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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.

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780062112392
List price: $9.99
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Enjoyed this book even more than I expected. The San Francisco setting, however fictitious, was interesting, and the characters suprised me pretty often. I don't read many short story collections for some reason, enjoyed these. It was nice to come and go from the book without feeling like I'd missed much.more
Revisited via audio CD. It was lovely to be back on Barbary Lane with the kids, but odd that they are kids now and not too long ago they were glamourous grownups. Sweet and improbable and dated in the nicest sort of way. There's one prescient moment where Brian says to Michael that it's likely that someday they will be sad old libertines lost in a world of uptight kids, because the pendulum always swings.more
Yay for serial novels! The characters are really funny and warmly portrayed; the story feels largely effortless. Maupin could have spent a lot of time waxing poetical about San Francisco, but instead he lets the city shine through the characters. The jokes made cheerfully at the expense of seventies' culture are still funny because, man, the seventies were pretty strange.

Hoping that the rest of the series is this good!more
Call it 3.5 stars, I'm a little torn.

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.
more
Charming and hilarious little story about life in San Francisco in the 1970s.more
This is truly one of the most charming books that I have read. Having once lived in San Francisco I think it captures the atmosphere and ambiance of the area beautifully. One of the best moments is when Mrs. Madrigal tells her suitor that those that come to San Francisco are believed to be the people of Atlantis returning. This makes the story feel like a cohesive family unit, which is what Maupin seemed to want to project in the story with the cast of 28 Barbary Lane, specifically with that character.

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
Very entertaining reading, esp for anyone who may have nostalgia for the 70s and San Francisco in the 70s in particular. I was a child in the 70s so most of the pop-culture references were beyond me, but the stories were still fascinating and fun to read--probably because Mary Ann is an outsider too. Thank goodness. These were originally serialized in a newspaper, which explains why the tales never seem to get anywhere. As a book, it doesn't conclude; I guess one just has to keep reading the whole Tales of the City series...more
Re-reading this makes you feel seriously old! At one stage in my live I practically knew the Tales of the city books by heart: I haven't looked at them for ages, but reading Mary Ann in autumn prompted me to dig them out again (and fire up my vintage VCR to watch the TV adaptation again as well).The thing you forget, especially if you have the TV series in mind, is that this isn't seventies nostalgia. It is The Seventies. Tales of the city came out in book form in 1978, the same year as Dancer from the dance and Faggots. While New York was inventing "gay writing", Maupin was writing about lesbian, gay and transsexual characters as though there was nothing about their sexuality that was the least bit more profound, spiritual, absurd, or grotesque than there was about the strange things that heterosexuals get up to. He was normalising the whole sodom-and-gomorah world of seventies San Francisco for his readers by writing about it in a superb pastiche romantic comedy style, heavily laced with references to the most down-to-earth bits of fifties American popular culture. And he got away with it! It's basically the same trick they use in The Simpsons: if you make the audience laugh, give them a bit of sentiment towards the end, and never bore them or pretend that you know better than they do, then you can discuss almost any subject. It's a trick, but it takes a lot of skill, and in Maupin's case it would never have worked without his amazingly sharp dialogue. All those references to Hitchcock, Tennessee Williams and Noël Coward aren't there by accident: Maupin clearly has a very sharp eye for what works on stage and screen, and uses it to pare down his text to the absolute minimum. Brilliant stuff: he's definitely up there with writers like Kipling, Raymond Chandler and P.G. Wodehouse at the very top end of popular fiction.more
Centred on 28 Barbary Lane, San Francisco, the home of Anna Madrigal, Tales of the City chronicles the day to day life of Mrs Madrigal and her assorted tenants, along with their friends and colleagues. The eccentric Mrs Madrigal considers her residents as her family, leaves them notes accompanied by a joint and serves brownies suitably fortified. The residents include twenty five year old Mary Anne, a naïve young secretary newly arrived from Cleveland; Mona, a successful copywriter working for ad agency Halcyon Communications; Brian Hawkins, a randy waiter and one time lawyer in his thirties; and Michael (Mouse) Tolliver, a thoroughly likeable lively gay twink. Among the friends and colleagues, and very much part of the story are Edgar Halcyon, head of Halcyon Communications; and Beauchamp Day, his promiscuous son-in-law and business partner; along with their respective wives. By a remarkable series of coincidences the lives of residents, friends and acquaintances connect and interweave to comic effect.Their escapades range from the devious to the outrageous, ruthless to movingly caring; their sexual interests/orientation from straight to gay, and not always necessarily consistent; the whole providing an hilarious and touching account full of adventure.A thoroughly entertaining, funny and fast moving read, with some endearing and very likeable characters, I highly recommended it; and very much look forward to the subsequent developments in the many sequels.more
