Saturday, January 31, 2015

TALES OF THE CITY by Armistead Maupin

I'm a latecomer to TALES OF THE CITY ... but it was such a lovely book. Like TAKING CARE OF MRS. CARROLL by Paul Monette, TALES OF THE CITY can be described as a novel without hangups. The free and easy, breezy culture of San Francisco in the 1970s makes me long for that more innocent, less reactionary age. The only slightly odd thing is that Armistead Maupin writes in a totally cinematic way ... by which I mean that he is nearly all surface and hardly ever dips into the psychological reality of his characters (except for what they reveal in dialogue). That is totally OK but sometimes he uses it to trick the reader Hitchcock-style by not fully revealing everything that our characters ought to know, until it emerges when they speak. I usually prefer more depth of character in novels but Maupin's cinematic technique works brilliantly for this story, so I wouldn't have it any other way. His dialogue is so incredibly brilliant that he deftly paints pictures of the characters that nearly make up for the lack of inner psych. TALES OF THE CITY now reads like a historical novel of the 1970s and I enjoyed all the pop culture references to TV commercial and the weird products that were so ubiquitous in that time (my childhood). I am looking forward to reading every other book in the series.

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