Armistead and the Ice Bucket Challenge

Armistead was given the ice-bucket challenge by his friends Laura Linney and Pat Montandon. He decided to take the challenge at his favorite San Francisco dog park.

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The conclusion to ‘Tales of the City’ and the transgender tipping point

By Alyssa Rosenberg
August 20 at 3:35 PM

Inspired by Michelle Goldberg’s recent feature in the New Yorker about a splinter group of feminists who seem determined to discredit themselves through their ongoing hostility to transgender people, I recently decided to revisit one of the longest-running chronicles of transgender life in American culture. The roots of the hostility Goldberg describes are in the second-wave feminism of the 1970s, and I was curious if Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” series, about the marvelous transgender landlady Anna Madrigal and her tenants, reflected any of those hostilities.

Maupin’s nine-book opus, which came to a conclusion this year with the publication of “The Days of Anna Madrigal,” is a magnificent and moving experience for readers. Maupin’s vision of characters as they work through tectonic changes in the American understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity is a tremendous exercise in empathy, and a significant cultural contribution to what seems to be a potentially seismic movement in the movement for transgender rights.

To the extent that tensions between transgender women and feminism do appear in “Tales of the City,” they are exceptionally mild. And the conflict is not over whether trans women carry male privilege into their new lives, but over whether transgender women are reinforcing gender stereotypes that paint women as girlish and helpless.

This kind of thinking did show up in Nora Ephron’s review of “Conundrum,” Jan Morris’ memoir of her gender transition. “Jan Morris is perfectly awful at being a woman,” Ephron wrote. “What she has become instead is exactly what James Morris wanted to become those many years ago. A girl. And worse, a forty-seven-year-old girl. And worst of all, a forty-seven-year-old Cosmopolitan girl.”

A lighter, much kinder version of that idea shows up in a conversation Mrs. Madrigal has with her daughter Mona in “More Tales of the City,” when she explains that her chosen name turns out to be an anagram for “A man and a girl.” “God…it’s so…sexist,” Mona tells her mother. “Girl…You’re a woman!” “You’re a woman, dear. I’m a girl. And proud of it,” Mrs. Madrigal replies.”My own goddamn father…a sexist!” Mona grouses. “My darling daughter,” Mrs. Madrigal corrects her, “transsexuals can never be sexists!”

The sort of rigidness about maintaining woman-only spaces with a rigid definition of what it means to be a woman shows up, with different application, in “Significant Others,” when DeDe and D’or, a lesbian couple go to Wimminwood, a festival that is loosely based on the real-life Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

First, their young son is deported from their tent to a separate camp for boys. Later, Rose, the head of security takes Booter Manginault, a wealthy businessman (and DeDe’s stepfather) who falls asleep in his Bohemian Grove canoe and accidentally finds himself beached on Wimminwood grounds, prisoner. The sense that Booter is a threat is tangled up with Rose’s objections to his business and Republican politics. “Rose says you make instruments of war,” one of Rose’s lieutenants tells him. “I make aluminum honeycomb,” he protests. “She says you went to Bitburg and laid wreaths on Nazi graves,” the young woman tells him. “That was a reconciliation gesture,” Booter tries to explain.

But other than these vignettes, anti-transgender and anti-male feminism is marginal to Maupin’s series, as that strain of thought is to contemporary politics. Maupin instead frees himself to focus on a variety of trans experiences, and on the relationship of trans people to the lesbian, gay and bisexual communities they are so often grouped in with.

Jake Greenleaf, a young transgender man who comes to work for one of the series’ protagonists, Michael Tolliver, in his gardening business, experiences both the pleasures and limitations of San Francisco as a safe haven. In the Bay area, Jake is not alone, and he is supported in having the surgeries that help bring his body into alignment with his understanding of himself. But even San Francisco is still adjusting to the idea of people like him.

“He had thought that would change once he’d made the leap, but so far, claiming another gender–even the one that came naturally to him–had merely offered new ways to feel alienated, new opportunities for humiliation,” Jake reflects sadly in “Mary Anne In Autumn. “A lot of bio guys were just in it for the novelty, losing interest altogether once their curiosity was satisfied. As for other trans guys, they were either cruising the Lone Star for liquored up bio bears or flirting with the femme dykes down at the Lexington Club. They weren’t looking for Jake.”

Michael himself is trying to adjust to the emergence of trans men in the gay community. He and Jake initially meet in a bar, where a fellow patron takes smug pleasure in warning Michael that Jake is transgender, just as another man once informed Michael that he was flirting with someone HIV positive. These attitudes strike Michael as evidence that a community that used to pride itself on its liberation has developed its own censorious attitudes about gender and sexual responsibility.