Just thoroughly enjoyed the book. Looking forward to the rest of the series.more
Reading this book is a bit like a history lesson. Set in San Francisco in the late-1970s, this book was remarkable for presenting homosexuality as part of mainstream popular culture. In 2011 this is hardly shocking, but thirty-five years ago it was. This is important to recognize before going into the book. With the stage set, I felt like this book read like a sitcom. The characters engage in crazy antics. They get involved in humorous love triangles. The series began in the newspaper, and I can see how that shapes the book. The book is comprised of short chapters and small vignettes. It is humorous and easy reading, a bit of mind candy. By the end I was left with some unanswered questions. What was the issue with the landlady? As this is the first book in a series, I'm going to assume that Maupin is setting up for the next book. I'll be reading it to find out.more
The everyday stories of the daily lives of some of the shallow and trivial folk that live in San Francisco,as interpreted by Armistead Maupin. I have been given to believe that this book and the later books in the series are wonderful but I just cannot understand what the fuss is all about. The characters are mere puppets and their lives seem completely pointless and indeed in most cases ugly too. A certain amount of mawkish humour is scattered amongst the pages and let's face it I did finish the book without actually throwing it at the wall. But in the end,it is just a so so sort of thing with little substance to it.more
The books is a collection of fictional stories about twenty-somethings in San Francisco in the '70s. A conservative young woman, Mary Ann Singleton moves to San Fran from Ohio and becomes friends with a diverse group of people including her pot-smoking landlord, Anna, bohemian neighbor Mona and a sweet gay man, Michael. The stories read more like a TV show than a book. Lovers are interchangeable and lives overlap as the characters deal with relationships, roommates, jobs and the AIDS epidemic. The writing isn't bad, there was just too much soap-opera style drama for me. Some of the characters are likable, but I found myself not caring too much about any of them.more
I can see why this is kind of a classic. Well-tied together, interesting stores weaving through the strange cityscape of San Francisco - not fully believable, but very enjoyable. My main criticism would be that the characters are often 2-dimensional and it's hard to really root for anyone. I more enjoyed the interesting interwoven experiences and lives of the group than the characters' emotional reactions to things.more
The classic San Francisco novel introduces a family of characters who live in Mrs. Madrigal's rooming house on Barbary Lane. The book is so full of dialogue that it reads like a script. Very funny, quirky, mind-opening, and heart-warming.more
Maupin introduces us to a large ensemble cast of quirky, complex, and lovable (well, mostly) characters from all walks of life, building what feels like a very realistic microcosm of San Francisco in the mid-1970s. The story is a bit choppy due to extremely short chapter lengths -- this work was originally published as a newspaper serial -- but that same issue also becomes something of a strength, since it forces the author to be economical with his words. Description is minimal but precise, and characterization is accomplished mostly through sharp, often funny and just as frequently heartbreaking dialogue. Some of the coincidental meetings and frankly bizarre plot developments are a little far-fetched, but the breezy tone keeps you turning the pages. I love these characters, who are as real in my mind as any I've ever encountered.more
This book was wonderful and funny and a real 'page turner'.The fact that I did not at first understand all the references, being in San Francisco and in the seventies did not reduce my enjoyment at all. Next in the series is now ready and waiting on my shelf!more
Tales of the City is based on Maupin's 1970's newspaper serial in the San Francisco Chronicle. Between the pages we meet a group of unforgettable characters AND we get to remember what it was like to live in the 70's. Drugs, Sex and secrets are what make up Tales of the City. The story opens with Mary Ann Singleton a small town girl from the Midwest who falls in love with San Francisco while on vacation and decides to move there. The adventures start as soon as she makes this decision and it's as if we move right into the Barbary Lane apartment with her. The story unfolds in soap opera fashion as we meet Mouse ( who's gay), Mona ( the ad exec), Mrs. Madrigal (The landlady who grows pot), and Brian ( the womanizer) . The story is written in short snippets that at first seem a bit disjointed. The story jumps around from one set of characters to another. But as the story unfolds we see how it all fits together like a jigsaw puzzle and how everyone is connected in some way. And Maupin knows how to write a good story so you'll be hooked soon enough. This is the first of 7 books.more
