Tales of the City

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United States first edition cover of the first book in the Tales of the City series

Tales of the City refers to a series of nine novels written by American author Armistead Maupin. The stories from Tales were originally serialized prior to their novelization, with the first four titles appearing as regular installments in the San Francisco Chronicle, while the fifth appeared in the San Francisco Examiner. The last three titles were never serialized, but were instead originally written as novels.

Tales of the City has been compared to similar serial novels that ran in other city newspapers, such as The Serial[1] (1976) (San Francisco Bay Area), Tangled Lives (Boston), Bagtime (Chicago), and Federal Triangle (Washington, DC).[2]

Characters from the Tales of the City series have appeared in supporting roles in Maupin's later novels Maybe the Moon and The Night Listener.

Titles in the series[edit]

Core characters[edit]

The series opens with the arrival of Mary Ann Singleton, a naive young woman from Cleveland, Ohio, who is visiting San Francisco on vacation when she impulsively decides to stay. She finds an apartment at 28 Barbary Lane, the domain of the eccentric, marijuana-growing landlady Anna Madrigal (an anagram for "a girl and a man"). Mary Ann becomes friends with other tenants of the building: the hippyish bisexual Mona Ramsey; 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).

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 DeDe's 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. Michael's lovers later in the series include Thack Sweeney and the significantly younger Ben McKenna.

Realism in the series[edit]

Macondray Lane, recast in the series as the fictional Barbary Lane

Because installments were published so soon after Maupin wrote them, he was able to incorporate many current events into the plot of the series, as well as gauge reader response and modify the story accordingly. At one point Maupin received a letter from a reader who pointed out that one of the characters' names was an anagram, providing Maupin with one of the more memorable and surprising plot twists in the book.[3] Maupin's books are also some of the first to deal with the AIDS epidemic.

Real life people such as Jim Jones and a thinly veiled Elizabeth Taylor are mentioned in the story lines. A prominent closeted gay celebrity is represented as "______ ______" throughout the third novel, with sufficient detail available to deduce that it could be Rock Hudson.

Television adaptations[edit]

In 1993 the first book was made into a television miniseries, produced by Channel 4 in the UK and screened by PBS in the U.S. the next year. The second and third titles in the series made their television debuts in 1998 and 2001 on Showtime. In a public reading at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London in July 2007, Maupin indicated that it is unlikely that there will be any further miniseries or films made.

Series revival[edit]

Nearly two decades after Sure of You, Maupin resumed the series with the release of the novel Michael Tolliver Lives. Maupin originally stated that the novel was "NOT a sequel... and it's certainly not Book 7 in the series";[4] however, he later conceded that "I’ve stopped denying that this is book seven in Tales of the City, as it clearly is ... I suppose I didn’t want people to be thrown by the change in the format, as this is a first-person novel unlike the third-person format of the Tales of the City ... Having said that, it is still very much a continuation of the saga and I think I realized it was very much time for me to come back to this territory."[5] Michael Tolliver Lives was criticized by one critic for its thinly veiled autobiographical nature and for being the work of a beloved author trying to remember how he did it first time round.[6] Maupin's next novel in the series, Mary Ann in Autumn, returned to the style of the earlier Tales books, a multi-character tapestry of interwoven story lines. In 2011, Maupin announced that he was working on another novel for the series, titled The Days of Anna Madrigal. The novel was released on January 21, 2014 according to amazon.com.[7]

Musical adaptations[edit]

Maupin has collaborated on several Tales-themed musical projects. In March 1999, he participated in Tunes From Tales (Music for Mouse), a concert series with the Seattle Men's Chorus that included readings from the series and music from the era.[8] Maupin provided a new libretto for Anna Madrigal Remembers, a musical work composed by Jake Heggie and performed by choir Chanticleer and mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade on 6 August 1999.

Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City premiered at the American Conservatory Theater in 2011, with a book by Jeff Whitty and the score by Jake Shears and John "JJ" Garden.[9][10] The musical stage adaptation began previews on May 18 and ran through July 31, with direction by Jason Moore, and a cast featuring Judy Kaye as Anna Madrigal, Betsy Wolfe as Mary Ann Singleton, Mary Birdsong as Mona Ramsey, and Wesley Taylor as Michael "Mouse" Tolliver.[11][12] Reviews were generally positive, with new songs that "range from bawdy comic numbers to traditional solo ballads in which the principals give vent to the secret suffering in their hearts."[13]

References[edit]

External links[edit]