Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City" Series

shelved under Gay & Lesbian, Fiction, and Beach Reads

I distinctly remember coming across this six-book series my during finals week of my senior year of college. I lived in a group house and at least three of us were reading them at the same time. People were harassed to hurry up and finish, books were snatched away whenever one was set down for a moment, and the qualities of each was hotly debated.

While not high literature, these serial novels — each chapter only two or three pages long — are the consummate beach read. Easy, engaging, evocative, transporting and easy to pick up and put down. 

Tales of the City (Volume #1)

Tales of the City (Volume #1)

by Armistead Maupin

Ok, so there are a few things to know about these books. First, they take place in San Francisco. Second, the characters are a great mix of gay, straight and... well, you have to read to find out. Third, the books started as regular column in the S.F. Chronicle so each chapter is only a few pages long and frequently a bit of a cliff-hanger. Lastly, they're just darned fun reading. (Now that I think about it, they sort of read like an intelligent, honest, mixed-sexuality version of "Three's Company.")

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More Tales of the City (#2)

More Tales of the City (#2)

by Armistead Maupin

As I recall (though it's been a few years) because the first book was SO enjoyable, this one was a bit disappointing — but still thoroughly enjoyable.

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Further Tales of the City (#3)

Further Tales of the City (#3)

by Armistead Maupin

...and I recall this one being great — almost as great as the first one. Ultimately all of us who read them concurred that the books ebb and flow. The odd-numbered books (#1, #3 and #5) were excellent. The even-numbered ones (#2 and #4) were not as good — with #4 bordering on absurd.

And #6? That one... well, I don't want to ruin it for you, but by #6 the tone and events of the books start to reflect current events among the gay community in the early 1980's.

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Babycakes (#4)

Babycakes (#4)

by Armistead Maupin

Norma levy says:

We can never see those days again, or many of those friends, who made this series funny and real to us. They perished, victims of their struggle with an epidemic which defined its time. It was a bittersweet, exciting time and this book captured it perfectly. The fictional characters captured someone that everyone in that city of that time know — Michael and Mary Ann from Cleveland, transgender motherly Mary Jane smoking Mrs. Madrigal... icons of a time when coming out really needed to happen, you have to read this book and the ones that came before by Armistead Maupin.

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Significant Others (#5)

Significant Others (#5)

by Armistead Maupin

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Sure of You (#6)

Sure of You (#6)

by Armistead Maupin

As I alluded to above, this volume is a bit different. It reflects the real-world events that were affecting the gay community in the late 1980's — not a happy topic but an important one that's tackled head-on and in a seamless manner.

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Michael Tolliver Lives (#7)

Michael Tolliver Lives (#7)

by Armistead Maupin

Ann Byrne from Melbourne, Australia says:

I LOVED this book! I read the Tales of the City series some 20 years ago when I lived in San Francisco. I barely remembered who Michael Tolliver was, but as I read it all started coming back to me, and it brought me 'up to date' with so many of the characters' stories. There were one or two new ones I'd have liked to have been more developed, but all in all it was a wonderful trip down memory lane, or a new trip into a warm and funny world for those who never read the series. (BTW, I would not class this book — or this series — under "gay/lesbian." It's just about life and people, all types, evoked in a funny, affectionate, engaging and entertaining style!)

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