I can't really believe it's taken me this long to find these gems, but sometimes it's the ones that lie undiscovered under your nose that prove the most surprising. These books detail the lives of a motley band of individuals who live in San Francisco on Barbary Lane under the watchful eye of the matriarchal Anna Madrigal. The pluses and minuses of these stories all stem from the fact that they were initially serialisations in a regular newspaper column. It makes them an addictive doddle to read - each book is divided into bite-sized chunks that have an element of self-containment mixed with a splattering suspense that leaves you wanting more. The characters are skilfully drawn and quickly come to life and become much-loved friend - a testament to Maupin's skill as a writer. They are each a little window onto life in San Francisco at the time - an interesting documentation of society there.I guess, should you choose to, you could level the criticism that the interlinking storylines are all-to-convenient and readily wrapped up .... but I didn't find it problematic. It is an inherent quality of the original media they were published in and you have to allow for that format. I'm just glad to see them put together as a book so that they can be enjoyed by everyone. I think that if you cannot overcome objections to plot and structure, then these books were probably never meant for you. Personally, once I found them, I couldn't put them down and I'll certainly be looking forward to the next batch.more
It captures a moment in time. Reading it is like eating candy. I'll take another box.more
Oh, cute, cute, cute. What more does anybody have to say? Go read someone else's review and just consider mine positive.more
I knew I'd love this book from the first sentence, and it didn't disappoint. So readable, a real page-turner, you can't put it down, the clever plot leads you to the next chapter and the next until you find you've finished the whole thing. Wonderful to find that there are 5 equally good sequels.more
Synopsis: Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City has blazed a singular 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 wry comedy of manners and a deeply involving portrait of a vanished era.Vanished era is right. Boy was it hokey. All the drug references were kind of quaint – the pot and the Quaaludes and the overt casualness of their use. Funny. Same with the pre-AIDS bed hopping by both straight and gay people. No wonder we had an epidemic; these people had all the restraint of alley cats. They all wanted (whether they admitted it or not) a serious relationship, but they all just moved from bed to bed. It’s hard to believe that people actually did this. It seems detrimental not only physically, but emotionally. What a way to live. No wonder they needed drugs.The story is something out of Melrose Place. Well, the reverse. Whatever. It’s very soap operaish. Maybe that’s where Spelling got his idea for the trashy series. I didn’t like many of the people in this story though. The lead character, Mary Ann, is compared to everyone else, priggish and judgmental. She thinks she isn’t, but she is and her constant waffling between “loving” the new city and wanting to move back to the safety of the staid Cleveland gets annoying. She is dense and I was sick of reading about her.None of the other characters were likeable either. The landlady who gives out joints to people and says that her house chooses them and not the other way around. The rich couple with marriage problems – he is actually gay, but won’t come out of the closet. There’s Mary Ann’s boss who is dying of some disease, can’t stand his wife anymore because she didn’t stay a 20-year-old and who begins a “love” affair with the crazy landlady. There’s the bed hopping single guy who is up for sex with either gender. Two roommates; a lesbian who wonders if she’s a fag hag for hanging around with her roomie, a “twink” who goes in for jockey shorts competitions at gay bars. And finally, the reclusive guy upstairs who claims to be a private investigator who really turns out to be a child pornographer. Oy vey. The writing in this one was not nearly at the level of The Night Listener, either. Maupin’s writing definitely improved between the writing of the two. In Tales he struggles with creating suspense without giving away the game and fails in a lot of storylines. But the story wasn’t compelling; each of the character’s situations were trivial and lame. I didn’t care about any of them. Bah.more
Great story, great backdrop, great characters. Definitely read this book.more
Maupin's delightful and fascinating characters find their way through San Francisco in the heady 70s.more
Read all 30 reviews

Reviews

Enjoyed this book even more than I expected. The San Francisco setting, however fictitious, was interesting, and the characters suprised me pretty often. I don't read many short story collections for some reason, enjoyed these. It was nice to come and go from the book without feeling like I'd missed much.more
Revisited via audio CD. It was lovely to be back on Barbary Lane with the kids, but odd that they are kids now and not too long ago they were glamourous grownups. Sweet and improbable and dated in the nicest sort of way. There's one prescient moment where Brian says to Michael that it's likely that someday they will be sad old libertines lost in a world of uptight kids, because the pendulum always swings.more
Yay for serial novels! The characters are really funny and warmly portrayed; the story feels largely effortless. Maupin could have spent a lot of time waxing poetical about San Francisco, but instead he lets the city shine through the characters. The jokes made cheerfully at the expense of seventies' culture are still funny because, man, the seventies were pretty strange.

