Maupin, Armistead 1944–
Maupin, Armistead 1944–
(Armistead Jones Maupin, Jr.)
PERSONAL: Born May 13, 1944, in Washington, DC; son of Armistead Jones (a lawyer) and Diana Jane (Barton) Maupin. Education: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, B.A., 1966.
CAREER: Writer. Charleston News & Courier, Charleston, SC, reporter, 1970–71; Associated Press, San Francisco, CA, reporter, 1971–72; Lowry Russom & Leeper, San Francisco, CA, public-relations account executive, 1973; Pacific Sun, San Francisco, CA, columnist, 1974; San Francisco Opera, San Francisco, CA, publicist, 1975; San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, author of serial "Tales of the City," 1976–77; KRON-TV, San Francisco, CA, commentator, 1979; San Francisco Examiner, serialist, 1986. Speaker on gay issues. Military service: U.S. Navy, 1967–70; lieutenant; served in Vietnam.
AWARDS, HONORS: Freedom Leadership Award, Freedoms Foundation, 1972; Communications Award, Los Angeles Metropolitan Elections Commission, 1989; Gay/Lesbian Book Award, American Library Association, 1990, for exceptional achievement; best dramatic serial award, Royal Television Society (United Kingdom), Peabody Award from University of Georgia, outstanding miniseries award from Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation, best miniseries award from National Board of Review, all 1994, and Emmy nomination, all for Tales of the City.
NOVELS; "TALES OF THE CITY" SERIES
Tales of the City (previously serialized in San Francisco Chronicle; also see below), Harper (New York, NY), 1978.
More Tales of the City (previously serialized in San Francisco Chronicle; also see below), Harper (New York, NY), 1980.
Further Tales of the City (previously serialized in San Francisco Chronicle; also see below), Harper (New York, NY), 1982.
Babycakes (previously serialized in San Francisco Chronicle), Harper (New York, NY), 1984.
Significant Others (previously serialized in San Francisco Examiner), Harper (New York, NY), 1987.
Sure of You, Harper (New York, NY), 1989.
28 Barbary Lane (contains Tales of the City, More Tales of the City, and Further Tales of the City), Harper (New York, NY), 1990.
The Complete Tales of the City, Harper (New York, NY), 1991.
Back to Barbary Lane: The Final Tales of the City Omnibus, Harper (New York, NY), 1991.
Maybe the Moon (novel), Harper (New York, NY), 1992.
The Night Listener, Harper (New York, NY), 2000.
Editor of The Essential Clive Barker: Selected Fiction, 1999. Author of introduction, Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver, Harper (New York, NY), 1985, and Don Bachardy, Drawings of the Male Nude, Twelvetrees Press, 1985. Author of dialogue for stage productions, including Beach Blanket Babylon, La Perichole (opera) by Jacques Offenbach, and Heart's Desire (musical) by Glen Roven, 1990. Contributor to Faber Book of Gay Short Fiction, edited by Edmund White, Faber, 1991. Contributor to periodicals, including the Advocate, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and the Village Voice.
ADAPTATIONS: "Tales of the City" novels were adapted into a television miniseries (six one-hour episodes) by Richard Kramer, produced by Maupin and British Television's Channel 4 in 1993 and broadcast in the United States by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), 1994; an additional miniseries titled More Tales of the City was produced for the Showtime Channel and broadcast in 1998.
SIDELIGHTS: Armistead Maupin is the creator of the popular "Tales of the City," a cycle of stories that first appeared in the mid-1970s as a serial in the San Francisco Chronicle. The column was collected into a series of six novels and adapted into an award-winning television miniseries. In writing the "Tales," Maupin's "intention was to take America's shifting cultural landscape and reflect it in a work that would feature a wide cross-section of characters—gay and straight, male and female, rich and poor," explained David L. Ulin in the Village Voice. The stories follow the fortunes of various inhabitants of a San Francisco boarding house located at 28 Barbary Lane and operated by the mysterious but maternal Anna Madrigal. The early novels focus on Mary Ann Singleton, an ingenue from Cleveland, and her best friend, Michael Tolliver, a gay man nicknamed "Mouse." Charles Solomon pointed out in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, "the search for love and security in an increasingly uncertain world remains at the heart of this popular series." As the liberated 1970s gives way to the 1980s, Solomon noted, this search becomes complicated by the rise of the AIDS epidemic that comes to dominate San Francisco. The "Tales of the City" series earned Maupin comparisons to several authors, including Charles Dickens; Marcel Proust; P.G. Wodehouse; and Jan Struther, author of Mrs. Miniver. It has also, according to Ulin, established the author's reputation as one of the premier "social satirists of his era."
