Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City Conclusion is Masterfully Constructed, Frequently Funny and Deeply Moving.

Posted on February 26, 2014
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Concluding the Tales of the City series was perhaps Armistead Maupin’s most challenging literary task.  Concluding an epic novel–let alone a series of novels–involves not only revisiting the key characters and wrapping up their stories, but also the inclusion of something less tangible:  resonances of the beginning–gentle reminders of how far the characters have come.  In his latest book Armistead Maupin achieves all of this, while at the same time managing to fold in a prequel that informs the entire series.  For The Days of Anna Madrigal is not just the story of Anna Madrigal’s last days; it is also the story of her first days.  And Mr. Maupin masterfully accomplishes this in just 288 pages–creating a brisk read that is frequently funny and, in the end, deeply moving.

San Francisco in the seventies was a very different place than it is today.  When the Tales of the City series began, San Francisco had two (print) newspapers–one of which published these stories originally.  It was a (relatively) affordable city where young people (gay and straight) came to smoke some pot and find themselves.  Today with all the techies and finance types, San Francisco seems to have no room for the Michael Tollivers of the world.  And to his credit Mr. Maupin does not ignore this. Indeed, it says something about the realism of this book that we find Michael Tolliver living not in San Francisco, but in one of its more affordable suburbs.  As for Anna Madrigal, she has left Barbary Lane behind and finds herself returning to her childhood home in Winnemucca–mentally, at first.  It’s fair to say that their bodies are failing them: the price of advancing years.

This is not a forced reunion.  There will be no Mary Tyler Moore Show-style group hug here–if only because Mary Anne Singleton’s moat of money prevents it.  Instead, what emerges is something that seems natural, realistic and surprisingly lyrical.

Needless to say, Queer Reader strongly recommends this book.  It may well be Mr. Maupin’s best.

Armistead Maupin’s The Days of Anna Madrigal is published by Harper.

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