Tales Of The City
Are you just finding out about Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series because of Netflix? Are you interested in revisiting the series? Here's a Tales of the City 101.
Armistead Maupin started the series in 1977 in serialized form in the San Francisco Examiner, and later the San Francisco Chronicle. The first, Tales of the City, was published in novel form in 1978. I often compare the series to Charles Dickens. The title evokes Dickens' Tale of Two Cities. Like Maupin, many of Dicken's books were originally published chapter at a time, serialized in periodicals. And like Dickens, Maupin writes colorful characters. The plot is driven by these characters. Storylines of the characters cross paths, and drive the plot in unexpected directions.
While there is a lot of gay literature from before the Tales series, Tales of the City was transformative. It was originally published in a medium which was read regularly by thousands of straight people. It was gay lit which reached, and changed, a wider audience.
The series has always kept up with the times, and was often ahead of the curve. It dealt with AIDS, transgender people, and wove in contemporary stories and issues. In the current Netflix series it contines to examine cutting edge issues. It's not just about transgender rights, it is about transgender lives. What happens when one member of a couple transitions? What happens when the transition changes a person's orientation? These are the types of questions the series has always raised with humanity and humor.
1978 was pre-internet. It was even pre-fax. And I remember wanting to read every chapter as it came out. The problem was, they were being published in San Francisco and I was in Ann Arbor, Michigan. BUT...I became part of a network. A friend of a friend made copies of the chapters from the newspaper.in San Frnacisco (it was NOT pre-copy machine). He mailed them to a friend of mine in Brattleboro, VT. My friend made copies and sent them to me. By this point the copies were getting a bit blurry. I read them and passed them along. And that was "going viral" old-school.
There are nine books altogether. They fall rather naturally into three sets of three. Everyone, including Armistead Maupin, thought the series was done after the sixth book, Sure of You. Notice the 20 year gap. Maupin came back and revisited his characters. The new series is loosely based on the last three books.
Tales of the City (1978)
More Tales of the City (1980)
Further Tales of the City (1982)
Significant Others (1987)
Sure of You (1989)
Michael Tolliver Lives (2007)
Mary Ann in Autumn (2010)
The Days of Anna Madrigal (2014)
I've listed all of them below. They are available as single books. They are also available as omnibus collections. There are three volumes which collect Books 1-3 (28 Barbary Lane), 4-6 (Return to Barbary Lane), and 7-9 (Goodbye Barbary Lane)
All nine books, and all three collections are listed below. I have also linked to Maupin's brilliant memoir, Logical Family.