Armistead Maupin to leave San Francisco behind


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Armistead Maupin, whose seminal Tales of the City series has been set in San Francisco, will leave that city behind for good, he says. ‘It’s been 41 years since I landed here and it gave me my story,’ Maupin tells the San Francisco Chronicle. ‘I keep reminding myself that Barbary Lane is portable and everything I learned here became part of me and is something I’ll always have.’

Maupin’s ‘Tales of the City’ was initially serialized in the San Francisco Chronicle, telling the story of inhabitants of 28 Barbary Lane, particularly the likable, gay Michael Tolliver. The first book, published in 1977, was groundbreakingly open for its time and became a bestseller. He continued writing the series until 1989, then turned his attention elsewhere. In 2010, he returned to Barbary Lane with ‘Mary Ann in Autumn.’


As Maupin wrote the first five books in serial form, the series was very of-the-moment; his novels were among the first to deal with the AIDS crisis. He told Times book critic David L. Ulin what it was like to be able to respond to current events in his fiction:

Armistead Maupin: The day after the Chronicle ran the story about Anita Bryant organizing her anti-gay campaign, I had Michael Tolliver’s mother write him a letter saying that she had joined the Save Our Children campaign without knowing that her own son was gay. And as fate would have it, I had already established Michael as the son of Florida orange growers. David L. Ulin: How did the Chronicle deal with your more controversial material? Armistead Maupin: When the anti-gay measure passed in Florida, I heard a lot of gay people making noises about how we’d have to go back into the closet. I thought: This is not a referendum on whether you’re a worthwhile human being. So I had Michael say, ‘When I came out of the closet, I nailed the door shut.’ I heard through the grapevine at the Chronicle that the guys upstairs were going to pull it because it was too offensively firebrand. I got on the phone to Dick Thieriot, the younger of the Thieriots, and I told him that if he pulled it, I would quit. I hung up and thought, ‘You just murdered the goose that laid the golden egg.’ I paced around the house for three hours, and then he called back and said, ‘All right.’

Maupin is leaving San Francisco behind for Santa Fe, where he, husband Christopher Turner and their labradoodle plan to settle. Maupin said he and Turner are ‘both craving a little more space and some nature,’ and that the move is ‘giving us new dreams.’

Before they get to New Mexico, however, there is a summer of other adventures: first to Provincetown, Mass., then a cross-country book tour back to the West. That will end with the two attending Burning Man, after which they’ll head home -- no longer to San Francisco, but to Santa Fe.


Interview: Armistead Maupin


Book review: ‘Mary Ann in Autumn’

Armistead Maupin, Olivia Dukakis remember ‘Tales of the City’

-- Carolyn Kellogg