The personal journey that brought Maupin to San Francisco and his literary career as a chronicler of the region began in Raleigh, North Carolina. As a child of the South growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, he was caught up in segregation and the emerging civil rights movement. Los Angeles Times contributor Steven M.H. Braitman related, "He became, in his own words, an 'uptight, archconservative, racist brat' who worked for Jesse Helms for a time. He joined the Navy and served in Vietnam. President Richard M. Nixon invited him to the White House and honored him as a patriotic model Republican." Maupin once commented: "In the late '60s I was very much the young Republican jerk. I went to Vietnam because I thought it was the right thing to do. The first election I was able to vote in, I voted for Barry Goldwater. I was raised in the South and this was just the way I thought things were supposed to be. It wasn't until I got to San Francisco in '71 that my life began to change. By that time the hippie doctrine of tolerance had come to apply to gay people as well, and I began to loosen up. It was no accident that my literary drive emerged as soon as I stopped hiding my sexuality. There was this irresistible urge to tell everything I knew, to explain myself, to demystify a subject that had scared me silly for years."
In San Francisco, a city with a thriving gay community, Maupin came into his own. He told William Hamilton of the Washington Post, "In 1971 I discovered a town where there were not only lots of people like me but a large number of heterosexuals who were friendly to people like me, and that made all the difference. I found a society where tolerance and acceptance were valued above everything." It is this community that Maupin set out to capture in "Tales of the City." "My aim from the very beginning was to create a large framework of humanity and to place gay characters within that framework. That was what I had missed in books all along. As a gay man, when I read a novel I wanted my own kind included in a central way, the way we fit into real life," Maupin once commented. He also wanted to explore appearances and how people hide behind them. "The books are essentially about forgiveness, accep-tance, and love," he explained. "I'm also fascinated by the huge gulf between the way things appear to be and the way they really are. My characters get into trouble when they stop being honest with each other. Their deceit often arises because they love each other, but that deceit becomes, invariably, their downfall. I think both those messages—of forgiveness and of the essential folly of deceit—probably come from my being gay. When you're a gay person, it's much easier to observe the gulf between truth and illusion, because you're often a part of creating it. You learn at a very early age to wear disguises. My work is about taking off those disguises."
Critical attention was slow in coming for the "Tales of the City" books, in part, Maupin believes, because the works were originally published in a California newspaper, well outside the New York publishing scene. Yet the author has earned growing recognition for his witty and compassionate insights into contemporary life. Micheline Hagan, discussing the "Tales" series in the San Francisco Review of Books, admired Maupin's "ability to deliver social messages through intuitive, timely portraits," particularly of gay culture in America. "His most subversive act is to write in such a matter-of-fact manner about his gay characters…. Acceptance is a given," noted David Feinberg in the New York Times Book Review.
As he was writing his six "Tales" novels, Maupin began an effort to have them adapted for the screen. More than ten years of negotiations and struggles to preserve them against alterations taught Maupin about the film and television business. During that entire time, he was unable to find an American producer who was willing to keep the stories close to their author's original intent. As Maupin told Betsy Sharkey in an interview in the New York Times, "One of the things that so enrages me … is that 17 years after this appeared in a daily newspaper, Hollywood finds it too controversial. Tales of the City begins with the premise that gay people are a part of life, part of the whole canvas. It is not about the trauma of being gay; it's about the great adventure of all of us interacting with each other." In the early 1990s, Maupin finally found a backer in Britain's Channel 4. Channel 4 decided to film a six-hour miniseries in San Francisco with American actors and to keep close to Maupin's original stories. The reason, coproducer Antony Root told Sharkey, was that "we consider them modern classics. They are classic not within only the gay community, as they seem to be [in America]. Literally, you find secretaries on the Underground reading them." The television miniseries first appeared on Channel 4 in 1993 then made its way across the Atlantic, airing on PBS in January of 1994. Tales of the City was "PBS highest-rated dramatic series in a decade," reported Judith Michaelson in the Los Angeles Times, and it earned both a Peabody Award for excellence in television from the University of Georgia and an Emmy nomination. Despite this reception, Maupin was unable to find a U.S. producer for a television sequel.