Hoping that the rest of the series is this good!more
Call it 3.5 stars, I'm a little torn.

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.
more
Charming and hilarious little story about life in San Francisco in the 1970s.more
This is truly one of the most charming books that I have read. Having once lived in San Francisco I think it captures the atmosphere and ambiance of the area beautifully. One of the best moments is when Mrs. Madrigal tells her suitor that those that come to San Francisco are believed to be the people of Atlantis returning. This makes the story feel like a cohesive family unit, which is what Maupin seemed to want to project in the story with the cast of 28 Barbary Lane, specifically with that character.

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
Very entertaining reading, esp for anyone who may have nostalgia for the 70s and San Francisco in the 70s in particular. I was a child in the 70s so most of the pop-culture references were beyond me, but the stories were still fascinating and fun to read--probably because Mary Ann is an outsider too. Thank goodness. These were originally serialized in a newspaper, which explains why the tales never seem to get anywhere. As a book, it doesn't conclude; I guess one just has to keep reading the whole Tales of the City series...more
Re-reading this makes you feel seriously old! At one stage in my live I practically knew the Tales of the city books by heart: I haven't looked at them for ages, but reading Mary Ann in autumn prompted me to dig them out again (and fire up my vintage VCR to watch the TV adaptation again as well).The thing you forget, especially if you have the TV series in mind, is that this isn't seventies nostalgia. It is The Seventies. Tales of the city came out in book form in 1978, the same year as Dancer from the dance and Faggots. While New York was inventing "gay writing", Maupin was writing about lesbian, gay and transsexual characters as though there was nothing about their sexuality that was the least bit more profound, spiritual, absurd, or grotesque than there was about the strange things that heterosexuals get up to. He was normalising the whole sodom-and-gomorah world of seventies San Francisco for his readers by writing about it in a superb pastiche romantic comedy style, heavily laced with references to the most down-to-earth bits of fifties American popular culture. And he got away with it! It's basically the same trick they use in The Simpsons: if you make the audience laugh, give them a bit of sentiment towards the end, and never bore them or pretend that you know better than they do, then you can discuss almost any subject. It's a trick, but it takes a lot of skill, and in Maupin's case it would never have worked without his amazingly sharp dialogue. All those references to Hitchcock, Tennessee Williams and Noël Coward aren't there by accident: Maupin clearly has a very sharp eye for what works on stage and screen, and uses it to pare down his text to the absolute minimum. Brilliant stuff: he's definitely up there with writers like Kipling, Raymond Chandler and P.G. Wodehouse at the very top end of popular fiction.more
Centred on 28 Barbary Lane, San Francisco, the home of Anna Madrigal, Tales of the City chronicles the day to day life of Mrs Madrigal and her assorted tenants, along with their friends and colleagues. The eccentric Mrs Madrigal considers her residents as her family, leaves them notes accompanied by a joint and serves brownies suitably fortified. The residents include twenty five year old Mary Anne, a naïve young secretary newly arrived from Cleveland; Mona, a successful copywriter working for ad agency Halcyon Communications; Brian Hawkins, a randy waiter and one time lawyer in his thirties; and Michael (Mouse) Tolliver, a thoroughly likeable lively gay twink. Among the friends and colleagues, and very much part of the story are Edgar Halcyon, head of Halcyon Communications; and Beauchamp Day, his promiscuous son-in-law and business partner; along with their respective wives. By a remarkable series of coincidences the lives of residents, friends and acquaintances connect and interweave to comic effect.Their escapades range from the devious to the outrageous, ruthless to movingly caring; their sexual interests/orientation from straight to gay, and not always necessarily consistent; the whole providing an hilarious and touching account full of adventure.A thoroughly entertaining, funny and fast moving read, with some endearing and very likeable characters, I highly recommended it; and very much look forward to the subsequent developments in the many sequels.more
Just thoroughly enjoyed the book. Looking forward to the rest of the series.more
