Maupin, Armistead 1944- (Armistead Jones Maupin, Jr.)
Maupin, Armistead 1944- (Armistead Jones Maupin, Jr.)
Born May 13, 1944, in Washington, DC; son of Armistead Jones (a lawyer) and Diana Jane Maupin; companion of Christopher Turner. Education: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, B.A., 1966.
Home—San Francisco, CA.
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.
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, and best miniseries award from National Board of Review, all 1994, 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; reprinted, HarperPerennial (New York, NY), 1994.
More Tales of the City (previously serialized in San Francisco Chronicle; also see below), Harper (New York, NY), 1980; reprinted, HarperPerennial (New York, NY), 1994.
Further Tales of the City (previously serialized in San Francisco Chronicle; also see below), Harper (New York, NY), 1982; reprinted, HarperPerennial (New York, NY), 1994.
Babycakes (previously serialized in San Francisco Chronicle), Harper (New York, NY), 1984; reprinted, HarperPerennial (New York, NY), 1994.
Significant Others (previously serialized in San Francisco Examiner), Harper (New York, NY), 1987; reprinted, HarperPerennial (New York, NY), 1994.
Sure of You, Harper (New York, NY), 1989; reprinted, HarperPerennial (New York, NY), 1994.
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.
Michael Tolliver Lives, HarperCollinsPublishers (New York, NY), 2007.
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.
Maupin's "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 titles More Tales of the City was produced for the Showtime Channel and broadcast in 1998; The Night Listener was adapted for a film of the same name, starring Robin Williams, released by Miramax, 2006.
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. 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." The stories evolve over time, taking Mary Ann and Michael and their friends from the sexually free 1970s to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. The "Tales of the City" series has earned Maupin comparisons to several authors, including Charles Dickens, Marcel Proust, P.G. Wodehouse, and Jan Struther, the author of Mrs. Miniver.
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. Maupin stated in a CA interview: "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.
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 told CA. He also wanted to explore appearances and how people hide behind them. "The books are essentially about forgiveness, acceptance, 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. As he was writing his six "Tales of the City" 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 all of that time, he was unable to find an American producer who was willing to keep the stories close to their author's original intent. In the early 1990s, Maupin finally found a backer in Britain's Channel 4, which decided to film a six-hour miniseries in San Francisco with American actors and to keep close to Maupin's original stories. 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 theCity 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 David L. Ulin in the Village Voice. Ulin also expressed reservations: "Despite its inspirational flashes, Maybe the Moon doesn't take shape as successfully as Tales of the City did." 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 creates a story in which the lines between fiction and reality are blurred. The Night Listener was in fact based on Maupin's own experiences; he was asked to prepare an introduction to a book supposedly written by Anthony Godby Johnson, a young man who had contracted AIDS. "It later emerged that the book was probably the work of a woman named Vicki Fraginals," John Patterson explained in an interview with Maupin published in the Guardian, "who claimed to be Johnson's adoptive mother but masqueraded as him on the phone and fooled a great many people besides Maupin, including the novelist Paul Monette and the American TV anchor Keith Olberman. Maupin spent a good deal of time on the phone with this apparently straight, well-adjusted ‘secular-humanist’ kid—‘mainly goofy conversations about movies or politics.’ But he was never able to meet the boy."
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 longtime 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 thirteen-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 his adoptive mother, the doctor who rescued him. Pete in turn becomes a vital part of Noone's life, as does his 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 warm-hearted 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."
In Michael Tolliver Lives, Maupin picks up Michael's life from the "Tales of the City" series; he claims, however, that the book is not part of that series but an entity unto itself. "For years, people said to me, ‘I'm glad you're not doing Tales of the City anymore because Michael would be dead right now,’" he told Dennis Hensley in an interview found on the Web site Afterelton. com. "That flew in the face of all of my friends who have survived HIV and I wanted to let them know he was still around. Partially it means that, and partially it's ironic, because like a lot of people with HIV, he's lived long enough now to face issues of mortality that have to do with the usual aging process and dying. I can relate to that very easily and want to write about it." "The original novels, mostly drawn from a serial first published in San Francisco newspapers, were written in third person and consisted of linked vignettes," explained Kemble Scott in Publishers Weekly. "This latest book is told in the voice of Mouse, allowing for a type of introspection not possible before." "The whole effort," Maupin told Scott, "was to make it a completely freestanding novel for newcomers and also give little shivers of recognition to people who knew the stories well."
