Mary Ann in Autumn, the eighth instalment in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series, was released earlier this month and he told The Hour why his story has kept going for thirty years.
26 November 2010 16:50 GMT
The literary character Mary Ann Singleton first arrived in San Francisco 34 years ago and her life since then has been immortalised by author Armistead Maupin. Originally serialised in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Tales of the City series that she starred in has now become eight novels and been dramatised on screen. After twenty years away from ‘Frisco, she finally makes her return in Maupin’s latest work, Mary Ann in Autumn.
Now 57, she has aged as her creator has aged. Like her, he first arrived in San Francisco young and naïve. There he found a city far more comfortable with his homosexuality than he was, and ultimately he flourished there. For Mary Ann, the city wasn’t such a success:
“She left in kind of a bad way,” Maupin told The Hour. “A lot of people didn’t like the character by the end of the sixth book because she’d left her husband and child to go pursue a career in television.
“It didn’t pan out for her so she ended up stranded in suburbia in Connecticut, but now she’s had a couple of major life crises that have brought her back and the only person she feels she can talk to still is her old best friend Michael Tolliver, a gay man who’s her age, in his late 50s.”
When Maupin first began writing about his eccentric cast of characters he never could have imagined the success they’ve now had. As well as his eight novels, his stories have been dramatised as TV series and Scissor Sisters front man Jakes Shears is now collaborating with Tony award-winning writer Jeff Whitty to produce a musical.
Although his success has taken him by surprise, Maupin did have his suspicions why the characters had so much resonance:
“It’s very hard for me to analyse my own work but I think there’s a sense of family, a sort of modern urban family. I use the term you’re ‘logical family’, as opposed to your ‘biological family’, meaning the one that you make for yourself.
“Sometimes that includes members of your biological family but not always. I think that people respond to that: the notion of a big inclusive household where people are chasing love in all different directions and connecting with each other and making friends with each other in the process.”
For Maupin, one of his best friends is American actress Laura Linney, who starred as Mary Ann in the TV mini-series of his first three novels. When he married his partner two years ago, she came to the wedding and read a poem that had figured in their courtship. Four months later, she asked him to read the same poem at her wedding.
“We’re very bonded and I think we always will be,” he said of her. “Mary Ann in Autumn is actually dedicated to her.
“She serves as a kind of literary aid for me now because I hear her voice when I write the character and that makes it so much easier. I used to hear my own and I couldn’t quite separate myself.”
Mary Ann in Autumn is out now.
Video interview at the link
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