Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Days of Anna Madrigal by Armistead Maupin

published 2014






from The Days of Anna Madrigal 


Ben was pointing towards a buff and nearly naked youth prancing past their semi-circle of sofas. ’Evening of the Faun’ said Ben. The guy had goat horns sprouting from a mop of blond hair. His legs were trousered with some form of faux fur

Everything about this man was suited to their molly moment. He seemed closer to a spirit than a human being, the uncomplicated embodiment of youthful lust and sweetness….

Michael laughed. ‘I had a whole Pan outfit. Long time ago… Home Yardage. Mock chinchilla.’


from Tales of the City (1978)


The beast in the doorway made Mary Ann’s flesh crawl. Its face was chalk white with lurid spots of rouge on the cheekbones. It was bare-chested and furry-thighed, and two gnarled goat horns rose hideously from its brow.

It spoke to her. ‘How horny can ya get, huh?’

‘Michael!’

‘Wrong, O boring one. I am the Great God Pan.’ …

Michael bounced into the room and sat down, adjusting the brown Afro wig that held his horns...

[Later] Michael uncapped a tube of Dance Arts clown white and repaired his Pan face in the foyer of 28 Barbary Lane… He gave himself a thorough inspection and smiled in approval. He looked damned good. His horns were outrageously realistic.

His mock-chinchilla Home Yardage goat haunches jutted out from his waist with comic eroticism. His belly was flat, and his pecs . . . well, his pecs were the pecs of a man who hardly ever cheated on a bench press at the Y. You’re hot, he told himself. Remember that... Pan is on the rampage tonight.



observations:
Armistead Maupin says The Days of Anna Madrigal will be the last Tales of the City book, though he strongly implied that on previous occasions too, so you never know. The inhabitants of 28 Barbary Lane, whom we have been following over nine books since 1978, are now all living elsewhere, but drift together for one last adventure, most of them tipping up at the Burning Man festival in Nevada. There is also a separate strand describing the teenage years of Anna Madrigal. I found those sections less enthralling, but that’s because I just wanted to read about Michael and Mary Ann and Shawna and Brian, like reading the Christmas circular letter of some friends you used to know years ago. The books are beyond criticism or carping. If you came to this one fresh it would perhaps make no sense, and you wouldn’t understand all the fuss. But if you’ve read the others, then you need to catch up. It has many references back to earlier incidents, including this one, which is plainly quite symbolic and meaningful, as the much older Michael in effect meets his younger self. 



In earlier entries on the books, here and here, we said that they were ‘funny and very much of their time, and we read the first ones with melancholy nostalgia, knowing AIDS was just around the corner. Dressing up and costumes are an important part of Maupin’s series of books, usually seen as a celebration of differences and a way to have fun, rarely negative or hiding anything.’ 

The top Pan picture is a Bakst costume, a category we’ve used a few times before. The second Pan is from a mosaic in a museum in Naples.

The picture from Burning Man 2013 was taken by russavia and is on Wikimedia Commons.

10 comments:

  1. Moira - I have to confess that this is a series I don't know. I wish I did though, because I do like series where we actually follow characters' growth as the stories go on. I respect an author who does that kind of character exploration, and your own reaction to it shows just attached readers can get to the characters when the stories are done well.

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    1. Yes - you sum it up so well that I'm sure you would like the books Margot. The reader does get so attached to the characters...

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  2. I actually bought the first couple of Tales books, but got rid as I couldn't get into it. This was maybe early 90's - at least I didn't buy all 6 as there were at the time. The Keane restraint pays off. I can't remember whether I made it into double-digits reading, but I don't think so - I was done by about page 7. I won't be revisiting.

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    1. I'm surprised you didn't buy them all, but even more surprised you didn't get on with them! But you're allowed a pass on this one.

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  3. I love the Tales of the City books. I read them in my early twenties and they hold such fond memories for me.

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    1. Exactly, me too, and one weird thing I found is that if you re-read them, they actually remind you about yourself at the time you were reading them.... a specially nostalgic read.

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  4. I really don't need another series to read. And I am surprised that I have no familiarity with these at all. The first book came out around the end of my first marriage. So I don't remember much about that time. But I cannot claim that excuse for the next three decades and I was living in California all that time. Very intriguing and tempting. I wonder if it makes a difference what age one reads these at?

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    1. They are really good fun and a quick and easy read - but also should be read when you are younger, and you can grow older with the characters... I always remembered the advice that you can't expect to have a hot job, a hot apartment and a hot lover all at the same time, 2 out of 3 is fine. It was strangely reassuring, and I'm always passing it on to younger people now...

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    2. The first one might be interesting from the point of view of life in San Francisco at the time, but still...Well anyway, glad my horizons have been expanded a bit.

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    3. You might find one one day...they seem to give a pretty good picture of San Francisco life...

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