Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Birthday to 'Tales of the City' Author Armistead Maupin

Armistead Maupin was born today, May 13, in 1944. He is an American writer, best known for Tales of the City, a series of novels set in San Francisco.

Maupin was born in Washington, D.C. He was raised in Raleigh, North Carolina and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he became involved in journalism through writing for The Daily Tar Heel.

Maupin worked at WRAL-TV (Channel 5) in Raleigh, a station then managed by future U.S. Senator Jesse Helms. Helms nominated Maupin for a patriotic award, which he won. Maupin is a veteran of the United States Navy; he served several tours of duty including one in the Vietnam War.

Maupin's work on a Charleston newspaper was followed with an offer of a position at the San Francisco bureau of the Associated Press in 1971. He says he had known he was gay since childhood, but did not have sex until he was 26 and only decided to come out in 1974 when he was about 30. The same year, he began what would become the Tales of the City series as a serial in a Marin County-based newspaper, the Pacific Sun, moving to the San Francisco Chronicle after the Sun's San Francisco edition folded.

The first of Maupin's novels, entitled Tales of the City, was published in 1978. Five more followed in the 1980s, ending with the last book, Sure of You, in 1989. A seventh novel published in 2007, Michael Tolliver Lives, continues the story of some of the characters. It was followed by an eighth volume, Mary Ann in Autumn, published in 2010 and a ninth and final volume, The Days of Anna Madrigal, in 2014. In Babycakes, published in 1983, Maupin was one of the first writers to address the subject of AIDS. Of the autobiographical nature of the characters, he says "I’ve always been all of the characters in one way or another."

The Tales of the City books have been translated into 10 languages, and there are more than 6 million copies in print. Several of the books have been adapted and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. The first three books in the series have also been adapted into three television miniseries starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney. The first airing was on PBS; subsequent miniseries appeared on Showtime.

He collaborated on Anna Madrigal Remembers, a musical work written by Jake Heggie and performed by choir Chanticleer and mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade on August 6, 1999, for which Maupin provided a new libretto. He also participated in a concert series with the Seattle Men's Chorus entitled "Tunes From Tales (Music for Mouse)," which included readings from his books and music from the era.

In May 2011, a theatrical musical version of Tales of the City had its premiere at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. The musical has a score and lyrics by Jake Shears and John Garden of the rock band Scissor Sisters, and a book by Jeff White. It was directed by Jason Moore.

Maupin wrote two novels, Maybe The Moon and The Night Listener, which are not part of Tales, though both books occasionally glance in that direction.

Maybe The Moon is a story Maupin describes as "partly autobiographical," despite the main character being a female heterosexual Jewish dwarf. The character was also based on his friend Tamara De Treaux, who played the title character in the 1982 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

The Night Listener is a roman à clef, inspired by Maupin's experiences concerning the Anthony Godby Johnson hoax. He says he wanted to create a psychological thriller, while being able to put autobiographical elements in it. The issues he addresses include the ending of his relationship with his long-term partner and his relationship with his father. The book very lightly references the Tales world via Gabriel Noone's assistant, who is one of DeDe Halcyon-Day's twins from Tales. The Night Listener was adapted into a movie that was screened at the Sundance Film Festival in late January 2006.

Maupin is married to Christopher Turner, a website producer and photographer. He saw him on a dating website and then "chased him down Castro Street, saying, 'Didn’t I see you on'" Maupin and Turner were married in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on February 18, 2007, though Maupin says that they had called each other "husband" for two years prior.

Maupin's former life partner of 12 years, Terry Anderson, was once a gay rights activist (Maupin himself has done much of that sort of work), and co-authored the screenplay for The Night Listener. He lived with Maupin in San Francisco and New Zealand.

His most recent book, published in 2017, is Logical Family, A Memoir. In it, he tells his actual life story. The New York Times Book Review calls it "Entertaining…. Wry and sharply drawn…. There is a good deal of what one expects from Maupin, wit and heartache rolled up into a tidy package, so that any anecdote can bring an ache of longing and a belly laugh all in the same paragraph. There is also vivid, sharp writing.”

1 comment:

Raybeard said...

I started reading the 'Tales of the City' series in the late 70s soon after each started being published - and, by God, they have been truly seminal works in my development and awareness of matters gay. Although I've never been to Ca. (yet?) in reading them with such untold pleasure I could almost smell S.F. - and I still long to have my imagination confirmed. I've read the series three times so far and a further re-read is overdue.
Also read 'Maybe the Moon' and 'Night Listener', liking the latter more, though the film not quite so much.
A splendid story-teller he is.