But even as Michael tries hard to avoid falling into such attitudes himself, he admits that men like Jake pose a challenge to him. “The world is changing way too fast for me with its Podcasts and pregnant strippers and macho manginas,” he reflects in “Michael Tolliver Lives.” “No sooner have i mastered one set of directions than another comes along to replace it. It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with what’s going down. My only solace lies in something Anna once told me: ‘You don’t have to keep up, dear. You just have to keep open.’”

In a tender, absurd twist that is vintage Maupin, Jake eventually develops an erotically-charged friendship with a young Mormon missionary who hopes to rid himself of his attraction to men. “‘Hear me out, dude,” the missionary, who does not realize that Jake is transgender, tells him. “You’re one of the manliest guys I’ve ever met. Not just in appearance but…your manly heart and your compassion. You’re the real thing, dude. You’re man enough for any woman.” Jake’s reaction is both conflicted and sensible: “He felt flattered, insulted, humiliated and validated all at once.”

And Jake comes to value aspects of himself that once made him uncomfortable, achieving a new synthesis in his understanding of his identity. As he prepares for his hysterectomy–a procedure that is much easier for him to obtain than Mrs. Madrigal’s surgeries were in previous decades– “He wondered if losing his uterus would eliminate that, and if, in fact, he even wanted it eliminated anymore. He wanted all the man stuff, for sure, but he wouldn’t mind keeping the blushing. It was his heart doing semaphore.”

Jake is lucky to have Anna as a mentor, and he ultimately becomes her caretaker in the final years of her life. Among the loveliest parts of the later books in the series are meditations on trans people’s experiences of aging.

In Maupin’s “Sure of You,” Mrs. Madrigal has a relationship with a wonderful Greek man while on vacation with her daughter Mona, but chooses to return to the United States to attend to the younger people she has considered her children. “You’ve spent your whole life telling other people to live and be free,” Mona protests.

“Why don’t you stop blowing smoke and take a little of your own advice?” Mrs. Madrigal acknowledges that she would enjoy the man’s companionship, but she is old enough to have set her priorities. And she does not need a partner to be complete. In “The Days of Anna Madrigal,” the last novel in the series, Mrs. Madrigal reflects that “She had assumed the Mrs. upon her return from Denmark in the 1960s not only to imply a respectable history but also to invent a shadow companion for her daunting new journey. She had married herself, in essence, so she would not be alone in her skin.”

In that book, Jake comes up with a plan to honor her at Burning Man for her contributions to the wider trans community. One of his friends, a transgender woman named Lisa, breaks down when she finds out that she is actually going to get an opportunity to meet Mrs. Madrigal:

Lisa placed her wide, sturdy hand on her heart, as if to keep it from escaping, then lowered her voice. “Is Anna Madrigal in there?” Brian smiled at her. “The one and only.” “Oh my Jesus f—— God.” The words were uttered reverently, like a prayer of adoration. “She saved my life in Eye Rack.”…”You must be thinking of someone else,” he said. “Anna’s never been to–” “No, man, she was right there on my iPad in Eye Rack…There was an article about her on this transgender blog, and–she made me see how I could be old and happy. She made me want to live and come home to Sunnyvale and…be myself.”

I was reminded of this passage in the novel when reading Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s profile of CeCe MacDonald, a transgender woman who killed a man who attacked her in self-defense. “You rarely hear of a trans woman just living a long life and then dying of old age,” MacDonald told Erdely. “You never hear, ‘She passed on her own, natural causes, old age,’ no, no, no…She’s either raped and killed, she’s jumped and killed, stalked and killed – or just killed.”

Maupin did not capture all transgender experiences: he is writing mostly about two very specific transgender characters the city that is most welcoming to them. But in imagining a transgender pioneer who does not just survive into old age but thrives in it, Maupin gave all of his readers, no matter their gender identities or sexualities, a tremendous vision. Mrs. Madrigal’s lessons about family, womanhood and freedom are a gift, and a call to build a world where men and women like her can offer them up to each other and the rest of us in safety.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/act-four/wp/2014/08/20/the-conclusion-to-tales-of-the-city-and-the-transgender-tipping-point/

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One City, One Book

Announcing One City One Book: San Francisco Reads 2014!

One City, One Book
 

 

 

 

 

 

http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=2000721701

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Ian McKellen and Laura Linney to explore Sherlock’s twilight years

The actors will star in A Slight Trick of the Mind, adapted from Mitch Cullin’s novel which imagines Sherlock Holmes battling dementia in old age

Ben Beaumont-Thomas
theguardian.com, Thursday 8 May 2014 06.43 EDT

In recent years the sleuthing of Sherlock Holmes has been depicted as ass-kicking and wisecracking in Guy Ritchie’s movies, and as drily witty and cerebrally thrilling in the BBC TV series starring Benedict Cumberbatch. But now a new, quieter side to Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective is set to reach the screen: his old age, after he retired to keep bees.