Reading this book is a bit like a history lesson. Set in San Francisco in the late-1970s, this book was remarkable for presenting homosexuality as part of mainstream popular culture. In 2011 this is hardly shocking, but thirty-five years ago it was. This is important to recognize before going into the book. With the stage set, I felt like this book read like a sitcom. The characters engage in crazy antics. They get involved in humorous love triangles. The series began in the newspaper, and I can see how that shapes the book. The book is comprised of short chapters and small vignettes. It is humorous and easy reading, a bit of mind candy. By the end I was left with some unanswered questions. What was the issue with the landlady? As this is the first book in a series, I'm going to assume that Maupin is setting up for the next book. I'll be reading it to find out.more
The everyday stories of the daily lives of some of the shallow and trivial folk that live in San Francisco,as interpreted by Armistead Maupin. I have been given to believe that this book and the later books in the series are wonderful but I just cannot understand what the fuss is all about. The characters are mere puppets and their lives seem completely pointless and indeed in most cases ugly too. A certain amount of mawkish humour is scattered amongst the pages and let's face it I did finish the book without actually throwing it at the wall. But in the end,it is just a so so sort of thing with little substance to it.more
The books is a collection of fictional stories about twenty-somethings in San Francisco in the '70s. A conservative young woman, Mary Ann Singleton moves to San Fran from Ohio and becomes friends with a diverse group of people including her pot-smoking landlord, Anna, bohemian neighbor Mona and a sweet gay man, Michael. The stories read more like a TV show than a book. Lovers are interchangeable and lives overlap as the characters deal with relationships, roommates, jobs and the AIDS epidemic. The writing isn't bad, there was just too much soap-opera style drama for me. Some of the characters are likable, but I found myself not caring too much about any of them.more
I can see why this is kind of a classic. Well-tied together, interesting stores weaving through the strange cityscape of San Francisco - not fully believable, but very enjoyable. My main criticism would be that the characters are often 2-dimensional and it's hard to really root for anyone. I more enjoyed the interesting interwoven experiences and lives of the group than the characters' emotional reactions to things.more
The classic San Francisco novel introduces a family of characters who live in Mrs. Madrigal's rooming house on Barbary Lane. The book is so full of dialogue that it reads like a script. Very funny, quirky, mind-opening, and heart-warming.more
Maupin introduces us to a large ensemble cast of quirky, complex, and lovable (well, mostly) characters from all walks of life, building what feels like a very realistic microcosm of San Francisco in the mid-1970s. The story is a bit choppy due to extremely short chapter lengths -- this work was originally published as a newspaper serial -- but that same issue also becomes something of a strength, since it forces the author to be economical with his words. Description is minimal but precise, and characterization is accomplished mostly through sharp, often funny and just as frequently heartbreaking dialogue. Some of the coincidental meetings and frankly bizarre plot developments are a little far-fetched, but the breezy tone keeps you turning the pages. I love these characters, who are as real in my mind as any I've ever encountered.more
This book was wonderful and funny and a real 'page turner'.The fact that I did not at first understand all the references, being in San Francisco and in the seventies did not reduce my enjoyment at all. Next in the series is now ready and waiting on my shelf!more
Tales of the City is based on Maupin's 1970's newspaper serial in the San Francisco Chronicle. Between the pages we meet a group of unforgettable characters AND we get to remember what it was like to live in the 70's. Drugs, Sex and secrets are what make up Tales of the City. The story opens with Mary Ann Singleton a small town girl from the Midwest who falls in love with San Francisco while on vacation and decides to move there. The adventures start as soon as she makes this decision and it's as if we move right into the Barbary Lane apartment with her. The story unfolds in soap opera fashion as we meet Mouse ( who's gay), Mona ( the ad exec), Mrs. Madrigal (The landlady who grows pot), and Brian ( the womanizer) . The story is written in short snippets that at first seem a bit disjointed. The story jumps around from one set of characters to another. But as the story unfolds we see how it all fits together like a jigsaw puzzle and how everyone is connected in some way. And Maupin knows how to write a good story so you'll be hooked soon enough. This is the first of 7 books.more