In Maybe the Moon, Maupin's first novel outside the "Tales of the City" series, the author combines his interest in contemporary society with his insights into the film and television business. The novel's main character is Cady Roth, who at thirty-one inches tall was perfect for the role of Mr. Woods in an E.T.-like movie. Cady's problem is that she has been forbidden by the studio to reveal that she was the actress inside the costume and cannot, therefore, enjoy the fame that goes along with the role. She finds friendship and acceptance in Hollywood's gay subculture, and eventually finds love with an average-sized man. "As usual, the author's portrayals of his characters' tangled motivations, their longings and desires, are right on the mark," commented Ulin in the Village Voice. Yet Ulin had some reservations: "Despite its inspirational flashes, Maybe the Moon doesn't take shape as successfully as Tales of the City did." And, he concluded, "All the editorializing tends to trivialize [Maupin's] story, turning it into a snapshot rather than a reflection of the times." For a London Observer reviewer, however, "the zingers remain flawless", and Maupin's portrayal of the wild West Coast is filtered through his analytical East Coast mind.
In his next novel, The Night Listener, Maupin created a story in which the lines between fiction and reality are blurred. The novel's narrator, Gabriel Noone, has much in common with Maupin: He is an openly gay writer whose quirky vignettes of life in San Francisco have made him something of a media celebrity. Noone's radio serial, "Noone at Night," is a success, but his personal life is a shambles. His long-time companion Jess has recently left him, and in the wake of that breakup, Noone finds himself with a massive case of writer's block. Into his life comes Pete, a 13-year-old boy who has written a book about his experience of horrific sexual abuse at the hands of his parents—pedophiles who prostituted their son. In telephone conversations with Pete, Noone learns that his radio program has served as a lifeline for the troubled, AIDS-infected boy, who now lives with the doctor who rescued him. Pete in turn becomes a vital part of Noone's life, as does Pete's adoptive mother, Donna. Yet their attempts to meet in person are continually thwarted.
Throughout his life, Noone has been betrayed by those closest to him; now, he begins to have doubts about Pete. Jess warns Noone that Pete is nothing more than an alter ego of the troubled doctor, Donna. After Pete supposedly dies from AIDS-related complications, Noone receives a final phone call from the boy, which, according to a Kirkus Reviews writer "will give you the creeps and move you to tears almost simultaneously." That writer noted that the postmodern underpinnings of The Night Listener draw attention to "Maupin's intellectual shortcomings rather than his emotional strengths, but strong storytelling, punchy humor, and a warmhearted narrator carry the day." Publishers Weekly's reviewer gave the book an even stronger endorsement, writing: "As in his earlier works, reading Maupin's prose is like meeting up with a beloved old friend; it's an easy, uncomplicated encounter filled with warmth, wisdom and familiar touches of humor. But there's pathos here as well, and sharp-edged drama with a few hairpin turns."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
FitzGerald, Frances, Cities on a Hill, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1986.
Gay & Lesbian Literature, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994, pp. 253-254.
Herron, Don, The Literary World of San Francisco, City Lights (San Francisco, CA), 1985.
Hudson, Rock, and Sara Davidson, Rock Hudson: His Story, Morrow (New York, NY), 1986.
Nungesser, Lon G., Epidemic of Courage, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1986.
Rofes, Eric E., Gay Life, Dolphin/Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1986.
Shilts, Randy, Conduct Unbecoming, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993.
Summers, Claude J., The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage, Holt (New York, NY), 1995.
Advocate, June 23, 1987; January 12, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 92; December 28, 1993, pp. 71-72.
America, February 26, 1994, p. 18.
Booklist, September 15, 1992, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 100; December 15, 1995, review of audio version of Further Tales of the City, p. 717; July, 2000, Ray Olson, review of The Night Listener, p. 1974.
Books, January, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 22; January, 1994, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 16.
Boston Globe, November 20, 1989, p. 32.
Chicago Tribune, April 28, 1983; July 6, 1987; January 5, 1994, p. 7.
