Posts Tagged With: Mrs. Madrigal

The Days of Anna Madrigal: Review

Armistead Maupin's The Days of Anna Madrigal reviewedThe curtain comes down on Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series with the final novel, The Days of Anna Madrigal. It’s a gift to the loyal followers of nearly forty years of bohemian Barbary Lane.

Nine instalments after Mary Anne Singleton let her Brady Bunch hair down, it’s reassuring to dive into the warmth of Maupin’s Logical Family, even if we sense that this is not going to be a Thanksgiving Dinner with old friends. The hint is in the opening chapter, where Mrs. Madrigal tries to light an electronic candle with a lighter. ‘So this is the end of candlelight?’ she asks, immediately illuminating the magic of Maupin’s writing and his fascination with technology and the changing world around us. Here, the mysterious transgender matriarch is placed exactly where a sparky ninety-two year-old would be: adapting to the passage of time.

Almost from the start, a psychedelic reverie leads us on a journey to the past to meet Andy Ramsey and the truth about Anna Madrigal, revealed in a kaleidoscope of flashbacks.

Back to his mother’s brothel in Winnemucca, and back to the 1940s to discover exactly who this 17 year old boy really is. For me it’s the most important part of the novel. Andy Ramsey, neither gay man or cross-dresser, embarks on his first romance which ultimately describes the complications of being a woman trapped in a man’s body. Meanwhile, the trembling scenes of first love are truly electric, rendered with adrenaline and hormones against a backdrop of glittering detail: ‘Down the railroad tracks red and green lights were blinking like lost pieces of Christmas.’

It’s almost understood that there will be tragedy in a book like this, but it comes from surprising shadows. ‘I was a weasel of a man,’ said Mrs Madrigal, once upon a time, but a dark secret adds a new dimension to such a well-loved character, a new depth and a degree of explanation. The only resolution lies in the present facing up to the past.

The mission of the monarch is just one ribbon, woven into the current trajectory of familiar faces, as Shawna, Michael and Ben prepare for The Burning Man, the pagan pinnacle of the novel. As Brian and his new wife head off in the opposite direction, it’s guessing game to see how Maupin might bring his Logical Family together for one last chapter. Luckily, we get to join most of our favourite characters on the roller coaster as Maupin nods to a legacy that stretches back to 1976. The climax is a hedonistic circus of creativity and colour, the perfect destination for the spirit of the Tales series.

All roads lead to home, even if there are some unexpected twists and a particularly nasty bump for Michael Tolliver, playful pup turned grumpy gardner. Maupin still knows how to blow our socks off as he foreshadows the grand finale with ambiguous plotting. If there’s one thing you can’t accuse him of, and that’s being obvious. Think you can guess the ending? Not until the last line, and even that might be a mystery in itself.

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Mrs Madrigal’s Postcard From Barbary Lane

Postcards from Barbary Lane - Mrs Madrigal as played by Olympia Dukakis, illustration by Mark WallisHere’s the latest in my Postcards From Barbary Lane series. This time it’s Anna Madrigal, inspirational, enigmatic and eternally quotable. The most ingenious character in modern fiction is about to star in Armistead Maupin’s upcoming novel The Days of Anna Madrigal, and I did this digital painting to whet your appetite…

There are two other Postcards in the series, Mona and that gorgeous old house itself, Number 28 and if that isn’t enough, check out my special Tales of the City page for artwork and features.

Categories: Art, Design, Random, Vibe Monitor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tales of the City

28 Barbary Lane Victorian house san francisco

Picture it: San Francisco, 1976. Big hair and hedonism, disco dancefloors and decadence.

 

Armistead Maupin chronicled life in San Francisco in the 1970s in his newspaper column, and then in a series of captivating novels centered around the bohemian homestead of 28 Barbary Lane, high on Russian Hill.

It’s the home of one of the most fascinating and ingenious characters in modern fiction, garden-variety landlady Mrs. Madrigal, the enigmatic Earth Mother who views the world from a unique perspective, embodying both yin and yang. Whether she’s wafting around in a kimono and a cloud of smoke, or out-facing an adversary with the steely gaze of a gunslinger, she shines like a beacon as the disposessed are washed up at the gates of number 28.