I can't really believe it's taken me this long to find these gems, but sometimes it's the ones that lie undiscovered under your nose that prove the most surprising. These books detail the lives of a motley band of individuals who live in San Francisco on Barbary Lane under the watchful eye of the matriarchal Anna Madrigal. The pluses and minuses of these stories all stem from the fact that they were initially serialisations in a regular newspaper column. It makes them an addictive doddle to read - each book is divided into bite-sized chunks that have an element of self-containment mixed with a splattering suspense that leaves you wanting more. The characters are skilfully drawn and quickly come to life and become much-loved friend - a testament to Maupin's skill as a writer. They are each a little window onto life in San Francisco at the time - an interesting documentation of society there.I guess, should you choose to, you could level the criticism that the interlinking storylines are all-to-convenient and readily wrapped up .... but I didn't find it problematic. It is an inherent quality of the original media they were published in and you have to allow for that format. I'm just glad to see them put together as a book so that they can be enjoyed by everyone. I think that if you cannot overcome objections to plot and structure, then these books were probably never meant for you. Personally, once I found them, I couldn't put them down and I'll certainly be looking forward to the next batch.more
It captures a moment in time. Reading it is like eating candy. I'll take another box.more
Oh, cute, cute, cute. What more does anybody have to say? Go read someone else's review and just consider mine positive.more
I knew I'd love this book from the first sentence, and it didn't disappoint. So readable, a real page-turner, you can't put it down, the clever plot leads you to the next chapter and the next until you find you've finished the whole thing. Wonderful to find that there are 5 equally good sequels.more
Synopsis: Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City has blazed a singular 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 wry comedy of manners and a deeply involving portrait of a vanished era.Vanished era is right. Boy was it hokey. All the drug references were kind of quaint – the pot and the Quaaludes and the overt casualness of their use. Funny. Same with the pre-AIDS bed hopping by both straight and gay people. No wonder we had an epidemic; these people had all the restraint of alley cats. They all wanted (whether they admitted it or not) a serious relationship, but they all just moved from bed to bed. It’s hard to believe that people actually did this. It seems detrimental not only physically, but emotionally. What a way to live. No wonder they needed drugs.The story is something out of Melrose Place. Well, the reverse. Whatever. It’s very soap operaish. Maybe that’s where Spelling got his idea for the trashy series. I didn’t like many of the people in this story though. The lead character, Mary Ann, is compared to everyone else, priggish and judgmental. She thinks she isn’t, but she is and her constant waffling between “loving” the new city and wanting to move back to the safety of the staid Cleveland gets annoying. She is dense and I was sick of reading about her.None of the other characters were likeable either. The landlady who gives out joints to people and says that her house chooses them and not the other way around. The rich couple with marriage problems – he is actually gay, but won’t come out of the closet. There’s Mary Ann’s boss who is dying of some disease, can’t stand his wife anymore because she didn’t stay a 20-year-old and who begins a “love” affair with the crazy landlady. There’s the bed hopping single guy who is up for sex with either gender. Two roommates; a lesbian who wonders if she’s a fag hag for hanging around with her roomie, a “twink” who goes in for jockey shorts competitions at gay bars. And finally, the reclusive guy upstairs who claims to be a private investigator who really turns out to be a child pornographer. Oy vey. The writing in this one was not nearly at the level of The Night Listener, either. Maupin’s writing definitely improved between the writing of the two. In Tales he struggles with creating suspense without giving away the game and fails in a lot of storylines. But the story wasn’t compelling; each of the character’s situations were trivial and lame. I didn’t care about any of them. Bah.more
Great story, great backdrop, great characters. Definitely read this book.more
Maupin's delightful and fascinating characters find their way through San Francisco in the heady 70s.more
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