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Monday, May 20, 2024

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Arts + CultureLitAs 'Tales of the City' winds down (maybe), a...

As ‘Tales of the City’ winds down (maybe), a hymn to the quintessential SF saga

The author and his heroine have alighted in England, but the heart of the series remains in Baghdad by the Bay.

First launched as a column in alt-weekly paper the Pacific Sun in 1974, Armistead Maupin’s classic, quintessentially SF Tales of the City universe now encompasses 10 books published over 46 years, as well as public television, streaming, radio, and musical adaptations.

I think I read the first novel in the series (Tales of the City, 1978) when I was around 15 years old. The characters who have remained throughout the epic saga have become beloved friends in my head, eternally shopping at the combination Marina Safeway and swinging single pick up joint, for the majority of my life. (That grocery store is still there, by the way.)

The new book, a farce that brings our Tales legends and new characters to the English countryside to make new memories, elicited a lot of genuine LOLs and some tender memories. Heroine Mona Ramsey inherits Easley House, her husband’s grand, romantic country manor. Hijinks ensue when Americans come to visit and a dramatic secret is revealed.

Though the story concludes as gently and beautifully as possible in the recently released final book, Mona of the Manor (2024), decades of fondness for the author’s imagination made the experience of reading it very exciting and emotional. As with other books in the series, I read it in one uninterrupted session. Nothing else exists when I’m in those pages.

Mr. Maupin, thank you for your brilliant body of work. Thank you for making Bay Area storytellers understand that we can reach the stars from here. And thank you for continuing this series for almost half a century, an incredible literary achievement that has been so rewarding to read.

Maupin and husband Christopher Turner moved to England in 2019, where inspiration flowed for the new book. “I love San Francisco as much as anybody else,” he told The Guardian in February, “but I had sort of done it. We wanted a new adventure.” 

When the interviewer pointed out that he’s been promising to wind the Tales down since 1989, Maupin said, “I lie. I lie through my teeth.” He also said that relocating has been a positive for him, and it sounds like the truth.

“There’s so many things about the culture [in London] that I relate to and enjoy,” he continued. “We go to the theatre all the time. I never did that in San Francisco. We only had one theatre to go to. It’s the land of Dickens and Christopher Isherwood. Well, he moved to California, but never mind.” [Editor’s Note: There are dozens of theaters in the Bay Area, but only one staged the Tales musical.]

Reading Mona of the Manor, it was easy to visualize as a movie or even a new BBC series that we have to fire up our VPNs to watch. We can dream, anyway.

Tamara is the founder of Music Book Club and publisher of the soon-to-relaunch California Eating.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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