Four years ago, one of my best friends gave me the complete set of novels, which became an instant addiction. Maupin was describing a golden age in the first three novels, which are rich, warm and humorous, humanitarian like Dickens, with a dark undercurrent straight from classic Hitchcock. The first great mystery in Tales of the City is Anna Madrigal herself. The name’s an anagram: a key to the door of her secret past…

Arguably the pivotal quote from the entire series is where Mrs. Madrigal refers to the logical family, as opposed to the biological, and here we see how gay people, rejected by their families, adapt in the face of homophobia. This forms the firm foundation on which the wonderful world of Barbary Lane is built. Maupin has talked about emotional reactions from fans at book signings and as strange as it sounds, it highlights the serious lack of positive depictions of gay people in popular culture, and how he threw us all a line. No one was writing about aspirational happy characters, and there were consequently no real gay role models.

He also deals with subjects like racism, and religious zeal with wit and ingenuity, and then he stands back and lets the bigots have it with both barrels. Maupin was the last American serviceman to leave Vietnam and the first mainstream author to write about Aids, as a major character dies in one of the early novels before the advent of drug therapy.

Maupin captures the natural rhythms of speech and observes human behaviour so acutely that he adds a whole dimension of realism that few authors can achieve, one of the reasons for his phenomenal success and the enduring love for his characters over the years.

On May 26th it will be 36 years since the first Tales of the City column appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle and more than a quarter century later, we have e-books, three epic TV mini series and a musical. Stay tuned for more about the Tales of the City series…

Golden gate Bridge san Francisco

Check out my trip to San Francisco

http://www.armisteadmaupin.com/

Armistead Maupin on Facebook

Here’s an update for you: we’ve been visited by the man himself! Scroll down to comments…

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Hey, guys! I’m Versatile…

versatile blogger award

Oh behave! I have Sheila Hurst to thank for this, the hot air-ballooning freelance writer and photographer from Cape Cod, who has been known to fly into cliffs and land in hedges. On her blog she evokes the romance of coastal Massachusetts and leaves me dreaming of windswept beaches. I would nominate you right back, Sheila, but you’ve already won! In the spirit of the award, I’m listing seven random facts about myself and sharing the lurve with 5 other bloggers.


Seven more random facts about me?

 

1. In my dreams, Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg are fighting to work with me. Ridley gets through and Steven gets voicemail.


2. I took careers advice from a Shaman.


3. Probably the happiest moment of my life was when Armistead Maupin, my favourite author, recently announced the title of his next novel on Facebook. A couple of years ago I went to a book signing and asked him if he would ever write the life story of his ingenious character, Mrs. Madrigal. He didn’t sound too keen. The latest instalment in the Tales of the City series is going to be called The Days of Anna Madrigal. I’m not claiming any credit here, but it would be amazing to think I might have had a some influence!


4. I collect obscure psychedelic music from the sixties.


5. Chronograph watches either stop or show the wrong time when I wear them.


6. I dream of building a wooden shack by the sea and living off the land with no electricity. The Vibes will be bought to you by smoke signals.


7. I used to play the oboe. I can play Bright Eyes by ear but sheet music just looks like spaghetti to me.


So who gets the gong? Who’s going to be opening the gold envelope tomorrow? These are all creative people who I follow, who all have more than one string to their bow:

Oido Del Mundo – Kevin Baker  explores the jungle of world music and makes his own tunes as MacMurphy.

Mikibong – unique photographic style and panda art from graphic design student Miki.

Frivolous Monsters – dry humorous commentary and a photographic diary of the North of England.

Robonobo – a digital artist who works on computer games, writes about science-fiction and takes a decent photo too.

Marsblackvintage – homespun music and photography.

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Sparky the Amazing Dancing Cat


Watch in HD, fullscreen!

Ok, he can’t really dance. Or read. But he was definitely funky.

Ever since reading Orlando the Marmalade Cat as a child, I wanted a ginger tom. Sparky was a rescue cat, and he was old when I got him. After six happy years with me, he became ill and passed away just before xmas 2010. It was a tough time, and shortly afterwards, I went to London. Staring out of my hotel room window, it really hit me that he was gone. I distinctly remember saying ‘Thankyou, Sparky. Thankyou for leaving me. Thanks a lot.’ Not my finest hour, but by a strange quirk, at that exact moment, underneath the planet in Oz, The Found Sound Orchestra were making a song out of heart strings, called ‘Thankyou 3 Times.’ Spooky! It’s the song that soundtracks my video, and I’m glad I had the forethought to record Sparky in glorious High Definition, during a blazing August sunrise in The Northern Quarter.

As Mrs. Madrigal says in Armistead Maupin’s Michael Tolliver Lives, ‘Someone to sit in the sun with me. Who doesn’t want to go anywhere.’

(Please. Don’t send kittens.)

Categories: Cats, Music, Vibe Monitor, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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