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Interview: Armistead Maupin on Tales of The City, Ian McKellen and Rock Hudson

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  1. Sister Goodlove 15 Feb 2012, 12:35pm

    Thank you for another great article on a gay success story. I love Mr Maupin’s work.

  2. I love Armistead Maupin and have read all his books.

    The first 6 ‘Tales of the City’ books were among the first ‘gay books’ I ever read after coming out and I still love them – I find it difficult to distinguish them as individual books as I read all 6 in practically 1 sitting

    ‘Michael Tolliver Lives’ was however extremely disappointing. It suffered by focussing almost solely on Michael Tolliver and missed the character of Mary-Ann in particular, replacing her with dull, minor characters who were simply not interesting (like Dede’s daughter). I felt like Maupin mistakenly believed that turning his own life into a novel would somehow be interesting to readers, It wasn’t to me.

    The follow up ‘Mary-Ann in Autumn’ was a return to form – an excellent book which recaptured the spirit of the first 6 books in the series and actually developed the characters.

    As for ‘Maybe the Moon’ and ‘The Night Listener’ – both were great books also.

    1. Have and read all the books. Great collection. Still not have read Mary-Ann in autumn. That’s next.

    2. I Loved it!
      Mind you, with a few tweaks here and ther, it could have been my biography.
      It’s available on CD too, which is just heaven to listen to on quet evenings

    3. Staircase2 16 Feb 2012, 9:53pm

      Only you could slag off a writer’s work siomply because there’s an element of auto-biography about it….

      Michael Tolliver Lives is a great book. In many ways I think its better than the earliest works. Its a story about survival and growing up.

      What could possibly be ‘disappointing’ about that…?

      1. I’m not slagging it off because there’s an element of autobiography about it – all the ‘Tales’ had an element of autobiography – he has said that the characters of both Michael Tolliver and Mary-Ann Singleton are both autobiographical.

        I just found ‘Michael Tolliver LIves’ to be dull and uninteresting.

        After a 20 year break I was majorly excited about the book.

        The problem for me was that the Tales books are about a collection of characters and their interactions.

        ‘Michael Tolliver Lives’ was about 1 character. And that was a mistake. Maupin himself has said that he did not want the book to be number 7 in the series, but that he wanted it to stand alone. But now he accepts that of COURSE it was going to be number 7 in the series.

        It’s not a coincidence that ‘Mary Ann In Autumn’ was a return to the original format.

  3. Dirk Theunissen 15 Feb 2012, 6:43pm

    Michael Tolliver is my all time fave character in books. I’ve read the Tales dozens of times & laugh and weep with them every time. never been to SF but I know all the streets.

  4. Naturesson 16 Feb 2012, 7:33pm

    I briefly knew Army way back when….and yes, we did but not very well.
    I take credit for one tiny suggestion I made to him that was included in the newspaper stories.
    He is basically a good man.
    I salute him for his words and success.

  5. Staircase2 16 Feb 2012, 9:51pm

    What a gent :o)

    I was a late-comer to the Armistead Maupin club, having for several long years avoiding his work (wrongly as it turns out) on the basis of pressure I felt as a gay men to have read his books simply because they were about gay characters (Gay Cliches 101).

    One day I was lucky enough to pick up the first book in the library and was hooked, line & sinkplunger, into this richly created world.

    Maupin is an artful story-teller and his work really does grab the reader.

    Thankyou for such great, inspiring and affirming work.

    1. scotsyank 9 Mar 2012, 1:17am

      You got there in the end. And I can tell you’re glad you did.

  6. Looking forward to the next one centred around Mrs Madrigal.

    Shame Brian was conveniently removed from M-A i A … I’d have liked to have read a chapter involving their dealing with their acrimony (M-A abandoning B and daughter etc).

    1. If the series continues then I suspect Brian will be a major character in the next book.

  7. Sam Maloney 22 Feb 2012, 7:41pm

    Saw the show at the American Conservatory, and it was wonderful. The music is excellent– fresher and hipper than most of what’s written in the ‘musical’ idiom; and the story is well paced, well plotted.

    I’m surprised that nearly a year later, it’s not already up and running somewhere else…

  8. Lovely interview with Mr Maupin!

    Like many of you, I have an emotional bond with TOTC and found them to be an inspiring, energising picture of a gay world that was quite exotic in its day. SF always put into my head that things could only be better with a more inclusive, diverse society where families of choice love and thrive. I love Maupin’s books and his creation of Mrs Madrigal, on top of that of the gay character of Mouse, is just so delicious.

    My take on the ‘Tolliver Lives’ novel is not that it was ‘weaker’ than the rest per se, but it perhaps demonstrates Maupin’s changed relationship with SF and/or life more generally. I haven’t quite put my finger on the “what” changes the tone, but I surmise it is the author’s biography impinging on his work/ style/ tone. ‘Mary Ann in Autumn’ showed Maupin was back closer to the original format, and leaving us wanting more… please let there be another sequel!

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