Ian McKellen is set to play Holmes in A Slight Trick of the Mind, adapted from the 2005 novel by Mitch Cullin which imagines Holmes’s twilight years, alluded to in Doyle’s novels. The film will depict him working on his final case aged 63, and also retired in Sussex aged 91, mentally frail and obsessed with the unsolved crime. Laura Linney will play his housekeeper, Mrs Munro, whose son Holmes has a fatherly attachment to.

The film will be directed by Bill Condon, who has worked on acclaimed films with each of the actors before: the Oscar-winning Gods and Monsters with McKellen, and his Alfred Kinsey biopic with Linney. “It’s a really great mystery about who Sherlock Holmes is, but it’s also a lovely, delicate movie about what happens as you get older,” Condon told Entertainment Weekly. “I’m looking forward to the combined talent, skills, and smarts [of Linney and McKellen]. Both of them are incredibly detail-oriented and do an amazing amount of work before they get to set, and then they dive off the board and become their characters.”

Linney, who recently gave birth to her first child, is something of a self-confessed Sherlock nerd: “I was obsessed with Sherlock Holmes as a young kid. You know how some people are into Dungeons & Dragons? I was into Sherlock Holmes. I loved the atmosphere of the stories. I loved the intrigue, his personality.”

The BBC TV series meanwhile may not return for some time, due to the difficulty of filming three feature-length episodes around the filming schedules of its cast. Mark Gatiss, who co-created the series with Steven Moffat, told a fan Q&A in Brazil this week that it would be at least two years before new episodes are aired.

Jude Law, who stars in the Ritchie movies, said last year of a possible third film: “I think [Warner Bros.] wants it, and there’s a lot of want from us as a team. We want it to be better than the other two. We want to make sure it’s smarter and cleverer, but in the same realm.”

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/may/08/ian-mckellen-laura-linney-sherlock-a-slight-trick-of-the-mind

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Curtain Call: PW Talks with Armistead Maupin

By Wendy Werris
Dec 20, 2013

With The Days of Anna Madrigal, Armistead Maupin brings his 12-character-based Tales of the City series, set in San Francisco, to a close after 40 years.

Tales of the City was conceived in 1976 and resulted in nine books. What kept drawing you back to these characters?

There’s great power and pleasure in being able to tell a continuing story for almost four decades. Readers connect the characters to moments in their own lives, landmarks in their own evolution; the books meld with their memories and form a sort of marriage between reader and writer.

You bore witness to the rise of gay culture in America, the AIDS crisis, and the defeat of DOMA. Are you surprised by the victories in the LGBT movement?

Well, that’s been my aim with Tales—to record these changes as I felt them. When I suggested, long ago, that gay and straight folks could form a family, it was regarded as an almost utopian concept. I wrote about lesbian mothers 30 years ago. One of my characters was the first AIDS fatality in fiction. I’m delighted, but not surprised, because the engine that drives this revolution is the basic human need for love and self-expression, and that can only be suppressed for so long.

The newspaper culture seems a shadow of its former self since you started writing the series for the San Francisco Chronicle.

I had a tremendous advantage in those pre-Internet days. The newspaper was the only reading matter that was freshened daily. You read it at the breakfast table and discussed it at the water cooler, so it became a kind of ritual, and the story expanded in the collective imagination. We have too many distractions now for that to work with the same intensity.

Days is a loving tribute to Anna, who is still a cherished character after nearly four decades. What is it about her that has inspired such fan loyalty?

Anna is a parental figure who doesn’t make the usual demands. All she wants is for her children to be happy, to be themselves. The male/female duality of her life has made her wise, kind, and deeply intuitive. And lots of people love Anna because they think of Olympia Dukakis in the PBS miniseries. She’s a dear friend of mine.

You left San Francisco last year to live in Santa Fe, N.Mex., with your husband. Are you enjoying it?

I find Santa Fe stimulating. We live in an adobe house at the end of a dirt road in the company of coyotes and ravens and the brightest stars I’ve ever seen. And the people, in their own way, are every bit as vivid as San Franciscans.

Days will be the final book in the Tales series. Was it difficult to write?

Yeah, it was kind of tough. You can’t wrap up the lives of 12 people without dropping a bomb on them, and I felt a tremendous responsibility toward Anna. Days dips into Anna’s past—her boyhood, in effect—so I could capture the full scope of her life. For the next book, I’ve been flirting with the notion of a free-form memoir, but I don’t know for sure. There are nights here when the coyotes make me want to write something really spooky.

