations are lackluster, and the themes lack consistently serious treatment.]
Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, which started appearing as a newspaper serial in the mid-Seventies, and in volume form a few years later, are little classics of light literature: in their lightness they outweigh any number of more earnest enterprises. Maupin's San Francisco is a carousel lightly disguised as a city, a continuous party where everyone is welcome without any tedious obligation to fit in, and even the hangovers are fun.
To gay readers these books offered an extraordinary experience, of having their difference neither denied nor insisted on, but dissolved for the duration—far less of an existential branding in this jaunty utopia than, say, coming from Cleveland. Maupin was always a pragmatist rather than an ideologue (he waited until after his probationary period with the newspaper that was publishing the serial was safely over before introducing a gay character), or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he was a pragmatic ideologue. With his deft braiding of characters and story-lines, he won an enormous and diverse audience. With the advent, though, of Aids, Maupin...
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SOURCE: "A Tale of the '70s," in TV Guide Magazine, Vol. 42, No. 2, January 8-14, 1994, pp. 26-8.
[In the following essay, Maupin discusses the creation and development of the Tales of the City series from newspaper serial to novel to television miniseries.]
PBS—famous for such British-made epic dramas as Upstairs, Downstairs; Brideshead Revisited; and The Jewel in the Crown—will broadcast yet another this week: Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, a sweeping period saga whose literary origins can be traced directly to the vegetable department of a San Francisco supermarket.
Let me back up a little.
It was 1974. I'd come to the local Safeway as a reporter for a weekly paper to follow up on a tip I'd received. According to my source, hordes of "swinging singles"—as we once so quaintly called them—descended upon the store every Wednesday night in search of romance.
Sure enough, the place was overflowing with dudes in puka shells and eager young women in rhinestone-studded, brushed-denim pantsuits. The veggie section seemed particularly active, so I headed there, full of probing questions: When did this all begin? What's the best pickup line? Why Wednesday night? For some reason, no one would talk to me.
I settled on a fictional shopper to explain the phenomenon to my readers. I named her Mary Ann...
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Gillespie, Elgy. "Armistead Maupin at Tale's End." San Francisco Review of Books 14, No. 3 (Winter 1989–1990): 18-20.
Discusses Maupin's early life, his military career and work as a reporter, the evolution of the stories that became the Tales of the City, and his views on homosexuality.
Barker, Michael. Review of Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin. Books and Bookmen, No. 35 (August 1984): 22.
Favorable review of Tales of the City.
Biemiller, Lawrence. "Memoirs of a Midget," Book World—The Washington Post (22 November 1992): 11.
Mixed assessment of Maybe the Moon, focusing on character development and themes.
Degnan, James P. "Cowboy and Crazies: The American West, Then and Now." The Hudson Review XXXIII, No. 1 (Spring 1980): 146-50.
Reviews several books about California, including Maupin's Tales of the City. Degnan contends that Maupin's themes of alienation and nonconformism are "tiresome."
Olson, Ray. Review of Significant Others, by Armistead Maupin. Booklist 84, No. 1 (1 September 1987): 28....
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