From “The Olive Reader” – A Harper Perennial Weblog
I’m not a big series reader, but there is one series to which I have always been faithfully devoted . . . even though it’s been about twelve or thirteen years since I read the first book!
I first heard about Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series way back in the late 90s when the miniseries of More Tales of the City, the second book in the series, aired on Showtime. At the time, my family didn’t have cable, so I never actually watched the series, but the publicity surrounding it was enough to make me want to read the books. If you’ve never dipped into Tales of the City before, all you have to know is that it’s about the residents of an apartment building, 28 Barbary Lane, in San Francisco in the 70s. Though there are many characters, our entry into the series is Mary Ann Singleton, a young, naive woman just arrived in the city whose life changes once she moves into 28 Barbary Lane.
Looking back on my initial obsession with Tales, it seems somewhat strange. I was an 18-year-old girl living in Brooklyn who was endlessly fascinated by the comings and goings of a group of people of various ages (though most, except for the landlady Mrs. Madrigal, are in their mid to late 20s at the start of the series if I remember correctly) in 70s San Francisco. But that’s what Armistead Maupin’s writing does—it sucks you in. Tales was originally written as a series of newspaper serials, and it shows. The chapters are short and leave you dying to know what comes next. It’s like a soap opera, and anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I consider that a high compliment.
After Tales of the City, Armistead wrote five more books in the initial series—More Tales of the City, Further Tales of the City, Babycakes, Significant Others, and Sure of You—and then returned to the world of Barbary Lane years later with Michael Tolliver Lives and, just this past fall, Mary Ann in Autumn. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to re-read these books—partly because I loved them so much and want to see if they hold up for me, and partly because they’re so fun and quick to read that I know it won’t take up a ton of time—and I’ve decided that the upcoming paperback publication of Mary Ann is the perfect time. And (obviously) I want as many of you as possible to join me!
Here’s the schedule I’ve come up with:
6/3 – Today! Announcement!
6/30 – Discussion of Tales of the City
7/28 – Discussion of More Tales of the City
8/11 – Discussion of Further Tales of the City
8/25 – Discussion of Babycakes
9/8 – Discussion of Significant Others
9/22 – Discussion of Sure of You
10/6 – Discussion of Michael Tolliver Lives
10/20 – Discussion of Mary Ann in Autumn
Of course, when I say “discussion,” I mean that we’ll talk about it very informally in the comments. No pressure! And the books are all spaced two weeks apart, but we won’t start until the end of this month, so feel free to skip ahead.
To entice you to join me in this, I’m giving away TEN copies of Tales of the City! The first 10 people to sign up below will get one. Just write a post saying you’re signing up and then link to your post using the Mr. Linky below. (If you don’t have a blog, announce it on your Facebook and link to your status update). While you’re reading, tweet using the hashtag #talesofthecity.