About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Monday, February 14, 2011

#14 - Mary Ann in Autumn

#14, last week, was Mary Ann in Autumn: A Tales of the City Novel, by none other than Armistead Maupin (New York: HarperCollins, 2010).

Summary: "A hilarious and touching new installment of Armistead Maupin's beloved Tales of the City series. Twenty years have passed since Mary Ann Singleton left her husband and child in San Francisco to pursue her dream of a television career in New York. Now a pair of personal calamities has driven her back to the city of her youth and into the arms of her oldest friend, Michael 'Mouse' Tolliver, a gardener happily ensconced with his much-younger husband. Mary Ann finds temporary refuge in the couple's backyard cottage, where, at the unnerving age of fifty-seven, she licks her wounds and takes stock of her mistakes. Soon, with the help of Facebook and a few old friends, she begins to reengage with live, only to confront fresh terrors when her checkered past comes back to haunt her in a way she could never have imagined. After the intimate first-person narratives of Maupin's last novel, Michael Tolliver Lives, Mary Ann in Autumn marks the author's return to the multicharacter plotlines and darkly comic themes of his earlier work. Among those caught in Mary Ann's orbit are her estranged daughter, Shawna, a popular sex blogger; Jake Greenleaf, Michael's transgendered gardening assistant; socialite DeDe Halcyon-Wilson; and the indefatigable Anna Madrigal, Mary Ann's former landlady at 28 Barbary Lane. More than three decades in the making, Armistead Maupin's legendary Tales of the City series rolls into a new age, still sassy, irreverent, and curious, and still exploring the boundaries of the human experience with insight, compassion, and mordant wit."

Opening Line: "There should be a rabbit hole was what she was thinking."

My Take: Read this one in a single sitting last week, one night when I was both bored and restless and just didn't have enough brainpower to slog through another chapter of Yellow. While not the strongest of the Tales series, this much-later sequel certainly stands solidly among them. The return of two characters from Mary Ann's checkered past was an intriguing, if not fully credible touch; I won't spoil the details save to say dead ain't dead until you've seen the body. And I really enjoyed seeing Maupin's take on the San Francisco of the early 21st century: DeDe and D'or now grandmothers, but still bickering or living and letting live over certain matters of taste; Jake and Ben's latter-day take on queer life and culture; the funky Gen X/ Gen Yer Shawna turns out to be. The one character I particularly missed seeing was Brian, who we learn is now RVing from national park to national park somewhere ... but I suppose what makes the story fairly plausible is that characters do grow, change, and move away from time to time. In short, I don't know if this book by itself would draw me into the series if I hadn't read the others ... but it was a decent evening's entertainment, and a fitting continuation of some old favorite characters' stories.

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