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Wednesday at Kepler's: Armistead Maupin concludes 'Tales of the City'

Original post made on Jan 28, 2015

With "The Days of Anna Madrigal," the ninth book in his "Tales of the City" series, beloved San Francisco writer Armistead Maupin has penned his last novel starring the motley cast of characters from 28 Barbary Lane. Tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 28, Maupin will appear at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park to discuss the cult series and talk about what comes next for him as a writer.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, January 27, 2015, 11:54 AM

Comments (3)

4 people like this
Posted by Exasperated reader
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2015 at 12:27 pm

I wish this article had (as Peter Canavese's film reviews do) gone beyond fan-club questions into real examination of Maupin's WORK. For it's a regrettable reflection on Maupin's SF fan base that they take as somehow representative a writer also widely received here in the Bay Area, from the start, as self-indulgent and glib.

I followed "Tales of the City" when first serialized in the Chronicle in the 1970s, enjoying it initially. But its limitations had nothing to do with anything the "Religious Right" vilifies. The problem was, its pop-culture sensibilities and shallow melodrama had many local readers cringing. Starting with an off-the-rack storyline, Maupin sets up a villain who, after extravagantly showing how sleazy he is, is "burned alive" in a car crash. How tidy; how comic-book. That set the tone of much of what followed.

Why not contrast Maupin with Cyra McFadden, whose own 1970s serialized story "The Serial" satirized aspects of the Bay Area that badly needed it (Herb Caen dubbed McFadden's subject "phonies, consciousness-raising variety, Marin-County division"). McFadden at least had depth of local knowledge.

Maupin in the 1970s showed the particular and self-absorbed instinct, common to recent transplants, that presumes everyone else in the Bay Area is new here too. Casually viewing the PBS "Tales of the City" mini-series I found it entertaining. Later I saw a recording, paying more attention to dialog. The Innocent Girl new to SF asks her neighbor if their landlady is "from here." "No one's 'from here,'" answers the neighbor smugly. (I switched it off.)

Maupin was unwittingly showing an attitude as clichéed as it was annoying to the literally millions of Bay Areans who grew up here -- only to see recently-arrived writers, with little insight, thinking it useful to "explain" the Bay Area to its residents, from the perspective of whatever corner of the country they left behind. As if such an exercise made any sense; as if it were all really about the Bay Area, rather than just themselves.

In the 1980s I mentioned to another native the trend of recent writers doing that.

"Oh, I know," she answered. "Aren't they obnoxious?"


4 people like this
Posted by June Curran
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 28, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Dear me, Exasperated Reader (above), my goodness, you've upset yourself so. I dare say, if you want to ask Mr. Maupin a question that you don't see in the interview, why not come along tonight and simply ask your question? And since you find Mr. Maupin's attitude "clichéed" or "annoying" why not just tell him so? I imagine - among all of Mr. Maupin's admirers - you'll find yourself about as welcome as a skunk at a lawn party. But, I hope all the admirers will treat you with all the respect and decency you've denied Mr. Maupin.


Like this comment
Posted by Exasperated reader
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2015 at 5:35 pm

June Curran, you miss the point completely -- which, unfortunately, characterizes the fan-club gushing about Maupin. Evidently any real, searching criticism of his work is off-limits, and must be demonized.

The signing tonight, like all such, is a commercial event, arranged by the publisher to sell more books. That's what's so disappointing about the interview written here: it too reads like a publisher's promotion. Readers could be forgiven for wanting real literary criticism -- something serious writers welcome. But as we can see here, it's news to some people that "respect" and "decency" don't preclude looking at the writing's weaknesses along with its strengths.


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