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/interviews/article/60453-curtain-call-pw-talks-with-armistead-maupin.html

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Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City Selected as 10th Annual One City One Book

Posted on June 20, 2014 by Public Affairs

Maupin to speak on Oct. 23 at Main Library

San Francisco Public Library is thrilled to announce that the 10th Annual One City One Book selection is Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, a beloved book that celebrates San Francisco in the 1970s. Mr. Maupin will appear at the Main Library’s Koret Auditorium on Oct. 23 at 6:00 p.m., in conversation with K.M. Soehnlein.

Library bookshelves will be stocked with fresh copies of Tales of the City in September – or, read it over the summer and be ready for all the fun events happening this fall! Citywide programming will take place throughout September and October.

For almost four decades, Tales of the City has blazed its own trail through popular culture—from a groundbreaking newspaper serial to a classic novel, to a television event that entranced millions around the world. The first of nine novels about the denizens of the mythic apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane, Tales is both a sparkling comedy of manners and an indelible portrait of an era that changed forever the way we live.

One City One Book: San Francisco Reads is an annual citywide literary event that encourages members of the San Francisco community to read the same book at the same time and then discuss it in book groups and at events throughout the City. By building bridges between communities and generations through the reading and, most importantly, the discussion of one book, we hope to help to make reading a lifelong pursuit and to build a more literate society.

Sponsors for One City One Book include the San Francisco Public Library and Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. The program is also supported by many bookstore partners, program partners and media sponsors.

For more information visit: sfpl.org/onecityonebook or Twitter: #ocobsf14 or call 415 557-4277.

About the Author:

Armistead Maupin was born in Washington, D.C. in 1944, but grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he served as a naval officer in the Mediterranean and with the River Patrol Force in Vietnam. Maupin worked as a reporter for a newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, before being assigned to the San Francisco bureau of the Associated Press in 1971. In 1976 he launched his groundbreaking Tales of the City serial in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Maupin is the author of the Tales of the City series, Maybe the Moon, and The Night Listener, among other works. Three miniseries starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney were made from the first three Tales novels. The final Tales book, The Days of Anna Madrigal, was published in 2014.

Maupin lives in Santa Fe and San Francisco with his husband, Christopher Turner.

http://sfpl.org/releases/?p=1727

 

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E-reader review: ‘Jackie Old’ by Armistead Maupin

By Bill Daley
11:04 a.m. CDT, May 23, 2014

Past predictions of the future, especially a future that is itself in the past, always have an absurd cast to them upon reading. But there’s an unexpected poignancy to Armistead Maupin’s “Jackie Old,” a very tongue-in-cheek prognostication from 1980 about what life would be like in the fall of 1999 for a 70-year-old former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Onassis, of course, died in 1994 at age 64. The narrator of Maupin’s story, an earnest John F. Kennedy Jr., died at age 38 in July 1999, just three months before this story begins. Truman Capote, who makes a cameo appearance at the start of the story, was in reality long-dead by 1999.

“Humor and satire were my intentions here,” writes Maupin in a new introduction to mark the re-release last month on Kindle of his short story. “That’s a good thing, because I was obviously no Nostradamus.”

Described now as “a tale of the future told in the past,” the story was originally published by New West magazine just a few years after Maupin launched another sort of tale, his hugely successful “Tales of the City” series of books, which climaxed earlier this year with publication of “The Days of Anna Madrigal.”

“Jackie Old” is populated with all manner of what-ifs. As Maupin notes in his preface, there’s no AIDS epidemic. Cell phones and laptops seem nonexistent but television news reports are holographic. And then there’s an earthquake, the proverbial big one, that levels the San Francisco governed by Kennedy Jr.’s wife, one Jade Jagger. Yep. Mick’s kid with Bianca becomes a Kennedy in this story; remember, it’s a 1980 point of view.

Of this story and his powers of prediction, Maupin writes, “I succeeded in predicting nothing of significance beyond the enduring spirit of the LGBT movement and the rise of the Christian right in mainstream American politics.”

While the story centers on the ever-loyal and long-suffering Kennedy Jr. and his mother, a reclusive figure as drawn to her stardom as she is repelled by it, San Francisco’s gay community plays a major supporting role in the plot. The LGBT community has in many ways become the quake-ravaged city, and there’s a sense of pride, of freedom, of self-expression found in this 34-year-old work that resonates today. Maupin did, indeed, get that right.

That reality gives a satisfying spin to this fantasy, described by Maupin as a “wobbly imagining” of 1999. It makes for fascinating reading.

Bill Daley is a food and features writer for the Chicago Tribune.

“Jackie Old”

By Armistead Maupin, Kindle edition, 42 pages, $1.99

http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/books/chi-jackie-old-armistead-maupin-20140523,0,235815.story

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