I’ve just finished reading an advance copy of The Days of Anna Madrigal, the latest book in Armisted Maupin’s Tales of the City series, and I am filled with a weepy-sweet nostalgia, glad to be spending time with old friends, but a bit wistful that they’re aging, just as I am.
I grew up in the SF Bay Area, so I’ve been reading Maupin’s books since they first appeared as serials in the San Francisco Chronicle. I was in high school then, part of a circle of friends that’s turned out to be nearly as eclectic as Maupin’s characters. Before Tales of the City was serialized, the only gay author I knew of was Tennessee Williams. I was devoted to him—but his plays and short stories were a mixed blessing, with the characters, especially the gay characters, inevitably coming to bad ends. Maupin showed me and my friends that the endings didn’t have to be bad. And he showed this to us day after day in the pages of the newspaper we all read eagerly each morning.
I don’t want to say too much about the plot of The Days of Anna Madrigal because I think all the Tales books are best read “virgin,” but I can say that much of this volume takes place at Burning Man, an interesting location in which to observe Michael, Mary Ann, Brian, Anna Madrigal and their extended families.
This series has gotten richer over time; the characters have deepened, as have their relationships with one another. If you’ve spent time with them before, you’ll be able to settle into their company in great comfort. If you’ve never “met” them, let me assure you, they’re well worth meeting. This book, like the others in the series has a fundamental gentleness at its core, a willingness to forgive and be forgiven, that is a real tonic. Things aren’t always neat or pretty, but the characters keep working to do right by each other and, mostly, they succeed.
Put on something cozy and flannel, pour a glass of wine or brew a cup of tea, prop some pillows behind your back, and enjoy.