Entertainment Weekly, November 6, 1992, p. 60; January 18, 1993, p. 30; July 30, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 53; May 27, 1994, review of Tales of the City, p. 78; July 25, 1997, review of Tales of the City, p. 65.
Examiner (San Francisco, CA), May 4, 1986.
Frontiers 3, November, 1989, p. 18.
Guardian Weekly, February 6, 1994, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 28.
Hudson Review, spring, 1980, p. 146.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2000, review of The Night Listener, p. 910.
Kliatt, May, 1995, review of audio version of Tales of the City, p. 52; September, 1995, review of audio version of Further Tales of the City, p. 54.
Lambda Book Report, January, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 36; September, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 42.
Library Journal, November 1, 1992, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 118; December, 1992, review of audio version of Maybe the Moon, pp. 208-209; March 1, 1995, review of audio version of Tales of the City, p. 118; September 1, 1995, review of audio version of Further Tales of the City, p. 224; August, 2000, Devon Thomas, review of The Night Listener, p. 160.
London Review of Books, March 25, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times, July 20, 1982; November 14, 1993, p. CAL-5; April 11, 1994, Judith Michaelson, article, "'Tales' Author: PBS Is Being Pressured by Religious Right," p. F2; June 3, 1994, Jeff Kaye, brief article, "F, 2:3", p. F2; May 10, 1995, Steven M.H. Braitman, article, "He Still Has Plenty of Tales to Tell," p. E1.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 9, 1982; July 19, 1987; November 5, 1989, Charles Solomon, review of Tales of the City, More Tales of the City, Further Tales of the City, Babycakes, Significant Others, p. 20; August 8, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 11; February 6, 1994, review of Tales of the City, p. 12.
Mother Jones, November, 1989, p. 54.
Nation, December 26, 1987, p. 796.
New Statesman and Society, March 2, 1990, pp. 36, 38; March 25, 1994, p. 13.
Newsweek, October 30, 1989, p. 77.
New York, November 2, 1992, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 92.
New Yorker, July 21, 1986; July 28, 1986.
New York Times, February 28, 1993, Betsy Sharkey, "Maupin's 'Dream of the Future, Set in the Past,'" p. 27; January 13, 1994, p. A21.
New York Times Book Review, November 18, 1984, Jaqueline Austin, review of Babycakes, p. 32; October 22, 1989, David Feinberg, review of Sure of You, p. 25; September 30, 1990, p. 46; November 29, 1992, Norah Johnson, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 24; August 29, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 20.
Observer (London), February 11, 1990, p. 65; June 24, 1990, p. 50; February 7, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 54; January 16, 1994, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 21.
Outweek, October 29, 1989, p. 42.
People Weekly, March 5, 1990, p. 51; January 18, 1993, p. 30.
Publishers Weekly, March 20, 1987, p. 53; September 7, p. 74; November 2, 1992, review of audio version of Maybe the Moon, p. 32; July 5, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 69; December 20, review of Tales of the City, p. 65; August 7, 2000, review of The Night Listener, p. 71.
San Francisco Bay Guardian, October 11, 1989, p. 24.
San Francisco Chronicle, July 13, 1982.
San Francisco Review of Books, number 3, 1989, p. 18; fall, 1992, p. 5.
Spectator, February 10, 1990, p. 31.
Time, December 7, 1992, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 83.
Times (London, England), April 14, 1988.
Times Educational Supplement, December 23, 1994, reviews of Maybe the Moon and Tales of the City, p. 19.
Times Literary Supplement, April 8, 1988; March 9, 1990, p. 258; February 5, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 19.
TV Guide, January 8, 1994, pp. 26-28.
Village Voice, August 31, 1982, David L. Ulin, review of Tales of the City, p. 10; December 1, 1992, David L. Ulin, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 58.
Village Voice Literary Supplement, October, 1987, pp. 6-9; October, 1993, p. 25.
Voice Literary Supplement, October, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 25.
Washington Post, January 10, 1994, William Hamilton, interview with Armistead Maupin, p. B1.
Washington Post Book World, November 22, 1992, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 11.
Armistead Maupin Web Site, http://www.literarybent.com/ (August 4, 2004).
Armistead Maupin Is a Man I Dreamt Up (television documentary directed by Kate Meynell), PBS, 1993.