For more than three decades Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City has blazed its own trail through popular culture—from a groundbreaking newspaper serial to a classic novel, to a television event that entranced millions around the world. The first of six novels about the denizens of the mythic apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane, Tales is both a sparkling comedy of manners and an indelible portrait of an era that changed forever the way we live.
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Hoping that the rest of the series is this good!more
It's a breezy and in the year 2011, dated slice-of-life novel set in 1976 San Fransisco. I think it's of some small importance to remember that this novel (as well as the next three in the series) were originally published regularly as a newspaper serial. I think that a reader younger than 30 and/or one who is unfamiliar/intimidated by gay culture would have a tough time with this book, but the story is just perfect for film/tv adaptation, which is has been more than one occasion, so a younger reader would probably LOVE this story on tv, in my opinion.
As neither, I enjoyed it, but the word that just doesn't leave my mind is "breezy". Like much of the culture of the time, major plot developments and emotional events are dealt with by both Maupin and his characters by attempting to pass them off as no big deal. Death, sex, drug use, family, the quest for meaning in existence are all touched on, but done so in as nonchalant a manner as is humanly possible, both by the characters, and often by the prose itself. At the not-terribly-ripe-but-at-least-less-fresh age of 35, I just know that people don't work that way, although I've certainly seen enough of them TRY to look (and feel) that way. People are impacted by events, despite their efforts to look cool. I would have been less bugged by this had the prose broken into the third-person omniscient once or twice to just suggest that events had caused some deep thoughts. Granted, there are scenes where events cause people to cry. Actually, the characters cry a lot. Like all the time. But it's not the kind of silent doubt and deep thought that real people do when they see anything that makes them think. I don't need Naturalism here, it's not Dostoyevsky, but a dash of it would have made these characters very human and approachable. The most human by far is one who from what little I understand about what happens next, is one of the central figures of the later novels (I don't spoil things for myself).
So having been critical of it, I DID enjoy it, and I very much wanted to give it 4 stars, but I just couldn't do it. I haven't decided whether or not to try the next book, but I'm leaning towards doing so, and will add it to my to-read list just in case. It's a good book, and if you've been thinking of giving it a try, please do so, it's good enough to get off the fence for. If you're thinking about getting ON that fence, and homosexual 1970's S.F. is NOT your thing, you'll probably be frustrated, and perhaps you should move on.
While the story feels like you are reading a soap opera I think that is what it is supposed to feel like overall. The story originally was written in the San Francisco Chronicle, so the chapters are very short and present part of the story in a fast and effective manner. This makes the book pretty easy to read.
While some of the material may seem a bit lewd to some people it feels like it is in a proper place within the story. Maupin sets up each plot masterfully so you are not left scratching your head when something is revealed, instead you simply state to yourself "OH! Now it all makes sense." When you get to the end of the book though you will be wanting to read the next volume because it leaves many things open still, which makes for a good series.more