Friday, October 02, 2009

Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin

(pb; 1978: Book One in the Tales of the City series)

From the back cover:

"Anna: a mystical landlady, an Earth-Space Mother, the kind of woman F. Scott Fitzgerald would have kissed. Mary Ann: a child of Ohio who caught the last dream leaving Cleveland for the coast. Michael: a gay person singular who wanted another person plural with whom he could buy a Christmas tree. And Mona: a writer, a little lonely, a little looney, and a lotta lovable.

"Shooting sentiment and joy straight from the hip, Tales of the City tells what happened to reality when it moved to San Francisco."


Warm, witty, and occasionally bawdy and sad work, this. The characters come from wildly-varied backgrounds, allowing San Francisco -- which, true to the cliché, is a character itself -- to be seen from many different views.

The year is 1976. The hippie movement has largely burnt out, leaving the more street-savvy or idealistic characters (Anna Madrigal, Mona Ramsey, Michael Tolliver, Brian Hawkins) to deal with its bittersweet ashes. Idealism still abounds in the city, but it's taken a few bruises, and, accordingly, its adherents have become more practical in their attitudes, goals and methods.

Maupin wrote a celebratory, life-affirming work when he penned this. I've read this a couple of times before, and the third time was no less effective in sparking its effervescent, occasionally-shaded moods in me.

Worth owning, this.

Followed by More Tales of the City.

Tales of the City, the PBS television mini-series, aired stateside on January 10, 1994. Richard Kramer wrote the teleplay. Alastair Reid directed.

Laura Linney played Mary Ann Singleton. Olympia Dukakis played Anna Madrigal. Donald Moffat played Edgar Halcyon. Chloe Webb played Mona Ramsey. Cynda Williams played D'orothea/Dorothy Williams. Marcus D'Amico played Michael "Mouse" Tolliver. Bill Campbell (billed as "William Campbell") played Jon Fielding. Paul Gross played Brian Hawkins.

Barbara Garrick played DeDe Day Halcyon. Thomas Gibson played Beauchamp Day. Robert Downey Sr. (father of Robert Downey Jr.) played Edgar's doctor. Parker Posey played Connie Bradshaw.

Mary Kay Place played Prue Giroux. Ian McKellen played Archibald Anson Gidde. Rod Steiger played "Bookstore Owner". An uncredited Janeane Garofalo played "Coppola Woman". Paul Dooley played Herbert "Herb" L. Tolliver. Michael Jeter played Carson Callas. Paul Bartel played Charles Hillary Lord. Karen Black played herself. Country Joe MacDonald played Joaquin.

Book author Armistead Maupin, in an uncredited role, played "Writer in window".

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