Friday, June 25, 2010

Author Spotlight: Armistead Maupin

Armistead Maupin on being a 'gay writer':
"I've always been proud of the fact that I've been openly gay longer than just about anybody writing today [...] but I never intended for that declaration to mean that I wasnarrowing my focus in any way, or joining a niche [...] now publishing has decided there's money in this, or at least a market [...] now a formalized thing has sprung up which I think is extremely detrimental to anybody beginning to write today. [...] It's possible to write a novel now which has gay themes, which has any truth you want to speak, that can be sold to a mainstream publisher and sold in a mainstream bookstore, so the notion of people who've narrowed their focus to only write books for a gay audience for gay people about gay people is stifling to me; in some ways, it's another form of the closet, as far as I'm concerned. I think Jerry Falwell must be very happy with those little cubby-holes at the back of book stores that say 'gay and lesbian' - it's a warning sign, they can keep their kids away from that section. I'd like people to stumble on my works in the literature section of Barnes and Noble and have their lives changed because of it.

It's complicated. I don't want to feel any less queer, but I think for us to march along in a dutiful little herd called 'gay and lesbian literature' and have little seminars that we hold together is pointless at this point, it makes no sense to me at all. [...] I cringe when I get 'gay writer' each time. Why Ithe modifier? I'm a writer. It's like calling Amy Tan a Chinese-American writer every time you mention her name, or Alice Walker a black writer. We're all discussing the human condition. Some of us have revolutionized writing by bringing in subject-matter that nobody's heard about before. But we don't want that to narrow the definition of who we are as an artist. [...] I don't mind being cross-shelved. I'm very proud of being in the gay and lesbian section, but I don't want to be told that I can't sit up in the front of the book store with the
straight, white writers."*

Maupin's piece on "Growing Up Gay in Old Raleigh"

Joe, on Maupin:
You may have heard of Armistead Maupin's series Tales of the City, even if only from the brilliant PBS series starring Laura Linney (in her debut roll) and Olympia Dukakis as Mrs. Madrigal. But if you haven't read them, or haven't read them in a while, it is well worth doing. For me, the Tales of the City books are like comfort food. Sometimes I'll pick one up with the intention of reading just a little bit, and find that an hour as flown by and I've read half the book. And at that point, I may as well just keep reading! Maupin captures not only the spirit of the age in which he was writing (the 70's and early 80's) but also paints the most loving portrait of his city, San Francisco. Start with Tales of the City (originally published in 1978), and then More Tales of the City (1980) and then Further Tales of the City (1982). The books take a dark and serious (well partially so) turn in the fourth book, Babycakes (published in 1984) and Significant Others (1987), to what we all thought was the finale in Sure of You (published in 1989). But in 2007, Maupin returned with the joyously sad Michael Tolliver Lives. These books cover such a wide range of topics: gay life, friendships, families, cancer, AIDS, and Jim Jones. Just writing this makes me want to return to Barbary Lane..."



And a special 'p.s.' from Joe:
"Oh my gosh, I am so excited! Want another reason to revisit the Tales of the City Series? Because it isn't over yet! Coming this November, "Mary Ann in Autumn", which will catch us back up with Mary Ann Singleton, now 57...I can't wait!"

From the Harper Catalog:
Over 20 years have passed since Mary Ann Singleton left her husband and child in San Francisco for the allure of a television career in New York. Now, a pair of personal calamities has driven her back to the city of her youth and into the arms of her oldest friend, Michael “Mouse” Tolliver, newly wed and happily ensconced with a much-younger husband.

Grateful for the temporary refuge their garden cottage offers, Mary Ann, now at the unnerving age of 57, licks her wounds and begins to take stock of her mistakes. Soon, with the help of the Internet and a few old friends, she begins to reengage with life, only to confront fresh terrors when—out of the virtual blue—her speckled past comes back to haunt her in an unexpected way.

Caught in her orbit are a cast of intriguing players whose stories play out against her own: her estranged daughter, Shawna, a popular sex blogger; Jake Greenleaf, Michael’s transgendered gardening assistant; socialite DeDe Halcyon Wilson and her wife D’orothea; and the legendary Anna Madrigal, Mary Ann’s former landlady at 28 Barbary Lane.

Over three decades in the making, Armistead Maupin’s San Francisco saga rolls into a new age, still sassy, irreverent, and curious, and still exploring the boundaries of the human experience with insight, compassion and mordant wit.


Another gem from that catalog: The stage musical version of Tales of the City is scheduled to premiere in San Francisco in 2011. The show boasts a very impressive creative team, with music by Jake Shears and Jason Garden of the popular band Scissor Sisters, lyrics and book written by Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), and direction by Jason Moore (Avenue Q).

Maupin's Literary Timeline
Tales of the City Google map
Maupin and Olympia Dukakis discuss 'Tales in the City'

But there's more to Maupin than Tales of the City.
Jackie says:
"I was introduced to Maupin much later with his 2000 release of The Night Listener. This is a beautiful and moving book about loneliness that touched me very, very deeply. It literally took my breath way at times. The psychological depth is profound. I still ache when I think of it. And I'm still angry at Hollywood for creating such a horrible screenplay out of such a wonderful book (though Robin Williams was perfect casting, IMHO)."

1 comment:

Reading My Life Away said...

Love Armistead, he is a pure artist. A wonderful amazing written artist that captures and embraces the beauty of written word.....