Maupin's Tales of the City series is the most well preserved slice of popular culture ever captured in fiction. Tales and its sequels follow the love..Show More »s and lives of nearly every imaginable type of person in post sexual revolution, pre-AIDS San Francisco.
These beloved books hold up because reading them is as good as time-travel back to the seventies. It is the seventies captured in real time as each chapter was first published in the S.F. Chronicle each day long before they were ever bound into a book.
The intricate overlapping lives and loves of the characters are what make these stories so delicious. (Calling them a "soap opera" does this work an injustice.) The repartee among the characters is priceless. If you've read these books you likely consider Michael "Mouse" Toliver, Mona, MaryAnn, and the very elegant Mrs. Madrigal amongst your best fictional friends. Of course an open mind is needed because relationships and sexuality of all types are major themes of these books. Prudes and/or the homophobic need not apply.
Unlike earlier versions Maupin allowed every single word of his books to be professionally narrated instead of doing just selected parts himself. As for the actual audio recordings, a woman narrator is appropriate since Mary Anne Singleton is the main protagonist. Frances McDormand reads with relish as if dishing gossip like a best friend. There is plenty of character in her voice without overacting. She does not attempt to mimic the delivery of Olypimia Dukkakis, Larua Linney et. al. from the HBO television series of this book which was a wise choice. The sound quality is superb. The intro by Rachel Maddow is short and all too sweet.
Maupin hits stride in his second book with Mary Ann, the archetypal young single woman, continuing to loosen up in San Francisco in the seventies with..Show More » the help of the residents of the Barbary Lane including the gay but fretful Michael, the slightly lost Mona, the carnally hungry Brian, and the extremely well adjusted but mysterious Anna Madrigal. These characters, their lovers, and friends make for a most realistic, funny, and charming portrait of gay and straight life in the seventies in San Francisco. The overall plot involving a nice guy with serious enigmatic phobias is the least reason for enjoying these books. The real reason to enjoy these books is to see the various character's lives intersect in the most unexpected ways and for them to treat each other with all the respect, dignity, and kindness that nice people of any sort deserve. (which excludes the dastardly Beachamp Day) The narration by Cynthia Nixon is the best so far. (I've heard four of these books now.) Nixon's tender voice is an excellent match for the gentle souls of this series. She reads with the perfect blend of narration and acting skills. Rachel Maddow's (oh and that's... "sweet but all-too-short") preface hits just the right note for this ground-breaking series that, rightly, treats being gay as a perfectly normal preference given to some people at birth. If you are considering this, be sure to buy the first book "Tales of the City" first. The whole thing makes far more sense when experienced in order. Not recommended for the close-minded or prudish with lots of frank sexual discussion.
Mr. Maupin continues his interwoven tales of life for single people of all genders, sexual preferences, and social classes, in the late seventies in S..Show More »an Francisco. The writing is funny and heartbreakingly sweet. The overall plot regarding one of the great monsters of the age will invariably be regarded by some as contrived but that misses he point. The point of the plot is not to get to the end, but to have an excuse to write about (as Rachel Maddow points out) the "interconnected" normal, healthy lives of the characters both gay and straight. The writing holds up well considering that it is a snap-shot of popular culture nearly thirty years ago. (You may wince at the occasional use of "boogie" to mean dancing.) The narrator has been switched back to the slightly faster reading Frances McDormand who is still perfectly competent. However, she's not quite as tender a narrator as Cynthia Nixon in the second book. It is strongly recommended that you listen to these books in order, especially if discovering them for the first time. They make far more sense when read in order as most series do. If you never had the privilege of living in San Francisco, the Paris of America, this series makes you feel as if you had, while also supplying you with several good friends and one way-cool landlady to boot. If you have any kind of open mind and heart you will fall in love with the characters and feel the appropriate amount of hate for one of the worst real life villains of the modern era.
See previous reviews for discussion of the characters. The big difference in this book is that the subject matter begins to get more serious as the a..Show More »uthor and our country began to come to grips with the crisis of AIDS. Since the series was originally published in a newspaper is was necessary to follow current events which makes it all that much more realistic. The other big difference in this audiobook is the male narrator which probably seemed appropriate since the series begins to revolve more around Michael and less around Mary Ann. Alan Cummings can be a bit hard to take at first since you are, by now, likely used to the gentler tones of Ms. McDorland or Ms. Nixon narrating. He's not THAT bad, it's just that he takes his voice acting a bit over the top to the point where his voice is grating for brief moments which is why I knocked a star off the performance. He lands solidly on the acting side of the narrator/actor balance but he gives us stereotypes. As the book goes I adjusted and he does excellent British accents which are necessary and appropriate to the story. Still, he gets four stars. Some will give worse but while the narrator may slightly diminish, he will by no means ruin your enjoyment of this book. (He's still a *lot* better than the alternative which was Maupin reading his own work.) Here Mary Ann struggles with trying to balance a career and pressures to be a parent. There isn't as much of a fantastic mystery at the heart of this fourth book as there were in the previous two. It is again recommended that you start with the original Tales of the City before listening to the subsequent tales of Mr. Tolliver, Mary Ann, Brian, et. al. The standard warning is issued against the prudish & close-minded as these books are nothing if not frank about sexual behavior both gay and straight and in-between. If you are eager, as I was, to revisit the original series but with no time to sit and read it, you'll be satisfied with this book which follows Michael to England during the year of the Queen's visit to America back in the Regan era. If you haven't read this series, as Rachel Maddow says, "you lucky dog" you are in for a treat.
Having read all of the Tales of the City books 3 or 4 times each, I couldn't wait to tear into the further adventures of Mouse. I fully expected to lo..Show More »ve the book. Maybe my expectations were too high.
While Michael Tolliver Lives was funny and entertaining, it just didn't have the sweetness and charm of the original 6 books. I know Maupin says that it's not a sequel (though clearly it is), and shouldn't be compared to the other books, but obviously that's what everyone is going to do. And this one left me a bit unsatisfied.
This book seemed more a justification of Maupin's life than a novel. Frankly, I don't care how old Maupin's boyfriend is. I'm thrilled that he's happy, but I don't care to be preached to about the joys and trials of a May/December romance.
You'd be better off going back and reading the original Tales books. Now THERE lies magic.