The focus of Michael Tolliver Lives is the question of mortality: Michael's own (he is living with HIV), that of his former landlady Anna Madrigal, and his mother's (she lives in Florida and suffers from emphysema). "My generation spent a lot of time thinking of youth and not a lot of time thinking about old age," Maupin told Connie Ogle in an interview for the Miami Herald. "At the same time, we were the first generation to reinvent ourselves. Our challenge now is to reinvent old age. We can't stop infirmity and death, but we can remain vibrant in a way that previous generations cannot. People blame gay culture for being youth-obsessed, but it's not just gay culture. Everybody is subjected to it." "Michael is tugged between his biological family and his ‘logical’ one," explained Lambda Book Report reviewer Jameson Currier. "Along the way we spend some time in Florida with Michael's brother Irwin, a Christian realtor, Irwin's wife Lenore, who expresses her faith through puppets, and their flamboyant seven-year-old grandson Sumter. We also revisit many of Michael's friends from the earlier Tales—both the survivors and the departed." "Thirty years later, he's still proud of the life he's made and the city that made it possible," concluded a Kirkus Reviews contributor. "Rueful but never regretful, warmhearted and witty: a treat for Maupin's many fans."
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, January 12, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 92.
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; August, 1999, Karen Harris, review of Significant Others, p. 2075; 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.
Bookseller, March 30, 2007, Jon Howells, review of Michael Tolliver Lives, p. 13.
Entertainment Weekly, 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; June 5, 1998, Ken Tucker, review of More Tales of the City, p. 57.
Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, September 1, 2006, "Armistead Maupin: Leaping to the Big Screen," p. 50; September 1, 2007, "Return to Barbary Lane," p. 43.
Guardian, September 14, 2006, John Patterson, "Out There."
Guardian Weekly, February 6, 1994, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 28.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2000, review of The Night Listener, p. 910; April 1, 2007, review of Michael Tolliver Lives.
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; summer, 2007, Jameson Currier, review of Michael Tolliver Lives, and "Armistead Maupin."
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; June 1, 1997, "Writers Talk about the Literary Life," p. 18; August, 2000, Devon Thomas, review of The Night Listener, p. 160; April 15, 2007, Devon Thomas, review of Michael Tolliver Lives, p. 75.
London Review of Books, March 25, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 8, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 11; February 6, 1994, review of Tales of the City, p. 12.
Miami Herald, June 24, 2007, "Love Cuts Everyone a Break."
Nation, August 24, 1998, Alyssa Katz, review of More Tales of the City, p. 36.
New Statesman & Society, March 25, 1994, "Armistead Maupin: Novelist and Writer," p. 13.
Newsweek, July 31, 2006, "Fast Chat: Imaginary Friend," p. 12.
Newsweek International, August 14, 2006, "Armistead and ‘Tony’; A Deception Travels from Life to Novel—to Big Screen."
New York, November 2, 1992, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 92.
New York Times, August 5, 2006, "Maupin's Next," p. 8.
New York Times Book Review, November 29, 1992, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 24; August 29, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 20; June 24, 2007, "Still More Tales of the City," p. 10.
Observer (London, England), February 7, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 54; January 16, 1994, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 21.
PR Newswire, January 24, 2006, "Miramax Films Acquires Rights to ‘Night Listener,’ Starring Academy Award Winner Robin Williams and Toni Collette."
Publishers Weekly, 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, 1993, review of Tales of the City, p. 65; August 7, 2000, review of The Night Listener, p. 71; March 26, 2007, review of Michael Tolliver Lives, p. 61; April 23, 2007, "Armistead Maupin's Family Ties," p. 24.
Swiss News, August, 2007, review of Michael Tolliver Lives, p. 77.
Time, December 7, 1992, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 83.
Times Educational Supplement, December 23, 1994, reviews of Maybe the Moon and Tales of the City, p. 19.
Times Literary Supplement, February 5, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 19.
Variety, April 27, 1998, Mark L. Williams, review of More Tales of the City, p. 52; June 1, 1998, Ray Richmond, review of More Tales of the City, p. 30.
Village Voice, December 1, 1992, David L. Ulin, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 58.
Voice Literary Supplement, October, 1993, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 25.
Washington Post Book World, November 22, 1992, review of Maybe the Moon, p. 11.
Afterelton.com,http://www.afterelton.com/ (December 29, 2007), Dennis Hensley, interview with Armistead Maupin.
Armistead Maupin Home Page,http://www.armisteadmaupin.com (December 29, 2007), author bio.
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (December 29, 2007), "Armistead Maupin."
Armistead Maupin Is a Man I Dreamt Up (television documentary directed by Kate Meynell), PBS, 1993.